I don’t have to like it!

I had an interesting converstaion with my parents on the weekend. We were discussing our Diocese's new pastoral plan, 'Who is My Neighbour?' and the impact it will have on parishes in the Hamilton area. For those of you who haven't seen or heard about the plan, it outlines how we will move from 23 parishes to 9 pastoral areas. Each pastoral area will be made up of a number of Catholic communities who will share three priests, one parish council, one parish office etc.

I guess, this plan had to happen. The reality is that we are running out of priests. The report publishes the ages of the priests in our diocese and, believe me, the numbers are not encouraging. The Bishop has talked about how he has tried recruiting priests from overseas with some success but there needs to be a shift in our expectations to deal realistically with the problem at hand, a problem that is only going to worsen as our priests age and retire.

The problem is, I don't want to be realistic. When I was sick in hospital a few years back I had visits from the hospital chaplain which was nice, but what was really special was when the priest came and annointed me. I've attended liturgies of the word before when our priest was away, but what I really crave is holy Mass. I know a deacon can perform a funeral, but when my family members die, I want a requiem Mass. When I need advice and guidance in spritual matters, sure I could go to a lay spiritual director, but I trust the guidance of my priest. Priests, by their very consecration are holy men, close to God… am I wrong to feel that the ministries of lay people are a kind of "second-best"?

At Hearts Aflame two years ago I was lucky to attend Fr Gerard Boyce's lectures and one phrase of his in particular stayed with me: "The Church has seven Sacraments – spend your life collecting them and then living your life in the reality they make you." When we have less priests, will it become harder to "collect" the Sacraments?

I know in coming years we will all have to step-up in our parishes, but I don't have to like it. Maybe I'll just continue to bury my head in the sand… it seems a lot easier than facing what's coming.

The Sunday Scrum


from http://enlightenedcatholicism-colkoch.blogspot.co.nz/

Neither the Church nor Pope Francis has any idea of what to do with the problem of women in the Church.  At least Francis recognized it's a problem, but his notions about the Marian and Petrine Churches do not address the problem much less solve it.  I understand that Francis is taking his concepts from Von Balthasar who had a great deal of influence on JPII.  I suppose it's a nice concept if one wants to keep men in total control because it places the feminine as the heart of the Church with the masculine as the head of the Church…a nice complimentary situation which really appealed to JPII. Really,  what woman could possibly be offended by being given the role of Mary in the scheme of things?   Perhaps a woman who understands that in this particular scheme of things Mary is mythologized perfection and mere mortal women are neither perfect nor myths.  I've often wondered why women have to emulate perfection but men get to emulate Peter who isn't exactly anyone's concept of perfect, but I digress.  This idea of Von Balthasar's only flies if you accept the underlying assumption that women somehow embody empathy, relationship, and nurturing and men don't, won't or can't without sacrificing their masculinity on the altar of celibacy.  I don't happen to buy any of it, but then I also happen to believe the clerical priesthood is the root and branch of all the Church's current scandal.

Lil Kiwi Pilgrimages

A few years back our family spent Christmas camping in Russell, and amongst many other activities spent a good couple of hours looking around Bishop Pompellier's house. It was fascinating to find out more about his work and influence and to learn more about his important role in the growth of Catholicism in New Zealand. A couple of times since, when I've heard of friends heading to Northland for a break, I tell them to make sure they visit the Bishop's house. 

When our children were a little younger, we stopped off in Paraparaumu and climbed the hill to see the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes close up. It's a great little walk – doesnt take long, and obvious care has gone into setting up the walk as a Stations of the Cross experience.

Where else in NZ would you recommend a Catholic stop off or visit? What are some interesting places/ monuments/ experiences that perhaps aren't well known, but would be of interest to others of us here at Being Frank?   

It’s hard being a Catholic

Before you read this post, I know my cloak of anonymity is certainly not bullet-proof and that there are in fact gaping holes in it and I'd like to make clear that the below is definitely not written about any specific incident at the school I work at or any past school I have worked at. It's just something that's been on my mind for a while and something that may well present itself as a real problem at some point in my career.

Where do you draw the line with giving people second chances?

I know Jesus told us that we should forgive someone "70 times 7" times, ie: we should continue to forgive always. But that's hard! And is it really practical?

For example, if you have a child at your school who is violent towards other children, how many times do you do the restorative chat, give a consequence, talk through the incident, put support in place and let the child return to school? Particularly if that child's teacher is beside him/herself with stress and fear at being hurt and if other parents in the school are complaining because they are concerned that their children are being hurt?

As a principal (or Board of Trustees member) you have to weigh up the mental health and safety of the children and staff you are responsible for vs the ideals of Jesus that every person deserves forgiveness, love and an eternity of chances to make the right choices and that every person has good inside them. That must be really tough. And I'm guessing the decision wouldn't be any easier if you start taking into account the child's home situation. In my experience violent children often come from violent homes and have back-stories that would make you weep.

I remember a story a year or so ago about a principal in Paeroa who had a violent child at her school and she had put her foot down and said he could not come back. The Ministry of Education were trying to force her into having him back at the school but she was putting up a fight for the safety of her community. At the time, part of me thought, "Good on her. Teachers shouldn't have to put up with being scared to come to work." But the other side of the story of course is that this is an 8 year old boy from a disfunctional home who has no love in his life. What's going to happen to him when the one stable, routined, caring enviroment he has is now off-limits?

So where do you draw the line? And as Catholics are we called to a higher moral ground than others around us?


The Sunday Scrum

“So far as a man may be proud of a religion rooted in humility, I am very proud of my religion; I am especially proud of those parts of it that are most commonly called superstition. I am proud of being fettered by antiquated dogmas and enslaved by dead creeds (as my journalistic friends repeat with so much pertinacity), for I know very well that it is the heretical creeds that are dead, and that it is only the reasonable dogma that lives long enough to be called antiquated.” (G. K. Chesterton; Autobiography, 1936)

What would you do?

I am sure this topic has come up in the past here at Being Frank…but not in the last year or so, therefore time for another round of discussion!

In the past fortnight I've had the fortune to sit in small meetings with two diffferent Bishops. Both talked on a range of issues, including the Priest shortage we currently face, which clearly is presenting real challenges for them in their role as leaders of their dioceses. While we've already adjusted to pastoral areas, shared parishes etc, the situation actually worse than we might think. Of currently serving priests, a huge percentage are due to retire in the next few years, and those coming through are nowhere near enough to replenish the ranks. The era of "one priest, one parish" is almost certainly over. 

Some will view this situation differently. Maybe it isn't a crisis at all, just a changing dynamic which like any change in life we just have to respond to. Unforeseen fruits may emerge from this change. Perhaps the Church of the future will be priestless. Or perhaps the famine will be followed by a flood. 

What do you think about the priest shortage in NZ? Any suggestions on how to change it? Or is it a season of change that we should embrace rather than fear? 


In my short life I have been priveleged to live as a Catholic under three different Popes. I believe that every Pope has different gifts to leave us and in my experience, I have certainly gained different insights into my faith from each of the Popes I have "known".

Blessed Pope John Paul II taught me what it is to evangelise – to spread the Truth and the Word with a true verve and joyfulness. He also left us with a beautiful example of what life really is – the preciousness of life (through his theology of the body teachings), the joyfulness of a life lived fully to the very end and the diginity of suffering and pain at the end of life.

My lasting memory of Pope Benedict XVI will be his Year of Priests and his Year of Faith and his encyclical Spe Salvi which taught me that we are a people of hope. 

As for Pope Francis, I already have a deep affection for him. He won me over with the very choice of the name Francis. So much was signaled and symbolised in that very first choice. What I love about Pope Francis, and what I believe will be his lasting gift to me, is that he is actually influencing the way I live my life. Part of this is because of the charismatic man he is, and part of it is simply because in 2014 he has a greater reach into our homes and our lives than any Pope before him.

Every day I read Pope Francis' words on Twitter and I can use them to inspire me to make real changes in my life. For example, on 7 March Pope Francis asked for prayers for Christians who are victims of persecution, on 15 February he asked for prayers for peace in Africa and on 13 February he asked for people to pray for seminarians "that they may listen to the word of God and follow it with courage and joy". These things are easy to include in my prayer life and make me feel directly linked to our global Catholic community.

On other days his tweets are very practical in nature, for example, on 31 January, "I cannot imagine a Christian who does not smile." Again it was an easy thing to do  - to smile at those around me that day. On 14 January he reminded us to say thank you to God for all he has given us and on 19 November he reminded us all to go to confession. More recently on Ash Wednesday he reminded us to "deny ourselves something every day to help others." 

I know Pope Francis has his detractors, but as an average Catholic, living my average life, on the road to join the Communion of Saints, I love that Francis is having such a practical and direct influence on how I work and pray. Last year he tweeted something about wasting food and it even made me think about what I was buying at the supermarket that day! And I do sometimes find myself asking these days, when I have difficult decision to make, What Would Pope Francis Do?