Our Palmerston North Diocese Catholic Education Team aspires to work collaboratively in our various roles serving the Church and its Mission. Nestled under the maunga in Taranaki, our Primary DRS (Directors of Religious Studies) conference, 11–13 September, was a little different this year. The team invited parish youth ministers, school and tertiary chaplains, pastoral ministers and local priests to join us. The location was significant as we wanted to share the experience of visiting Parihaka as part of our three-day conference.
St Joseph’s School Stratford warmly welcomed us with a mihi whakatau as we gathered from all corners of the diocese. The students sang and wrapped around us like a korowai aroha of belonging. Our group then shared our mihi pepeha, welcomed new people, made connections and reacquainted with others.
First speaker Damon Ritai prepared us for our visit to Parihaka with an informative and stirring presentation. We then drove to Konini Lodge to begin our retreat afternoon with Murray Adams, with the mountain bush at our doorstep. ‘Camp Mums’ Candice and Pauline did an incredible job with beautiful meals and we had Korty Wilson, our Kaiwhakarite Māori Apostolate co-ordinator, supporting us in karakia, storytelling and waiāta over the three days.
The following morning, we set off to Parihaka, a community of people who to strive to uphold the values of their tūpuna. To hear their inspirational and moving story about peaceful resistance was a privilege and responsibility ‒ and challenged us to reflect about its significance in Aotearoa New Zealand history. Back at Konini Lodge we discussed how we could take this new learning into our roles in the diocese and into our lives.
Other speakers included Teresa Shanks, from Caritas, who ran a session about Catholic Social Teachings; Isabella McCafferty, our new Pastoral and Parish support co-ordinator; Teresa Edwards, the new manager of Catholic schools, who outlined the importance of growing the collaboration between our education team and schools and wider diocesan groups.
Our time in Taranaki was an opportunity to go on beautiful walks around the mountain, spend time immersed in God’s creation, and share a beautiful and nourishing few days of accompaniment with an emphasis on reflection, reconciliation and renewal.
To see more photos from the conference, click here.
Jane Dravitzki is Catholic Education Adviser, Palmerston North Catholic Education Team