A large gathering of the Catholic community came together for the Mass of Dedication of St Mary of the Angel’s Church as the National Shrine to Mary, Mother of God, Assumed into Heaven.
The century-old landmark St Mary of the Angels was full almost to overflowing with the colourful diversity of the Catholic Church in Aotearoa New Zealand for the special Mass on Sunday 14 August, the Feast of the Assumption.
It was the finale of a year of celebration that began at the church the same Sunday a year ago with a rededication of the country to Mary, followed by a hīkoi of the specially commissioned artwork, Ko Hāta Maria, te Matua Wahine o te Atua – Holy Mary, Mother of God around the country’s six dioceses.
The artwork icon – by Rangiora artist Damien Walker of the Studio of St Philomena – will be on permanent view at St Mary’s as part of the national shrine.
‘This was an important event and everything happened so smoothly thanks to the enormous efforts put in by so many, many people,’ said Cardinal John Dew, President of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference.
In his homily, Cardinal John noted sacred sites were found in many places around the world, such as cathedrals, temples, war memorials, Ground Zero in New York, and in Wellington the tomb of the Venerable Suzanne Aubert and a memorial to the Wahine disaster.
‘Sacred sites all over the world are visited by thousands…they may be natural sites or designed and built by human beings. These places often hold deep meaningful messages, are awe-inspiring, they prompt us to reflect on life, on where we are with God, stir up feelings of awe and reverence and draw us close to God.
‘St Mary of the Angels is already a sacred place and has been for 100 years. Now this icon of Mary Mother of God Assumed into Heaven is here permanently…we hope and pray that in time this becomes one of those sacred sites.’
The country’s first Catholic Bishop, Jean-Baptiste Pompallier, dedicated the country to Mary Assumed into Heaven when he celebrated the first Mass at Totara Point in the Hokianga in January 1838. Last year’s re-dedication was inspired by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The centenary of the current St Mary of the Angels Church was also celebrated on the same weekend. Archbishop Paul Martin sm was lead celebrant at a special centenary Mass. Other highlights of the weekend were a Mass of Healing, a concert honouring the rich musical tradition at St Mary’s, and a talk by Jessie Munro on Suzanne Aubert’s connections with the Church.
Following last year’s rededication Mass, a nationwide hīkoi of the Aotearoa-themed Mary artwork commenced. The artwork is titled Ko Hāta Maria, te Matua Wahine o te Atua – Holy Mary, Mother of God. The hīkoi ended last month with the icon’s arrival back at St Mary of the Angels, just before the start of the dedication Mass. The artwork will be on permanent view at St Mary’s as part of the national shrine.
The dedication of St Mary of the Angels as a shrine was a national celebration with representatives from the six dioceses, the Apostolic Nuncio, the New Zealand bishops, priests, religious, kaumatua, cultural and community leaders, and a full congregation.
Before Mass began, college students helped Korty Wilson – kaitiaki during the hīkoi – carry the artwork into the church and up to the Sanctuary. Fr Chris Skinner sm sang Hata Maria as children laid flowers offerings across the altar.
The celebrants, the cross bearer and the candle bearers assembled to the sounds of the pūtatara and proceeded down the aisle at the call of the karanga. The kaumatua gave a short blessing as the celebrants took their seats at the altar to begin the Dedication Mass. St Mary of the Angels choir and musicians, Te Ngākau Tapu choir, as well as members of the Samoan choir led the chants, singing and music.
Cardinal John Dew was the main celebrant and gave the homily and led the Renewal of Baptismal Vows and the Prayer of Dedication. He blessed the people with Holy water as he moved across the church to each of the wall crosses to bless the building. Bishop Michael Dooley blessed the congregation seated around the perimeter of the church. Returning to the sanctuary Cardinal John completed the dedication prayer.
Mons Gerard Burns, Vicar General of the Archdiocese gave a reading, college students led the prayers of Intercession with multiple languages, and members of the Samoan Community brought up the Offertory Procession.
The five New Zealand bishops, the Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Rugumbwa, parish priest St Mary of the Angels Fr Kevin Mowbray sm and Deacon Alfred Tong, distributed Holy Communion as Vincent’s Trumpet Solo and the song Ave Maria rang out. The prayer after Communion was from the Mass of the Assumption.
Following the blessing and dismissal, the cross bearer, candle bearers and bishops proceeded down the main aisle to the church doors to the recessional hymn Ka Waiata ki a Maria.
Cardinal John said in his homily: ‘Sacred sites all over the world are visited by thousands. These places often hold deep meaningful messages, are awe-inspiring, they prompt us to reflect on life, on where we are with God, stir up feelings of reverence and draw us close to God. St Mary of the Angels is already a sacred place and has been for 100 years. Now this icon of Mary Mother of God Assumed into Heaven is here permanently. We hope and pray in time this becomes one of those sacred sites.’
Prayer of Dedication of St Mary of the Angels
As the National Shrine of Mary, Mother of God, Assumed Into Heaven
E te Atua aroha mā te whakapuaki i tō mātou whakapono
Loving God. In professing this faith in which we are
united as your people we unite ourselves with the yes
of your Mother Mary, the first disciple.
E te Atua, te Puna o ngā mea ora katoa, te kaihomai o ngā mea pai katoa
O God, Source of all life, giver of all that is good
To whom this sacred place is today dedicated
to begin its second century as the national shrine
of Mary Mother of God, Assumed into Heaven.
We, your people of Aotearoa New Zealand
Meet in the bonds of your love.
Keep us faithful in our response to your love
with Mary patroness of our land.
E te Atua aroha, ka karangahia houtia mātou e koe ki ngā hua o te ora
Loving God, you call us anew to the abundance of life
for which we have been created.
In our life with you we mature
in relationship with you,
with one another, and with our land.
We repent the harm we have caused in this holy place
to our sisters and brothers and to our land.
In humility we turn to Mary,
Mother of God, Assumed into Heaven,
and in confidence pray.
E te Atua, mā roto i te korowai o Maria te whāea o tāu tamaiti, tō mātou whāea anō hoki
O God, under the patronage of Mary,
the Mother of your son, and our Mother,
we are united with those gathered in the Hokianga in January 1838,
with the leadership of Jean-Baptiste Pompallier,
first Catholic bishop of our land,
to dedicate this house of God,
St Mary of the Angels, as the national shrine
of Mary, Mother of God, Assumed into Heaven.
I tenei wā, ka whakahoungia e mātou tēnei oati tapu
We now dedicate this shrine
as with renewed fervour
we turn to Mary, in union
with her Son Our Lord Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God forever and ever. Amen.