At 1.30 in the morning on 12 May, 2015 some of the parishioners of Avondale and Massey and the Salesians led by Fr. Gregory Chambers provincial and Fr. Mathew Vadakkevettukuzhiyil Parish Priest, awaited with great excitement the arrival of the Rector Major for the first time to the Land of the Long White Cloud as named by Kupe the ancestor of the Polynesians in the early 1300’s. On his arrival he was greeted with welcome songs, garlands and bouquets. The sweet melody Don Bosco be with us (Don Bosco Ritorna a Noi) sung by the hosts added much charm to the gathering.
After a few hours of rest, Rector Major and his team consisting of Fr. Horacio Lopez Personal Secretary and Fr. Vaclav Klement Regional Councillor for East Asia Oceania, proceeded to the Salesian centre at Massey for breakfast. Later, Fr. Angel visited St. Paul’s pre-school a nursery run by the Dominican Sisters. Returning to the presbytery Rector Major greeted the confreres for a while.
After lunch Fr. Angel proceeded to visit St. Paul’s Primary school, a Parish School of St. Paul in Massey where he was given a traditional welcome. Impressed by the Maori cultural presentation he said, “You have a glorious cultural heritage. Value it, cherish it and promote it.”
In the afternoon, Fr. Angel shared with the confreres information about the Salesian world as well as the challenges that the congregation faces and matters regarding apostolate in the Pacific. The sharing continued for more than two hours. At 6 PM during the Eucharistic celebration, based on the readings of the day Rector Major shared with the people some insights on Christian community living in a multicultural context. The day came to an end with a fraternal meal together with the parishioners during which dances and songs in Samoan, Tongan, Filipino, Burmese and other linguistic groups were showcased. “Your Culture is your strength” said Fr. Angel on an invitation to dance with the young. Rector Major happily obliged.
Multicultural ethnicity and fraternity was the prominent theme which was spelt out during the celebrations. Indeed New Zealand is a place where numerous people from various cultures interact freely and has a long story of immigration and settlements. Although the Salesian presence has been recent, the members are doing an excellent service ministering to the poor and needy, particularly the young through parish ministry and school apostolate.