by Bishop Nicholas Hudson
‘From being 12 at Proclaim Broken Bay we became 170 in Christchurch!’ That was how one parishioner put it at the dinner to close the ‘Ablaze’ conference which I attended last month in Christchurch, New Zealand. I had visited Broken Bay Diocese, adjacent to Sydney, in Australia a year ago to speak at their Proclaim conference.
Christchurch had sent a dozen lay people to Broken Bay to see what they could learn about the New Evangelization. They were so enthused by the experience that they persuaded their Diocesan Administrator that Christchurch should have its own conference, which they called ‘Ablaze’. Christchurch has been without a bishop for two years. It still bears the very open scars of the earthquake which brought down so many of its buildings seven years ago. I was staying in a presbytery right alongside the ruined cathedral.
Yet, Christchurch is rising from the ashes. There are many new buildings. The decision to host a conference reflects the courageous spirit with which the people of Christchurch are raising up their city anew. That the 12 who came to Broken Bay multiplied their number by more than 14 times is a testimony to that. No surprise that conference participants were taken by St John Paul II’s encapsulation of the New Evangelization as ‘new in ardour, new in method, new in expression’, because it captures the spirit of the city too.
‘Vision without strategy is simply hallucination!’ That saying also struck a chord. It comes from Fr James Mallon whom we recently hosted at a ‘Divine Renovation’ conference in this diocese. It resonated with conference participants in Christchurch who are hungry for strategy. I was pleased to lead two workshops in which I opened up for them the wealth of resources which are available on our own national Proclaim website: resources to help evangelize young people, to evangelize the unchurched, to evangelize non-churchgoing Catholics, prayer resources, vision and strategy resources, testimony resources and so many more. The particular focus of my workshop was on the formation of Parish Evangelization Teams: the key, I believe, to strategic planning.
I had the pleasure of sharing these ideas earlier that week in the North Island for clergy and laity of the Diocese of Hamilton.
In Rotorua and Hamilton, they came in large numbers to hear and discuss how better to realise the vision of Evangelii Gaudium. I found they were particularly taken by the powerful simplicity of the kerygma; and Blessed Paul VI’s conviction reiterated by Pope Francis that ‘there is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, are not proclaimed’ (Evangelii Nuntiandi 22).
Concelebrating with Bishop Stephen Lowe a confirmation in Whakatane, a young people’s Mass in Hamilton Cathedral and then, most poignantly, a Maori Mass in Rotorua brought home to me how the kerygma preached so faithfully by the first disciples had traversed the globe; and I rejoiced to be part of a discussion as to how Christians can continue to amplify in New Zealand the core proclamation so often proclaimed by Pope Francis: that ‘Jesus loves you; his self-emptying death on the cross saves you from selfishness and sin; now he walks with you every day (Evangelii Gaudium 164). As I bade farewell to Christchurch a week later, my prayer was that the 170 who came to ‘Ablaze’ and the countless faithful I met in Hamilton would multiply and increase to yield a truly rich harvest from the New Evangelization which is clearly taking root in the Land of the Long White Cloud!