French pilgrims retrace steps of Kiwi pioneers

Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyons, France, is leading a group of 30 pilgrims on a tour of New Zealand to retrace the journey of the country's first Catholic bishop, Bishop Jean Baptiste Pompallier, and Mother Suzanne Aubert, founder of the Sisters of Compassion.

According to the New Zeland's Catholic bishops media office, they will retrace the journeys and visit the sites where Bishop Pompallier and Mother Aubert lived and ministered, and will pray at their graves.

The inspiration for the pilgrimage, Bishop Pompallier, arrived in New Zealand in 1838 with several Marist missionaries. Noted as an evangelist to the Maori, he composed hymns in their language and translated the Scriptures. He established a printery for Maori at the (now preserved) historic building "Pompallier" in Russell.

Mother Aubert came to New Zealand from France in 1860, aged 25. She became famous for her care of the most needy and displaced, as well as popularising effective Maori herbal remedies in an age that pre-dated prescription medicines.

A pioneer warmly remembered in Hawkes Bay and Wanganui, she later established her Order of Sisters in Wellington.

Mother Aubert's life is currently under examination in Rome, with the hope of her eventually being declared New Zealand's first Catholic saint.

Meanwhile, the New Zealand's Catholic bishops have released a document to parishes throughout the country setting out protocols for dealing with an outbreak of Avian Flu, such as signs illustrating hand-washing techniques for those distributing Holy Communion.

Measures follow the Health Ministry's coding of the developing stages of a pandemic. However, at all times it is emphasised that personal hygiene in the washing and drying of hands is necessary as is thorough washing and drying of the vessels used during the Mass.

Catholics will be reminded of the need for prayer in their homes during such a time, and will be provided with resources to assist them.

"We all pray that such an epidemic will not come about in New Zealand," wrote Bishop Denis Browne, the President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference, in a covering letter to parishes, "but it is important for us to be prepared."

He continued, "Our stronger prayer might be that God will spare us from having to put it into action."

French pilgrims arrive in New Zealand to follow footsteps of illustrious Bishop and Nun (New Zealand Catholic Communications, Media Release 5/7/06)
Catholic Church issues bird flu protocols (New Zealand Catholic Communications, Media Release 5/7/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Pompallier: The story of the man (Catholic Church in New Zealand)

Mother Suzanne Aubert (Sisters of Compassio)
Mother Mary Joseph Aubert (1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand)

NZ Cathedral restoration a chance to recreate precious lost icon (CathNews 15/11/05)
NZ Catholic statement spells out limits to free speech (CathNews 7/2/06)

6 Jul 2006