By Pat Hudson, Our Lady Star of the Sea, Howick

This is a follow up article to the story written by Penny & Pat Hudson titled “My Journey as a Passionist Family Group Member”

When Penny come home from church one Saturday night and suggested we join a family group at Our Lady Star of the Sea it was a bit of a shock. My being part of a church group was never on my agenda.  However, after quite a bit of thought, I decided it could be a way to meet some local people as we had recently moved to Auckland. Since then we have become actively involved in Passionist Family Groups and have met some wonderful people and have made special friendships through the groups.

Going to Mass was something I used to do at Christmas and Easter like so many spouses of Catholics but now I am happy to go whenever Mass is included in a Family Group function and at other times as well. Through this I have got to know some of the aspects of being a Catholic which are important to Penny. I have even been to a Rosary when a much loved member of our group died – and learnt the  Hail Mary for it.

Through going to Mass and Father Pat coming to some of our gatherings I got to know him and got on with him well.  I was still, however, taken aback when Penny told me he had rung to say that he thought we would be a good couple to assemble the crib in the church about five years ago. Now this was a challenge but we have thoroughly enjoyed doing it each year since with the help of Jo, another member of our Family Group.

Belonging to a Family Group was quickly escalated when Penny and I were asked to co-lead the group and it wasn’t long until we were the sole leaders of our group. Through being leaders we meet with other group leaders and there have been many over the years. We also get to go to the annual formation days run by Father Brian Traynor or one of the other Passionist Priests from Australia.  We have also met Father Peter McGrath who started Passionist Family Groups in his Terry Hills Parish in Sydney in 1973 so members of his congregation would get to know each other.  We have mixed with group leaders and members of other Parishes throughout Auckland and other parts of New Zealand.

I remember a lovely Pacific Island lady from Glen Innes who shared washing up duties with me one year and then greeted me so warmly the next two or three years. Formation days are always interesting, often about everyday things which are explored for themselves and, in relation to the church. A few years ago we had a fascinating day based around the X & Y generation and what is important to them and how we can keep them involved in the church. This was good learning for me in my everyday life. Last year we broke into small groups, each one learning about one of the communities St Paul travelled to. We then visited other communities and got to know the ‘locals’. It was interesting how patriotic we all became to our town!  Without family groups I would never have gained this knowledge or had this experience.  As I write this I look forward to this year’s Formation Day.

During the 18 years I have been a Family Group member I have met many wonderful Catholics, felt really welcome in the church and accepted as part of Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish despite not being Catholic or a regular attendee at Mass. I have a greater understanding of what being a Catholic means to Penny and our friends. It is interesting that over the years, in many of the couples we have met in Family Groups one of them has not been a Catholic. In the current leader group all five couples are mixed and when I think back over the years I suspect that the majority of leader couples we have got to know have been the same.

For anyone in the Parish who comes to Mass on their own or with their children, leaving a partner who is not Catholic at home I would recommend you seriously think about joining a Passionist Family Group. The idea is that group members get to know one another and through that become like an extended family helping in times of need and celebrating the special occasions together.  It certainly has made a difference to my life. I am glad we have Passionist Family Groups in ‘our’ Parish.