On Sunday 8 September 2013 at 10am at the St Patrick’s Basilica a joyful Mass was celebrated to commemorate 20 years of Passionist Family Groups in the Dunedin South Pastoral Area. The Movement began in the Forbury Parish of St Bernadette’s in September 1993. This was the first Parish in the Dunedin Diocese to introduce PFGs. Now, in 2013, there are 6 thriving PFGs in the Dunedin South Pastoral Area.

Frs Gerard Aynsley and Merv Hanifin celebrated the Mass. Murray and Aileen Straight shared a reflection as they had been involved in setting up the original groups in 1993 and, now living in Christchurch, are South Island Coordinators of the PFG Movement.

Murray and Aileen remembered Fr Kevin Morton as Parish Priest at St Bernadette’s and Fr Gerard Aynsley as a young Seminarian posted to St Bernadette’s at the time of establishing the original Forbury PFG groups. Now, as Parish Priest himself, Fr Gerard is a great supporter of the PFG Movement.

Murray and Aileen shared a large pastel picture modeled on the first ‘waka’ to come to Aotearoa. The art work depicts a canoe in which the occupants represent Passionist Family Group members.  They are from many cultures and they undertake various roles.  Some are paddling, some steering, and some watching to see what is happening in the distance.  Some are searching the waters close by.  Some nurture children and some care for the sick and elderly.  Together, they make up “a tribe”, a Christian family.

New Zealand is a country of thermal activity. The glow of red showing through the Passionist logo represents the fire in our hearts. The logo shaped in the cloud reminds us that although there is no longer a resident Passionist community in New Zealand, there remains a strong Passionist presence and influence.

They also explained the aims of the PFG movement:

  • To share our Christian lives together
  • To support one another in times of need and celebration
  • To give example to and involve children in our Christian sharing
  • To build and promote community spirit within the Parish
  • To live and love like the early Christians.

Sunday’s Mass began with current group coordinators processing in carrying symbols of their groups.
The Mass was enhanced with music led by the young musicians of Lucy Matehaere, Matthew King, Craig MacDonell, Clare MacDonell, Callum MacLeod (and the not-so-young Colin MacLeod and Pauline Diack assisting on guitar and organ respectively), all of whom belong to PFGs.

The readers, Derrick Railton and Sr Jan Ogilvy OP are also members of groups. Children, Olivia King, Olivia Bell, Harrison Meltzer, Simmone Dunford and Rosa Vaughan read Prayers Of the Faithful, ably representing the different groups to which they belong.

PFG members have a lot of fun together, groups are made up of young, old, couples, children, single people, Non-Catholics who grow to support and care for each other.

The Pastoral Area Bulletin featured reflections from various people about their experience of belonging to a PFG, eg:

  • PFGs are one of those simple ideas that should happen everywhere in our Church but often don’t happen at all.
  • Our PFG is like a big extended family – offering friendship, love and support.
  • The fellowship, fun, activities, support, prayer-chain, respect and value for each other helps our group continue to grow just like a wider extended family would.
  • PFGs have given us an extended family that supports us in our hard times and shares in our times of celebration.
  • Laughing and having fun together has led to caring deeply for each other.
  • Since our relatives are all in the North Island the Family Group has been our Dunedin extended family.  Our children have very fond memories of being part of the group as they grew up.  We have had a few sad times as members of the group have faced illness or other difficulties but we have been able to support each other and also share in each other’s  joy – and have had a lot of fun along the way.

At the completion of the Mass, a large crowd gathered on a beautiful sunny morning at the St Pat’s Community Centre for morning tea. There was a buzz of happy talk as people shared memories and looked forward to the continued growth of the Movement in the Dunedin South Pastoral Area.

Article by Jan MacLeod.