A large group of Passionist Companions and Passionist Youth from the Palmerston North Diocese recently attended the Passionist Institute held at the Home of Compassion Island Bay, Wellington. We were joined by fellow Passionist Companions from around New Zealand. The weekend was facilitated by Fr Brian Traynor CP and Fr Erick Niyiragira CP from Australia.
The theme for the weekend was “Wounded Hearts Need Mercy.” Fr Erick, who was recently ordained as a Passionist Priest, gave us an insight into his life journey. Erick is originally from Burundi, Central Africa. There he lived with his mother and father and siblings on a small plot of land. His father was the principal of a school and the family practising Catholics. When he was five years old Erick and his siblings, together with their mother, fled Burundi during the war between the Hutu and Tutsi. The father was captured at gun point by rebels and the rest of the family made an immediate escape leaving everything behind. They escaped to Tanzania where they lived in a refugee camp for 12 years. Erick told us of the violence and danger which the family endured during this time. His family were both Hutu and Tutsi, and many of his immediate family and relatives lost their lives. As a young child he was exposed not only to violence, but also witnessed extreme poverty in the refugee camp and the death of family members due to famine and disease. Erick’s family were eventually settled as refugees in Australia, where he received an education from the Passionists. There were challenges to be faced for the family in Australia including learning a new language and adapting to a different culture. Many years later the family were reunited when Erick’s father also arrived in Australia with his new wife and children. With the encouragement of the Passionists, Erick returned to Burundi last year to the village where he was born and met with an Uncle and other members of his extended family. This journey helped with his healing process. Erick was truly humble in sharing his story with us and many were moved by his story.
Following Erick’s talk, we examined the idea of both passive and active hurts. How had we experienced hurt in our lives e.g. rejection, misunderstanding, abuse, betrayal, or hearts broken from a relationship? And just as important; how had we imparted hurt in the lives of others? Pope Francis has exclaimed “We are able to give mercy to others if we are able to receive mercy from God.” By mercy we mean sympathy, empathy, compassion, charity, justice and forgiveness. Mercy is the free and gracious commitment to liberate another, even at personal cost, from the debilitating effects of destructive actions and attitudes caused by ignorance or moral weakness.
During the weekend we listened to scripture; John 8:1-11 – A Woman Caught in Adultery, Luke 15:11-32 – The Parable of the Lost Son and Matthew 5:43-48 – Love for Enemies. In small groups we were shared our own stories if we wished, with no discussion but rather within a place of non-judgemental acceptance. Sharing Eucharist together, we were invited to come forward individually to receive anointing and were challenged to go forth as “Angels of Mercy” bringing the healing touch of God to those who we encounter.
The peaceful surrounds of the Home of Compassion was the perfect setting for this wonderful weekend. We were truly immersed in mercy and compassion. Venerable Suzanne Aubert would have been delighted.
Teresa Grant – St Brigids Feilding