Sunday, July 13, 2008

Days 6-7-8-9-10-11 Catching up on our travelogue

It's already 5 days ago that we made our way from the Waitomo grotto caves to St Patrick Parish here in Pukekohe, some 40 kilometers out of Auckland. Don't ask me what direction.... It's all so disorienting... We put on our bright red Habs shirts and grouped together outside the entrance of the Parish Hall (it's on the right, with the church in the middle and the rectory on the left) where a contingent of parishioners had gathered to welcome us, with folk of every generation from grandparents to toddlers....

We sang a song and an elder religious Sister Mary Martin sang a Maori welcome... There were some official words of welcome by Vicky, the Parish WYD Coordinator for these Days in the Diocese, and others. Then we all mingled and piled into the hall for "afternoon tea" .... it was all so civilized and proper, a good rest and food for body and soul after our long bus ride.

There was much mingling and introductions and in time we were all introduced and assigned to our host families... 8 of us were to stay and Tyburn Monastery, where 5 Benedictine nuns carry on continuous adoration and maintain a house of prayer and retreat. We were delighted to arrive to a warm supper waiting at 6:30 and later settled into our rooms. We joined the sisters for Night Prayer (Compline) which was very touching. The sisters sang with such small, delicate voices, as though expressing to the Lord with great affection their poverty and fewness in numbers and yet great confidence in his love and faithful help....

We were blessed with individual rooms with electric space heaters... and enjoyed showers and good food. The sisters prepared lunches for us, whether midday meal was already planned or not and we all found enough appetite to eat them, if not for lunch then for a snack in mid-morning or afternoon. We didn't get to see the beauty of the site where we were living until the weekend because we arrived at night after dark hits at 5 pm and left before morning light after 8 am.

Thursday - Day 7

We made our own breakfast from what the Sisters provided in the guest house: whole wheat bread, toasters, peanut butter and jams, fresh fruit, teas and coffee, milk, etc. Thursday, Friday and today Monday we made our way to the church for 8:45 to prepare for morning Mass at 9:00 with Frs. Peter Gray and Ikenasio Vilaliano (a Samoan), who have been simply wonderful. This first morning here we chatted and then were led on foot to a public park where we would perform a public service as part of our stay. Vicky said it was not far, just two blocks. She didn't say it would be two New Zealand blocks, which made it a 20 minute walk!

The weather was lovely and mostly sunny, though, and we enjoyed the walk and chatting, and photo ops. We arrived at this lovely park complete with hillside, gully, spring, trees, grass, and had 300 "trees" to plant. They were grasses and tropical tree seedlings around 12 to 24 inches high with root balls. Digging holes in the ground varied from very dry and hard ground to soft and muddy near the stream. Yes, some of us managed to get properly muddy and one of the local boys (6 foot +) managed to trip on a tree root jumping over the stream and landed one foot squarely in the water.... lots of giggling all around, and he was a good sport...

This was real labor, and many of our pilgrims looked like they had never handled a spade or shovel before, but quickly got the hang of it.... and all experienced deep satisfaction at making a difference and planting seedlings that would live on for many years and help the local Council reclaim unused land previously used as dumps.... The camaraderie and cooperation was a wonder to behold as pilgrims worked and helped each other and took time to have fun while still getting the job done. The organizers were thrilled at the group's progress and delighted that all 300 seedlings were planted.

We leisurely made our way to the other side of the stream and park where a grill had been set up and as Sami put it "an infinite number of sausages" were waiting for us... They do it simply here, serving on a slice of bread you could grill yourself, with butter, and ketchup... there were fruit and cookies... and of course the guys and a few gals played Haki Sak....

to be continued.....

1 comment:

  1. Cathie10:10 PM

    Hi Fr. Gilles,

    Can't tell you how much reading your account of our pilgrims has kept our whole family connected to all of you so far away. I felt the connection today sitting at Mass at St. Luke's and knowing that we were joined together by the Eucharist.. "in mercy and love unite all your children wherever they might be..."

    Know our families and our community are with all of you in prayer. Thank you for taking the time to keep us posted with your activities and for the great pictures. Hope you feel better soon. Send love to all especially Matthew and Kim.