New Zealand - JOURNEYING INTO THE MYSTERY OF GOD AND OF GOD’S REIGN

The clear blue sky, starry nights, lush green pastures and the fact that here in the South Pacific New Zealand is surrounded by water, makes one at first think that this is a little utopia 
 
In the past 20 years New Zealand has changed rapidly with an increase of population to approximately 4½ million made up of people of multiple “national” identities, where one in every 8 is Asian (2/3 of whom live in Auckland); the country has become more diverse in new ways through increasing migration and refugees.
 
The implications for N.Z. are that it is a relatively small, young country with multiple cultural identities and values. There are more two-family households, many children living in households with limited incomes and assets, health issues and hospitalizations due to inferior, damp and inadequately heated houses; 1 in 4 children suffer from hunger and there are huge problems of domestic violence. Earthquakes in the southern part of the country, among other problems, has brought about a large increase in depression and suicides and, as we are on the verge of election time we are continually hearing about how dirty politics are creeping in. 
 
Recently three of us attended a meeting at the cathedral on the subject of “Solidarity for Iraqi Christians in Mosul”. Over 1000 persons attended. We were introduced to the history of Christianity in Iraq, and the stark persecutions of Iraqis. There was the eye-witness account by a 14 year-old girl who shared her story of how she saw her brother and many of the men of her town lined up and shot in the head and how her people had to flee leaving everything behind (except for the memories). 
 
A major concern raised was “What are the United Nations doing to protect humanity”? 
Petitions were signed requesting that the N.Z. Government allow a “special quota” of our brothers and sisters from Iraq to enter N.Z. The meeting finished with a demonstration through the main street of Auckland. 
 
Presence: Earlier this year I became involved with the Otahuhu St Vincent de Paul Society. A while back we discussed the number of homeless and hungry people in the area and decided to start a “Soup Kitchen” and now have it on a regular basis. A man in his late twenties who came in shared his story, and you could feel his grief, fear and loneliness as the story unfolded. His father with whom he had lived died recently and he is now homeless; he suffers from bipolar and has been sleeping under the overpass at night as he does not like the shelters because he fears there is too much stealing and problems. I am hoping he will return so that we can offer him some assistance. 
Gabriel
 
Hopeful Listening: I am working with Pregnancy Help which is an organization that offers confidential support for women and their families when the mother is pregnant and in need of help. One day a pregnant teenage girl came into the office off the street wanting to abort her baby. She was afraid to tell her parents and boyfriend because it was not planned and not meant to be. She was in such a state and desperately needed help. After helping her feel safe and enabling her to share her story and the shock of her condition, I was able to offer her a few options to think about; my hope was that she would keep her baby but I did not say that to her. I reassured her about the Organization of Pregnancy Help and my support and the fact that we respect life and the right of the unborn baby. She left feeling happier and grateful for letting her share her story. 
A few weeks later she came back to tell me that she is keeping the baby and her parents have accepted her situation and promise her their loving care and support for both her and the baby. The father of the child is also happy to take responsibility for the child when it is born. This was my good news for the day at the mission. 
Leiola 
 
Refugees: Being part of the Team of the Refugee Program in Manukau, over the past few years one Refugee Family that I have been accompanying with housing, schools, etc., and integrating into their new environment are now well settled and enjoying their new life in N.Z. The two girls – Feudah and Rosaidah – are happy at school, making lots of friends and feeling very at home with English as their second language. 
 
Both parents attend English class five days a week. Communication is getting easier for them and with the help of Skype this enables them also to communicate with the rest of their families from Malaysia and Burma. 
 
Last October they had a new (Kiwi) addition – a little girl whom they named Jodeah – and are expecting another child this December. 
We were invited to celebrate with them the end of Ramadan – the time of sharing / giving gifts and food together. It is great to see the family really settled and happy in their new country.
Eleni 
 
Breath of life: Working with “Obstruction Sleep Apnoea” (OSA) patients is a challenge at times. To prevent truck, bus and taxi drivers who are using the “Continuous Positive Airway Pressure” (CPAP) machine from having an accident while driving – as people with OSA can easily have micro-sleep while driving when they are not getting a good-quality sleep – the law states that they need an annual report from the data of their machine, this to be sent to the Transport Association, for the renewal of their license. They are expected to use the CPAP machine every time they sleep, for an average of 6-8 hours daily/night. We then download the data from their machine and send it on to their doctor who in turn sends a report to the Transport Association. If it does not meet the requirements, the Police go to their home and take their license and they cannot work again until the required use of the machine is regularly recorded. 
For the next 2 months they come to the clinic every three weeks with their machine for a compliance check until their doctor sees from the reports we send that they are safe to return to work; he then notifies the Transport Association for the return of their license. 
 
One man who has been using the CPAP machine since 2006 has lost his license three times within the last seven years. He is separated from his wife and five children and lives in his car. He told us that he often goes to the public library to find a quiet corner with a power point where he can plug in his machine and have 3-4 hours of sleep, but he can’t do that all the time. He pays money for the support of his children and can’t afford to rent a place for himself. He is a truck driver working five days a week, driving long distances and working long hours. He has relatives around the area but does not want to bother them. The last time he lost his license he came into the clinic and screamed at us, saying “who is going to pay the money for my kids while I don’t have my license and can’t work”. 
(We take many things for granted, a good night’s sleep being often one of them!) 
Manusiu
 
The hidden ones: In the larger community of Otara there are many hidden people. I have the privilege of visiting three of them. 
 
John was paralyzed 38 years ago in a car accident. He lives alone and is totally dependent on carers who come in twice a day to feed him and to attend to his hygiene needs. As it is winter now he spends all his time in bed but in the summer months he is out and about in his electric wheelchair. He is a man who is remarkably at peace with himself and the world. During my weekly visits we have wonderful conversations. 
 
Margaret, aged 85, recently had surgery that has given her some measure of hearing. My mission is to re-educate her to listen and understand normal conversation. Last week she went to the library for the first time in years and was very excited when she could understand and respond to the staff member there. Now as she gains confidence in her new-found hearing she has applied for a much needed home help. 
 
Tran speaks no English and is afraid to go out unless she is accompanied by her daughters. At times they resent this and are embarrassed by her, something she feels deeply. We are just beginning the language journey which, if successful, will end her social isolation. 
Auckland has a population of 1 million; 40% of those who live in Auckland were not born in N.Z. and many of them struggle to adjust to a new country and a new language. 
 
Michelle
Let your love and your labour speak Jesus Christ: 
 
A lot of my present mission involves supporting elderly and terminally-ill patients in the local area. One of these people was Libby(not her real name). I first met Libby when, as an LSA, I was doing my nursing training at the Hutt Hospital. I was a student nurse and Libby, the mother of a young family, was working evenings part time as a Registered Nurse. She was a very caring nurse with a wonderful sense of humour – she often talked about her Catholic upbringing and her memory of ‘Sister…..’. After I graduated I left the hospital to return to our LSA community mission and moved away from this area for some years. When I returned to the area I crossed paths with Libby from time to time as she continued to work at the Hospital. When she was about to retire she asked for my address so she could send me an invitation to her retirement party at the hospital. After that we lost touch. Libby was living her dream being able to spend more time with her grandchildren. Some time later I received a phone call from the Catholic Centre to say Libby wanted my phone number etc. Soon after, Libby rang me – her news was not good, she had been diagnosed with a brain tumour and was getting less able to do things and was looking for some help with shopping – she was no longer able to drive and her husband was unwell himself. I agreed to visit her to see what I could do, but when I got there I found she did not need any help with shopping but wanted me to call and see her on a regular basis. My experience over the years as an LSA is that often the presenting problem is not the real issue. In Libby’s case, she was a lapsed Catholic and I got the feeling that, as she was facing death, she was searching for something deeper – but I needed to tread very carefully. Often during my visits, while I was massaging her feet, she would bring up some ‘religious’ concerns. Eventually one day I asked if she would like me to get a priest in the parish to visit. I got a very definite ‘NO’, she just liked chatting and joking with me. We covered a lot of ground during those visits and I was quite happy to live out Fr Pernet’s words “LET YOUR LOVE and YOUR LABOUR SPEAK JESUS CHRIST”. Libby got sicker, was in and out of hospital. Then, in Hospice Day care she met up with Fr T. – the Hospital Chaplain whom she knew well from her days of working at the hospital and felt comfortable with him. He too started visiting on a regular basis and that was a great comfort to Libby. She went downhill very quickly in the end. I felt I could now pray daily with her on my visits – she was no longer able to respond, but it obviously meant a lot to her husband (lapsed Catholic) as he kept vigil with her. As Libby’s life was fast drawing to a close, one of her daughters started talking about a funeral; she said that Libby didn’t want a church funeral but she wanted Fr T. to lead it and she asked I do a reading. I felt very privileged to be asked but unfortunately was not able to be at the funeral and I was unable to fulfil that wish of Libby’s. Libby was cremated and a few weeks later her daughter contacted me to invite me to the interment of Libby’s ashes. I was so glad to be able to do that – it was a very moving little service and it helped give me some sort of closure too. So we never know how the Lord is working through us in the lives of others. Rest in Peace, Libby. 
 
Barbara
 
Nuclear Family: It all started on Sunday 29th June 2014 at Mass. Joshua left his family and came to sit beside me. After mass, this nine- year-old informed me that “Mummy had a baby in her tummy”. This concerned me as his mother previously had com-plicated pregnancies. In addition to her two daughters – Kate, 5 years and Lily, 3 years – Susan had had a miscarriage after one month. This was followed by an ectopic pregnancy which resulted in the rupture of one of her fallopian tubes, and a near-death experience. Since that traumatic experience and up to the present Susan has suffered from severe depression and panic attacks for which she is on anti-depressants. 
After mass, I spoke with Susan. She assured me that she was pregnant, and was already experiencing nausea associated with early pregnancy. I found myself becoming anxious for the welfare of this woman. No doubt it has something to do with our charism and our love for the FAMILY, the domestic church, which is under constant attack in our modern world. This must be an international phenomenon, as Pope Francis pointed out recently, people are choosing to have pets – cats and dogs – rather than babies. 
In addition to the physical aspect of this pregnancy there is also the financial cost. Some months ago, Susan started part time work to help pay for their housing loan etc. Whether she will be able to continue working we do not know. However, we shall do all we can to support this family. 
I take this opportunity to appeal to our sisters for prayers for the welfare of this family, Ted, Susan and their 3 children, Joshua, Kate and Lily, with number four on the way. Many thanks. 
Veronica 
 
In Papatoetoe on the 14th of August, together with some of our friends, we joined to celebrate the vigil Mass and renew the Pact, followed by a great meal after which everyone was very relaxed, sitting around laughing and talking. 
We are united with all our Sisters and Laity/Friends as we regularly MEET with our local Friends to share reflections on the Charism and our Founders, and plan for 150th celebration in 2015 – which will also be the 60th anniversary of our coming to New Zealand. 
 
 
We are united with all our Sisters and Laity/Friends as we regularly MEET with our local Friends to share reflections on the Charism and our Founders, and plan for 150th celebration in 2015 – which will also be the 60th anniversary of our coming to New Zealand.
02/12/2014
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