To mark the 200th anniversary of the Pledge of Fourviere, ninety students and fifteen staff from the National Network of Marist Schools met at Motuti Marae in Hokianga for four days, the celebration culminating on the actual anniversary, 23 July. We celebrated the direct result of the Pledge of Fourviere --- the foundations of the Catholic faith in New Zealand, the lives of Bishop Pompallier, Fr Servant and Br Michel and their Marist companions who left France and came to the South Pacific.
We visited significant Marist places in and around Hokianga --- Totara Point where Pompallier first celebrated Eucharist on Aotearoa New Zealand soil, Papakawau where the first mission was briefly established before moving across the harbour to Purakau, St Mary’s Church at Motuti where Pompallier now rests.
We heard of the heroic, but largely unsung, life of Catherin Servant in the early mission, and his subsequent life on Futuna after Peter Chanel’s martyrdom. We wondered at the tragedy of Michel Colombon, “Johnny the Gardener” of Reefton, and how he remained faithful to his vows to the end. We marvelled at the energy of Bishop Pompallier, his flamboyance, his deep respect and love for the Maori, and his mastery of their language.
We walked in their footsteps, listened to their stories, met the descendants of those to whom they preached the Gospel for the first time, and reflected, in the light of all this, on our own Marist journeys, religious and lay, that began in other places but have now led us back to our origins.