Vinnies took part in a two day event that saw both young Catholics and YSA of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) connect in prayer, fellowship and varied discussions. Following the initial success of a combined gathering in 2014, a new cohort was hosted by the Office of Public Affairs, LDS Church with the blessing of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Committee for Interfaith Relations. I went along as a young adult, a catholic and a Vinnie. I left the gathering in awe of the passion and connectedness felt not only within our group but amongst our new found friends of the LDS church.
The day started with mass at St Patrick’s church, Kilbirnie where we welcomed participants from Hamilton, Taupo, Auckland and the Wellington area. This gave us the opportunity to break the ice and hear about the different communities we belong to and serve in.
From there time-lapsed, to meeting the YSA of LDS in Hataitai through to an educational tour of parliament. We then made our way to Compass Health in Porirua for a service practice activity. The care packs prepared by the group are part of a health and well-being campaign for secondary school students within the area. The day was signed off with a devotional service lead by our LDS friends.
The following day we returned to Parliament to hear the stories of a select group of speakers as well as present youth concerns to them, grow in social awareness and discuss political responsibility in an evolving Aotearoa. No topic was off limits and this made for some very insightful and enlightening story telling. There were many lessons learned as well as experiences shared with these leaders of our country. We all agreed that we came away with a new found appreciation for their work in politics and that these men and women like us have made choices to serve their community through this way (it’s definitely not a walk in the park!). We ended our time together with a journey through the “Doors of Mercy” at Sacred Heart Cathedral which can only be explained as a very special encounter between two faith communities.
Young people all around New Zealand are confronted with the realities of life, through media, during a walk along the main streets of neighbourhoods to the home you may live in. Hon. Winston Peters highlighted, “Why do young people not see politics as an important part of their lives because it is very much embedded in majority of what you do daily – think about it…” he went on to share examples of how we are called to make decisions that ultimately affect us and those around us. I brought it back to our mission as Vincentians, how we are called to serve our communities through faith in action. No gesture is ever too small because the person who is on the receiving end is forever changed from it. We too are changed because of it.
As the society looks to celebrate 150 years of Vincentian vocation in Aotearoa, and upon reflection of the two days spent with these men and women of faith, I remembered Bl. Frederic Ozanam and his friends. When they chose to respond to the social issues of their time, they were around the age of our cohort. The challenges that they faced during the reformation in Paris is not far off from the concerns we are faced with today. The offering of a helping hand to raise up one’s community was always at the heart of their work and to think that this is still very much needed in today’s thriving world, brings about many questions for the young person, young catholic – young Vinnie.
I’d like to thank Deputy Speaker of the House, Hon. Chester Borrows, Hon. Peter Dunne, Hon Andrew Little, Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Winston Peters, MP Su’a William Sio and MP Pita Paraone for hosting us. I know there will be plenty of other opportunities for our young people to connect with you all in the work you do. Thank you to our friends of the LDS church for your hospitality, welcoming of a stranger (that’s us) and we will always remember the words of Elder Thompson, “strangers are friends that haven’t met yet.” Lastly, a huge thank you to Sr Catherine (Chair, NZ Catholic Bishops Committee for Interfaith Relations and all round amazing role model) for the invitation to be part of this experience, we will miss you and know that where you are headed to next is going to be truly blessed with your service.
– Ana Faatoia | Community Engagement Co-ordinator