Tuesday, May 20, 2008

May 21st: New Zealand - Pukekaraka

On a hill in the small New Zealand town of Otaki sits the Shrine of Mary, known as Pukekaraka "the hill where the Karaka trees grow;" the Karaka tree is sacred to the Maori. Otaki, established in 1844, is one of the first mission stations of the Fathers and Brothers of the Society of Mary (Marists). The missionaries came to New Zealand in 1838, from France, and they brought the Catholic faith to the Polynesian people, called the Maori. The first church was dedicated to Mary, Our Lady of Victories. A grotto was built in 1904. It was then enlarged and moved to a different hill in 1905. The Grotto, named "The Grotto of Lourdes" is a reflection of the French Marists devotion to Mary.

The Wall of Reconciliation and Peace was built in 1910, and stands in front of the Grotto It was built to signify reconciliation between the local Maori, and the end of the war between the Mua-Upoko and Raukawa tribes. Because this was a sacred place, no weapons were to be taken inside in the Grotto. In 1999, a cairn of stones was placed in front of the Wall of Reconciliation and Peace to signify the desire for the unity of all Christians. Representatives from other churches and congregations brought stones from their localities and placed them in this stack. This was done to unite the Maori people not only to their immediate neighbors but to their European neighbors as well.

The Catholic Community of Pukekaraka is one of the oldest places of Catholic worship in New Zealand, with the Mary shrine being the most important in the country. The Hui Aranga, (Annual Easter Gatherings of Catholic Maori) had its origin at Otaki. Miracles have been reported; aman named Ngakuru Pene Hare of Pangaru of North Auckland, was suffering from a terminal disease, and was cured. He went to Otaki, and prayed the Rosary with flower petals because he did not have a Rosary. He is still alive and in good health forty years later; he met with Father James Durning and told him his story. (Mary Page)
This is a very short entry as the only information I could find on the internet was this one page. Our Lady of Pukekaraka fitted so well with my round-the-world theme that I felt she deserved to be included despite this.

In the local Maori language Our Lady is called "Hine Nui O Te Ao Katoa", meaning "Mary, Great Mother of the Whole World". The cloak worn by the statue is the cloak of honour of a Maori Chieftainess.

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