As our community life has unfolded in New Zealand, it has become clear is that there is a special mission to families, which is very much needed in the modern world. The Beatitudes Community, being herself an ecclesial family, is particularly suited towards serving this mission.
Our charism brings unique gifts to this task: a thirst for unity, and an openness to our Orthodox and Protestant brethren, as well as to our Jewish forebears; an awareness of the evangelising and contemplative power of beautiful liturgy; and a sense of living eschatological hope in the final victory of Christ.
This spiritual and familial combination continues to be the leaven in the dough, and is indeed the soul of our apostolate - a living and vibrant Sanctuary for the weary pilgrim in the modern world.
Missions and Te Rangimarie
After a series of missions to New Zealand from New Caledonia, our little team of three sisters, a brother and a married couple, arrived here in 1994, to start the first English speaking house of the Beatitudes Community in the world. We were welcomed by Bishop Basil Meeking on December 8th for our first mass, and we anchored from the waka of Te Rangimarie, among the Catholic Maori of Canterbury whose whanaungatanga and manākitanga made us feel particularly at home.
Idris Road and Leithfield
After a brief stay in 1996 at a former convent in Idris Rd, we prayed a 30 day novena to St. Joseph for a property from which we could expand. In 1997, the hand of Providence led us to a beautiful spot in Leithfield, where we still are today. There we began to respond to the need for solace and retreat, receiving people for short or long term stays, whilst providing a place of serene prayer, beautiful liturgy, accompaniment and spiritual healing for those seeking respite.
As numbers grew, the house provided English speaking formation in the spirit of our community to new members, to those in discernment and to many families. In addition, we also carried out various services for the diocese, including parish missions, school visits, and work with the tertiary chaplaincy.
The Sanctuary and Shrine
From 2015, we were inspired to work toward establishing a Marian shrine and sanctuary at Leithfield. By the hand of Providence, the property next door became available, which enabled us to separate the brothers’ and sisters’ living quarters from the apostolate. The intuition of a shrine and sanctuary bore fruit in 2019, with the installation of a statue of Our Lady of Fourvière, a replica of the one that watches over Lyon from the roof of the basilica. Bishop Patrick Le Gal from Lyon attended the installation, bringing a votive painting from the basilica that dates back to the time of Bishop Pompallier’s departure from Lyon.
To develop a sanctuary around the shrine of Our Lady of Fourvière has considerable significance for the Church in New Zealand. St. Peter Chanel, who accompanied Bishop Pompallier on the first missionary endeavour to Oceania, dedicated the mission and his fellow Marists to the protection of Our Lady of Fourvière. The Marists themselves had been effectively founded at that very shrine just years before. Indeed, Venerable Suzanne Aubert, who would come to New Zealand a little later, came from that same region and her mother was healed at the shrine. Notably, St. John Vianney from nearby Ars, who is one of the Beatitudes Community’s main patrons, was the spiritual director for both Pompallier and Aubert.
The Sanctuary and Shrine
The Beatitudes Community continues in the trajectory and spirit of those first French missionaries, but with our own distinct flavour, being the first Ecclesial Family that comprises laity, religious and priests to be recognised by the universal Church. The Sanctuary continues to develop beyond the initial Shrine, to include a replica of the Red Shed of Mother Aubert, complete with her own medicines; and a Fale dedicated to St. Peter Chanel, where his icon and relics can be venerated. But it is not a museum to a Catholic past. Rather, it is a place of spiritual accompaniment for the modern-day pilgrim.