.- Catholics in Christchurch, New Zealand drew inspiration from a recent Divine Mercy Congress as they work to rebuild from a series of devastating earthquakes that have hit the country in the last year.
“The blessings and graces which all received at the congress have and will continue to inspire all those who attended to greater acts and greater works of mercy in their homes, workplaces, and missionary endeavors,” Pat Barrett, national coordinator for the event, told CNA on Sept. 1.
“This is particularly important right here now in Christchurch,” he added, “which has suffered exceptional losses and destruction over the past 12 months.”
Since Sept. 2010, four major earthquakes and over 7,000 aftershocks have shaken the city and “reduced its center to a demolition site,” Barrett said.
Over 200 people have been killed in the series of quakes and 27,000 have left the city permanently. More than 5,000 damaged homes need to be razed to the ground, “to say nothing of the 900 plus city buildings that will have to be demolished,” he said.
The New Zealand Apostolic Congress, which was held at the local St. Bede's College from Aug. 26-28, was launched under the title “Divine Mercy - God's Gift for our Time.” The event began with a Votive Mass of Divine Mercy, celebrated by Bishop Barry Jones of the Christchurch diocese.
Bishop Jones was accompanied by Archbishop Alapati L. Mataeliga of Samoa and Fr. Patrice Chocholski, Secretary General for the World Apostolic Congress on Mercy and parish priest in Lyon, France.
"Fr. Patrice Chocholski has traveled around the globe over the past three years, visiting every continent, and attending every national and regional congress and encouraging all to greater trust in Divne Mercy and greater works as servants for the Lord, " Barrett said. "He spoke of the need for modern witnesses to Divine Mercy in a world infused by hate, revenge, and self."
Barrett said upwards of 500 people attended Masses, Eucharistic adoration, presentations, films, and talks given by “witnesses to and for mercy.”
One of the best aspects of the congress was the “high caliber of the keynote speakers,” which included Fr. Rory Morrissey, a spiritual director for the congress, and EWTN host Fr. Antoine Thomas of the Brothers of St. John who offered a special adoration session for children.
Other notable guests included the American Deacon Bob Digan –the husband of Maureen Digan who received a miraculous cure of lymphodemia at the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Krakow, Poland in 1981.
Barrett sees the Christchurch conference as an extension of the various congresses held around the globe over the past three years after the 2008 World Apostolic Congress on Mercy in Rome.
He said that those gatherings have established “a clear link between the Pontificate of John Paul, that of Pope Benedict, and the urgent and universal call to become apostles of mercy in these days according to the model established and proclaimed by St. Faustina Kowalska.”
The Polish saint, who lived from 1905 to 1938, received prophetic visions and instructions from God to write her now famous diary, “Divine Mercy in My Soul.”
He noted that several attendees who came from the local Catholic community were unaware of the call and urgency of Divine Mercy. But they were “captured by this message and mission and now desire for it to transform their lives as new apostles of mercy.”
“With Pope Blessed John Paul II, we can say, 'There is nothing that man needs more than Divine Mercy,' and with St. Faustina, 'Jesus I Trust in You!'”
Updated Sept. 2, 2011 at 2:41 p.m. MDT. Adds material about Archbishop Mataeliga and Fr. Patrice Chocholoski in paragraphs 7 and 8.