CW Hui, Moria Marae, Whirinaki, January 2006

Reprinted from The Common Good, No 36, Lent 2006

The hui flows like water, down through the Whirinaki bush, under the odd bridge, between the great slab rocks, over the stones and out into the Hokianga Harbour. No sadness in its voice, only hope singing. Bebe at Clare House, the gateway, loaded up to the brim the night before with Catholic Workers of all different denominations inside and outside the house.

People arrive at the entrance in the rain from Auckland, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch, Opononi. Kuia Irene calls us on with a beautiful karanga. On we come one after the other, hongi, whaikorero, waiata, small dreams, large dreams in our hearts, great kai prepared by Val, Andrew, Becky, Karena, Sam… and a great troupe of younger ringawera in the big kitchen. We go to Opononi wharf for a swim, then kai, then we each stand and korero where we come from – mountain, river, sea, sky… people. Strong people here of the Hokianga – Nga Puhi, Maori, French, Catholic, beautiful waiata singing, speaking from the heart.

Koro Rawiri, Kuia Irene, Kuia Reina, Peter, Judith, Joseph, Catherine and the whanau welcome us into the body of the wharenui. Within the walls of the whare lie all the words that have been spoken in the whare. Each day some new thing comes to the light, some new understanding, some old sacredness reveals itself.

At first light of dawn Aunty Raina calling the morning prayer eloquently and beautifully in Maori, opening each of our days to God’s presence. In the wharekai we sing old Irish songs long into the night. In the afternoon Peter Murnane tells in pictures the story of his bike ride from Canberra to Uluru to mark his 40th ordination anniversary, and to bring the story of the Aborigines into the light. At the marae Bebe working the flax with the young ones and not so young ones all around her flax in hand, kete, small boxes, vases, bracelets of flax.

Catherine, Joseph, Peter and Judith tell the story of St Francis Farm. The baking and breaking of bread, the growing of the food that is eaten, the not using of electricity, the quietness, walking barefoot, the gentle Holy Spirit in the people living here. St Francis Farm speaks into the heart of sadness and heals with the daily morning prayer and the daily rhythm of manual work. A place of quietness and healing for Dave who is there at the moment, helping with chores, chopping the firewood each day. We all spend one afternoon walking up the river to St Francis Farm in a light rain and come back, blooming. Irene and Rawiri’s Granddaughter stands and speaks eloquently to the young people gathered there, from her heart, in the whare of her tipuna. On the Sunday some of us stay and go to the Mass at Rawene. Koro Rawiri chants the Profundis in Maori at the end of Mass because someone has died in their parish that week. It is the most beautiful singing I have ever heard, in the hall at the edge of the water. Ka koa (glad) aku ngakau (our hearts).

—Kathleen Gallagher

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