Every year on January 15th we have an opportunity to remember Father Henri Brun. He was one of the first Assumptionist missionaries in the Pacific region. Father d’Alzon sent pioneering Assumptionists to Matthew Quin, the first bishop of Brisbane, Australia. Father d’Alzon agreed that these religious would live and work under the direct authority of the bishop. The bishop wanted pastors for his widely-spread parishes. (At that time his diocese encompassed the entire state of Queensland.) Our pioneering Assumptionist brothers wanted to live in community and this tension with the bishop was ultimately irreconcilable. Fr Rene Cusse chose to remain in Australia – and was expelled from the congregation by Fr d’Alzon. Henri Brun returned to France and later became one of our pioneers in North America.
Image: Catechism in maori language, 19th century
Arrival of the Dutch brothers
In 1952 several Assumptionists from the former Dutch province arrived in New Zealand to serve as chaplains to the growing Dutch Catholic migrant communities. They worked in the dioceses of Auckland and Wellington (North Island) and Christchurch and Dunedin (South Island).
As these migrants assimilated into the New Zealand church and society the need for migrant chaplains lessened. The archbishop of Wellington invited us, together with the Sisters of Saint Brigid, to open a high school in Porirua. This was New Zealand’s first Catholic co-educational school. All of the Assumptionists appointed to this ministry attended university and teachers’ training college to prepare themselves. As well we have served in parishes: Otara and Otahuhu in the Auckland diocese; Elsdon, Porirua and Tawa in the Archdiocese of Wellington.
60’s to the 80’s: high-point of the Asssumptionist presence
The high-point of our presence in New Zealand was the period from the mid 60’s to the 80’s. 20 Assumptionists, mostly Dutch, have lived and worked here. Five New Zealanders entered our Congregation. One was ordained and another choose to become a Benedictine contemplative monk in Scotland. As New Zealand has become more determinedly secular, vocations to marriage, priesthood and religious life have markedly lessened. Without a re-foundation from the Asia-Pacific Region we will not survive. Only such re-foundations have enabled the Capuchin, Franciscan, Redemptorist and Rosminian communities to continue in New Zealand.
Faith and perseverance
For 66 years Assumptionists have served the New Zealand church and wider society with faith and perseverance. We have worked as pastors in parishes and hospitals. We have worked as high school teachers, as a university chaplain and as a seminary lecturer. Together we have sown the seeds of God’s Kingdom. May Father Henri Brun (1821-1895) continue to intercede for us, his much younger brethren