OCEANIA/NEW ZEALAND - Catholic community in the pacific celebrates St Peter Chanel first martyr and patron of the Church in Oceania

Thursday, 28 April 2005

Wellington (Fides Service) - Today 28 April, the feast of St Peter Chanel, is a great day for the Church in New Zealand and all over the pacific. St Peter Chanel, a Marist, was martyred here and he is considered one of the fathers of the Church in this part of the Pacific. For the occasion Marist communities organise spiritual and cultural initiatives to commemorate the great figure of St Peter Chanel (1803-1841), in the many Marist schools, missions and institutes. They also have a web site to spread information and devotion to the Saint www.maristpacific.org/peterchanel.
The mission of the Society of Mary started more than 150 years ago. In 1837 Peter Chanel accepted to go to evangelise the area he was one of the first missionaries to arrive here. He had been told to find a suitable place to open a mission. Young Peter settled on the Island of Futuna north of Fiji. He became familiar with the language and local customs, made friends with the people and began to tell them about Jesus of Nazareth and his Gospel. But some local chiefs feared the new religions would upset local traditions. When the King’s son asked to be baptised, the King was so angry that he ordered that he had Peter executed. And so Peter was martyred on 28 April 1841 three years after his arrival. Very soon after his death the entire population converted to Christianity. Peter Chanel was beatified in 1889, and canonised in 1954 by Pope Pius XII.
Today Marist fathers and sisters continue their mission in the Pacific in three religious provinces: Australia, New Zealand, Islands. In New Zealand they run six parishes, four primary schools, a boarding school and a St Peter Chanel Shrine and Diocesan Centre. The Marists also have a mission in Japan, founded in the early 1950s by a group of Marists in Australia who went to help with the post-war rebuilding in that country. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 28/4/2005 righe 27 parole 278)