Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - RELIGION -

De­cem­ber 25 may be just one day of the year but for St Pa­trick’s Cathe­dral it’s such an im­por­tant one that plan­ning starts al­most im­me­di­ately af­ter the last one has wrapped up. The Dean of the Cathe­dral of St Pa­trick and St Joseph in cen­tral Auck­land, Pa Peter Tipene, ad­mits that the Cathe­dral does make “quite the fuss” when it comes to its Christ­mas dé­cor. A large nativity scene is erected at the start of De­cem­ber, then Christ­mas trees and flo­ral ar­range­ments are brought in for the week prior to the big day. Pa Peter es­ti­mates that over Christ­mas Day and Christ­mas Eve more than 8000 peo­ple at­tend one of the six Christ­mas masses held at St Pa­trick’s. The cathe­dral, which seats 900, is of­ten too small to hold the crowds that gather and the over­flow spills out into the car park, where large screens are erected so ev­ery­one can take part. In the 2013 cen­sus, Catholi­cism over­took Angli­can­ism as the big­gest de­nom­i­na­tion of Chris­tian­ity in New Zealand. Peter be­lieves that the grow­ing Catholic pop­u­la­tion is in part due to the mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism of New Zealand. “It is re­flected in our pews. I think here at the cathe­dral we have about 40 dif­fer­ent na­tion­al­i­ties who gather, and that’s seen through­out most of Auck­land too,” he ex­plains. The con­gre­ga­tion at St Pa­trick’s has had a large in­flux of Filipino devo­tees, so much so that the cathe­dral has started its own Sim­bang Gabi, a Filipino Christ­mas tra­di­tion of nine dawn masses in the week lead­ing up to Christ­mas. Be­ing in­clu­sive of a va­ri­ety of cul­tures is some­thing Pa Peter is big on. This year, he started to in­clude Te Reo Maori in his ser­mons, much to the de­light of the wor­ship­pers. He even had spe­cial vest­ments made for him by an aunt, based on the shape of a ko­rowai (Maori cloak). “When I wear those I get all the oohs and aahs – they say, “Pa, you look fab­u­lous,” and I say, “I know,” laughs Peter. While be­ing in­volved in Christ­mas Eve and Christ­mas Day masses is spe­cial, it does mean priests’ own fam­ily cel­e­bra­tions have to fit around them. “My fam­ily tra­di­tion used to be lunch, but I’d al­ways be late and just fall asleep at the ta­ble, so now we do din­ner so I can nap first,” jokes Peter. “Af­ter the last Christ­mas mass, we lock the doors and say thank good­ness that it’s over!”

Pa Peter es­ti­mates more than 8000 peo­ple at­tend Christ­mas mass at St Pa­trick’s.

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