Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Peace be with you – Kia tau te rangimarie kia koutou
I am deeply humbled to be called by Pope Francis to serve as your Shepherd and to follow Archbishop Paul Martin, a much-loved Bishop of Christchurch. I have always admired Christchurch Diocese from afar: your rich and generous history of 135 years of faith; your enduring resilience in the face of adversity; not to mention your all-conquering rugby team. Not everything in Christchurch is new for me. I have very fond memories of a cycling pilgrimage I made with eight seminarians in 2015. Cycling through the diocese over five days, we were blessed to enjoy your rich hospitality while also taking in the breathtaking beauty this part of the world is so famous for. Never did I imagine I would become a part of your faith story.
One of the mysteries of following Jesus is the call for His followers to turn their lives over to His will – who He is calling us to be and where He is calling us to. It is good for us to recall the first disciples, who “dropped their nets” and followed him. They were comfortable in their occupations, journeying with familiar people on well-worn roads, then Jesus called them to put aside their plans and follow him.
Like many of you, I have dropped my net, preferring His guidance and providence over my carefully worked plans. In the last ten years I have lived in Mount Maunganui, Rome, the seminary in Auckland and most recently as Auxiliary Bishop of Auckland. Throughout I have been grateful to have journeyed with incredible people and marvelled at what God can do with our collective “yes,” to go where he calls us. I am now called to journey with you the people of the diocese of Christchurch. I have learnt, where God calls, He provides in abundance.
Jesus’ mother Mary was His most faithful supporter and ardent disciples. Her yes to his mission was generous and complete. In turn, on the cross he gave her to us as our Spiritual Mother. My episcopal motto is dedicated to Mary Totus Tuus, offering everything to Jesus through Mary. I dedicate this journey with you to her intercession. May she be a faithful guide to us all as we faithfully live our journey of faith. Mary Mother of the Church, pray for us.
+ Michael Gielen
Bishop of Christchurch