A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Pä Maria Marist Spirituality Centre

by Fr Brian Cummings sm

by Fr Brian Cummings sm

The name ‘Pā Maria’ was offered to the Society of Mary by Mr Richard Puanaki in consultation with his family. Mr Puanaki, a longtime associate of the Marists who lives in Wairoa, provides the following explanation: “In addition to its well-known meaning of ‘stronghold’ or ‘fortress,’ Pā also means ‘to be touched by or come close to, to be near.’ And ‘Maria’ is of course a Māori transliteration of ‘Mary.’ So the name Pā Maria denotes a secure place where people can come close to and be touched by Mary.”

Pā Maria Marist Spirituality Centre is in Thorndon, Wellington. Its spirit is in the tradition of the New Zealand Province of the Society of Mary’s long involvement in the retreat and spirituality ministry through Futuna and Emmaus.

At the same time, while there is indeed ‘something old’ in what is currently happening, there is also a definite sense of ‘something new.’


View from the north-east

View from the north-east

The ministry team at Pā Maria is made up of Father Brian Cummings as full-time Director and two part-timers, Fathers John Allardyce and Kevin Head (who also works for the Apostleship of the Sea, CathNews NZ Pacific and edits the Marist Messenger).


During 2016 there is at present one other member of the Marist community at Pā Maria, Fr John Walls.

The focus of the spirituality ministry can be summed up as engaging in areas of the spirituality ministry in a way that reflects the Marist charism and makes it accessible; making all aspects of the spirituality ministry available; and engaging positively with other types of spirituality outside mainstream Catholic or Christian areas.

Reflecting and making the Marist charism accessible

This is seen in the approach taken at Pā Maria with a quiet, unassuming style aimed at catering for people’s real needs while not being cost recovery-driven (no one is turned away because they can’t pay). As has been the case in the past, there continues to be a strong openness to working with people both within and outside of the institutional Church.

Members of the New Zealand SM Province have made either private or guided retreats on Marist themes at Pā Maria in past years and new retreats are continually being prepared.

Making all aspects of the spirituality ministry available

La Neylière Prayer Room

La Neylière Prayer Room

Pā Maria continues to offer the types of services one would expect from a spirituality centre such as: spiritual direction; recollection days / evenings (for example, for groups such as Christian Life Community); the Spiritual Exercises in Daily Life and as a 30 Day Retreat; weekend / 5-day / 8-day directed or guided retreats (including non-residential retreats); responding to invitations to lead retreats in other parts of the country or overseas.

Engaging positively with other types of spirituality outside the mainstream Catholic or Christian areas

Gap Programme, Cerdon Room

Gap Programme, Cerdon Room

There continues to be a strong demand for the use of facilities at Pā Maria by other spirituality groups who value highly the location and atmosphere. These groups include several meditation and Buddhist groups.

Engagement with other groups

As well as the groups mentioned, Pā Maria is used regularly by a Lectio Divina group, the Wellington Archdiocesan Engaged Encounter Weekend programme and the Apostleship of the Sea.


Other initiatives

During 2015 a series of five evenings, using movies as a basis for exploring aspects of spirituality, was so well attended that the series was presented twice. A similar programme will be offered during 2016.

The Chapel

The Chapel

Pā Maria is associated with Arrupe NZ through the director’s involvement as a team member. The Arrupe Program is designed to form spiritual directors in the Ignatian tradition and givers of the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola and is an offshoot of The Arrupe Program offered in Melbourne by Sentir Graduate College of Spiritual Formation (a College of the University of Divinity).

Other ministries at Pā Maria

The Marist Colleges’ Senate, the Marist-Challenge GAP Year Programme and Fr Jim Dooley’s spiritual direction work are all based at Pā Maria and the association and interaction between all these ministries is both enriching and supportive. Pā Maria is often a very busy place!

Fr Brian Cummings is the Director of Pā Maria.

Pā Maria advert

The land on which Pā Maria stands was purchased by the Society of Mary in about 1989 and the provincial administration moved into a new building on the site in 1990. The provincial administration re-located in 2000, which allowed the team from the Futuna Retreat Centre in Karori to occupy the building. The name chosen for the new enterprise was Emmaus Retreat Centre. In 2010 the Emmaus team moved to different premises and the Pā Maria Marist Spirituality Centre was born.

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