No, we have not left the States yet. But before we've even arrived in New Zealand, we've moved! Originally we were to live in an unused rectory (presbytery) in Te Puke, a small agricultural town with a population 8,000. Te Puke is the biggest source of kiwifruit in the world and we had been looking forward to the annual crowning of the kiwifruit queen.
Last week Fr. Mike offered us an exciting change. He currently lives at the main church in Mt. Maunganui, but prayerfully decided that it would be best to "switch homes" with us. So now we will be moving, not to Te Puke, but to Mt. Maunganui. This change is extremely favorable to us for many reasons! First, we will now be living right on the premises of the parish where all our ministry will take place. The more complete immersion in parish life is very appealing to us and will free Kelly to be much more involved than the previous arrangement would have permitted. We will have more opportunities to do ministry together as a couple and we'll even be able to host some parish events right in our home.
Our family will have only one car in NZ (not a change from our current situation!) so living and working on the same property is quite convenient and will benefit our private family life as well. The girls will get to see much more of their papa, who will be working long hours - he will be able to eat lunch with them and we'll be able to continue to attend daily Mass as a family. Kelly now will have a car available during the day, so she and the girls can get out and enjoy all the natural beauty and pleasant weather of NZ (particularly appealing after this housebound snowy winter). Furthermore, Mt. Maunganui is a much bigger town - population around 40,000 (or was it 60,000?). It's a popular tourist destination, boasts two beaches (one ocean beach and one harbor beach) and will offer more of a cultural experience for Maria and Bernadette. Needless to say, we are even more excited now - and we were already as excited as we thought we could be! The map below shows only the north island of New Zealand (there's also a south island) - it should help give an idea of where we'll be located - on the right, about half way down, near Tauranga.
On a more solemn note, Maria has been sick with a "normal" seasonal virus, but was feeling so ill that she stopped drinking and eating. She made herself so dehydrated that she had to spend a night in the hospital getting some IV fluids. While this was a very difficult experience for her - and us - we are just so grateful that it was nothing more serious. We are truly and more deeply aware of the blessing that health is and grateful for having access to good medical care and medicine - and insurance to pay for it. During this experience with Maria we became more sensitive to the fact that these are tremendous blessings that are not enjoyed by everyone. We saw some very sad examples of that sad truth while on the pediatric floor. It was hard to watch Maria cry as the nurses inserted her IV catheter, but we had the comfort of knowing that she would soon be well. Not every parent can cling to that reassurance and our hearts are very much with them this week.