How is the Church responding to the Earthquake?

15 July 2011

The Church is responding in a number of ways to the pastoral needs of people as a result of the earthquake.

Below are some examples of how the Church is responding at the Diocesan (or central) level.  Parishes are also responding (as parishes always do) in numerous ways.  We would love to hear some of the stories of how parishes (and schools) are assisting.  Please send us an email (and photos if you have them) with how you are supporting or being supported by others.

Click on a link below to see how the various groups are responding.

Society of St Vincent de Paul

Catholic Social Services


Catholic Youth Team

Catholic Education Office


The Society of St Vincent de Paul members and volunteers were active in the days following the earthquake.

Although many members and volunteers were badly affected, those in the lesser affected areas of the City and Canterbury have pitched in to help with the distribution of food parcels in the eastern part of Christchurch. The Catholic Youth Team were also active in distributing parcSVDP_Food_Parcels.jpgels made up by the Society. Members from Rangiora and Ashburton travelled to Christchurch to support the Society in trying to visit as many people as possible in the worst affected eastern suburbs.

Distribution was organised from St Joseph's Parish Papanui and a large team of parish volunteers who baked, sorted and packed groceries for distribution the following morning. The Society and the Catholic Youth Team visited more than 10,000 homes and distributed more than three thousand parcels in the eastern suburbs of Aranui, Mairehau, Bromley, Brighton, Bexley, South Shore and Wainoni. The parcels were made up to allow Vincentians and volunteers to approach people with offers of help.  Many of those visited just wanted to have a yarn.

The Society and the Catholic Youth Team visited more than 10,000 homes and distributed more than three thousand parcels in the eastern suburbs of Aranui, Mairehau, Bromley, Brighton, Bexley, South Shore and Wainoni.

The Society continues to work to identify those in need.  St Vincent de Paul Conferences in Timaru, Oamaru, Dunedin and Ashburton are also seeking to help those who have moved out of Christchurch since the quake

The Society can provide assistance for those in need.  Click here for more information.

Read more about the SVDP earthquake response by downloading the newsletter.

Dignitas Humana - June 2008.pdf SVDP June 2011 Newsletter.pdf (1MB)

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Since the September earthquake the agency has had the ability to adapt to new needs.   Jon Brian, Manager of Catholic Social Services says, "This has seen staff involved in the community to a much greater degree in comparison to seeing clients at the agency".

The agency has seen more clients in their homes than ever before for counselling.  

There has also been a greater involvement in schools running grief, loss and trauma management courses as well as individual counselling and debriefing sessions for staff.

The agency has also been busy seeing children and their families and delivering group sessions to young and old to help deal with the continued trauma, including:

  • Facing your Fears: a new group course launched to help children cope with the effects of natural disaster.  This was developed after the September quake.
  • Seasons for Growth: a grief and loss programme
  • The newly adopted Stormbirds programme helping cope with the trauma caused by natural disasters.

In addition the regular work continued based at the agency including counselling, family work, groups, budgeting/advocacy and the foodbank.  In addition the staff provided urgent response to over 65 referrals via 'Operation Suburbs' (set up by the Ministry of Social Development after the February earthquake).

The staff were trained to run another Australian based programme under the auspices of 'Good Grief'.  This builds resilience and brings hope to children, young people and adults who have experienced significant change, loss and grief. "Stormbirds" is a new programme that originated as a response to the Victorian bushfires in 2009, Good Grief developed a resilience-building program called Stormbirds: Growing through natural disaster? for children traumatised by such events. This non-denominational, educative programme is designed to help relieve suffering and bring hope to children and communities recovering from natural disasters which unfortunately leave individuals feeling vulnerable. With the assistance of Caritas we have been able to train staff to become trainers for others in Christchurch.   A total of 61 professionals (primarily teachers and social workers) have completed a training course and will now be able to offer the course in their communities around Christchurch.  2000 brochures have been distributed to schools, health professionals, other agencies.   Caritas has also generously paid for the hundreds of journals needed for the course.  Catholic Social Services themselves has provided this programme to over 200 children themselves.

CSS can provide assistance for those in need.  Click here for more information.

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In response to the 22 February Christchurch earthquake Caritas has raised over $900,000 - from direct donations and an allocation of 25% of the annual Lenten Appeal.

Caritas to date has committed $165,000 in funding to the following agencies:

The St Vincent de Paul Society.
Caritas has partnered with the St Vincent de Paul Society and Christchurch clothing company WEFT to create polypropylene clothing for people living in cold homes. $95,000 will be spent on providing 3,000 units of polypropylene crewneck tops and pants for adults and children. Additional clothing will be provided upon request.

Catholic Social Services
$12,500 is being spent on supporting the Stormbirds programme. This Australian developed programme is designed to help children and adolescents dealing with grief and loss following a natural disaster. The programme will be offered to those in Christchurch and those who have relocated around the country.

The Rangiora Community Cares group
Caritas has also contributed $25,000 towards the Express Mini-Loos project run by Rangiora Community Cares. This has provided portable toilets swiftly and safely to help address the shortage of port-a-loos and chemical toilets. Over 3,000 toilets have been distributed.

Catholic Education Office
Caritas is providing $45,000 funding towards a position of  Earthquake Recovery Liaison & Support Adviser to work within the Catholic Education Office. 


Caritas is continuing to discuss with the Diocese and other agencies in Christchurch outside the Church to identify needs for relief and longer-term rehabilitation over at least an 18-24 month period. 

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Jason McTague of the Catholic Youth Team providing a BBQ for people in North Linwood


Volunteers cooking sausages in Aranui

The Catholic Youth Team and volunteers spent the first 48 hours following the earthquake cleaning up liquefaction at Nazareth House and other affected homes.

While cleaning it was felt that the need was to do more in the eastern suburbs, particularly with the reports of no water and no power.  It was felt there would be a need for hot food in the days ahead, so the idea of a BBQ formulated.

The first 200 sausages were purchased and the team set out towards Aranui on a cold wet day, looking for a spot where people were queuing up for water outside North Linwood Primary School.

Many people appeared and readily waited for sausages to be cooked.  There were responses such as "Thanks guys that was the first hot food I've had in two days".  This first day there were 200 sausages cooked and handed out in 90 minutes.

Supplies of sausages, bread, sauce and monetary donations were made by parishioners and businesses.  The Sisters of Mercy donated $5000 to the work.

The Team also assisted the St. Vincent de Paul (Papanui) help distribute food parcels to those in the Eastern suburbs, using young adults in this ministry, always with a smile and a friendly word. The Beatitude sisters also joined this ministry each day.

Each day the day started with prayer and a briefing of the day's plan.

The ministry began with two people cooking 200 sausages on one BBQ, and then within one week 40 volunteers were cooking over 10,000 sausages in three different locations and assist in handing out some of the 2000 plus SVDP food parcels.

Chris Lysaght, Director of the Catholic Youth Team said that "over the past two weeks we came to realise that in addition to the people's need for food and water, the real pastoral need was for conversation.   People just needed someone to listen and have a chat with. The simple questions of 'How are you going?' or “H'ow was your night?' or something off topic like 'How do you think the Crusaders will go this weekend?' These conversations are at the heart of our pastoral response to those in need.   That is why we will continue to run BBQs for the next year (although infrequently) in these areas not so much for the free sausage but for the lifting of spirits."

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Karen Payne
Providing earthquake support for our Catholic schools


An Earthquake Recovery Liaison & Support Adviser has been appointed to work within the Catholic Education Office.  This is a 23 week position and Karen Payne, principal from St Mary's Hokitika has been seconded to fill this role.  The purpose of the role is to provide support for Catholic school principals, teachers and communities.


The Catholic Education Office in Christchurch received $85,000 in donations from Catholic School communities throughout New Zealand and was collected and coordinated by Br Pat Lynch, CEO of the NZ Catholic Education Office.  The money was then distributed by the Catholic Education Office.

All schools were invited to apply for this money.  The criteria for applications was that applications were:

  • Reducing hardship and stress within the school community
  • Demonstrating a positive response to supporting, enhancing and rebuilding personal dignity and community in the aftermath of the earthquake.

A grant of $15,000 was made available to the Christchurch Catholic Primary Principals Association for funding a one day seminar.

17 schools received funding (13 primary schools and 4 secondary schools) ranging from $2,000 to $9,000 each.  The money were put towards a wide variety of projects across schools; such as providing food vouchers for families and outings for school children.

In addition to this, the Catholic Education Office has provided a huge amount of support for schools through their staff.  

Br Pat Lynch has also visited most Catholic schools in the area with staff of the Catholic Education Office.

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