Pike River

Nov 18, 2013

In the early 1990’s I lived for four years in the small West Coast township of Ngahere. It was a privilege to serve as the priest for the people of the Grey Valley, on the north-western boundary of the Catholic Diocese of Christchurch.
I remember well the spectacular morning views from the presbytery verandah, across the paddock to the Grey River and beyond to the moody Paparoa Range, beautiful both backdropped in blue sky, and even more so when heavy with mist or shrouded in cloud.
Three years ago this scenic part of Westland, the Paparoa Range, became the scene of another West Coast disaster. Yet again the name of a beautiful place has become synonymous with the tragic loss of life: think Brunner,StrongmanCave Creek among too many others. And now, when we hear of Pike River we no longer think of the place of beauty, but of the twenty-nine men who were killed in the Pike River coal mine three years ago today, 19 November 2010.
Last week on the Coast a book was launched: “Tragedy at Pike River Mine” covering the lead-up to the disaster and the tragic consequences. You may have heard the interview with author Rebecca Macfie on National Radio’s Saturday Morning programme last week. From many accounts, especially the families of the men who died in the disaster, the book is a thorough and necessary step forward in achieving justice for all concerned.
However not even justice can ease the grief of the families and friends of those who died. Today, as they mark this painful anniversary, may they (in the words of Pope Benedict’s message to the memorial service a few days after the disaster) experience “courage” and “strength.”
Let us pray in the words of Bishop Barry Jones’ message to the people of our Christchurch diocese at that time:
We grieve, and pray,
for those who loved them
and who will not see them living again in this world.
We commend the deceased miners to God
and pray that they may enter now
the love that never ends.
Amen.

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