NEW ZEALAND, Alex de Vries. Who would have known that an inexpensive kiwi toy would become such an important symbol for the New Zealand delegation at the Jubilee in Schoenstatt and in Rome? The kiwi, of course, is the national bird of New Zealand.
This flightless bird is incredibly rare in the wild, and has only managed to survive thus far with the help of conservationists. It therefore seemed an apt symbol for one of the youngest branches of the international Schoenstatt family, who were represented by only three pilgrims.
The Pilgrim Kiwi’s first pilgrimage was to Sydney, Australia, for World Youth Day 2008, where it mingled with people from all over the world. The idea of the Pilgrim Kiwi hadn’t become concrete yet, but this little toy had already begun in its mission.
The mission of the Pilgrim Kiwi
The potential of the Pilgrim Kiwi was only realised in Schoenstatt in 2014, when the pilgrims from New Zealand began to snap photographs of the kiwi at various sites, with various people from all over the world. The mission of the Pilgrim Kiwi became clear – to make New Zealand truly present at this celebration. It was such an unusual thing to be carrying around at the Jubilee that it sparked a lot of interest from passers by. Even despite language and cultural barriers, the Pilgrim Kiwi became a much-loved and much-talked-about icon at the Jubilee. The pilgrims from New Zealand were often stopped and asked questions about this unusual symbol. People who knew what the kiwi was laughed with joy, and scrambled for their cameras to take photographs. Others, of course, were confused – one sister even thinking it was a bear! The Pilgrim Kiwi’s rise to fame happened when it was shown on the big screen for all the pilgrims to see. This was surely noticed by many people who went out of their way to tell the New Zealanders that they had seen the kiwi on the screen!
In the hands of Pope Francis
But the Pilgrim Kiwi’s journey had not ended there. The next stop on the pilgrimage was Rome, the Eternal City. Here, the Pilgrim Kiwi not only became an iconic symbol of Schoenstatt New Zealand, but for New Zealand as a whole. At the audience with Pope Francis, the Pope was filled with joy to see the Pilgrim Kiwi, making his way over to the New Zealand delegates and himself holding the kiwi, giving it a tight squeeze. The New Zealand pilgrims were overjoyed that, for at least a moment, the Pope was forced to think about their far away country. What a success – New Zealand was truly present in Rome – the furthest corner of the earth has been reached! May Our Mother and Queen look after the pioneers of Schoenstatt in New Zealand!
Mission to be continued
The Pilgrim Kiwi has now been to a handful of Schoenstatt Shrines across continents, and has now landed in England, where it is resting in the Shrine in Kearsley. Who knows where its next pilgrimage will lead it! It is now certainly one very special kiwi!