The First 25 Years


Catholic Publications Centre came into existence in 1968. The Vatican Council had been concluded a few years. The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy had been around since 1963. In Auckland we had a Christian Life Week in January 1967 which had brought home that there had to be a very different approach to liturgy than in the past. Fr Godfrey Diekmann O.S.B. from Collegeville (U.S.A.) who had worked on the Liturgy Constitution had been a great help as an exponent of its contents. Its new emphasis on active participation and the nature of it was pointing in a different direction.

After stating that "the Church earnestly desires that all the faithful be led to that full, concious, and active participation in the liturgical celebrations called for by the very nature of the liturgy" the Constitution immediately repeated "In the reform and promotion of the liturgy, this full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else".

It then gave those fine directives and guidelines as to how this should be gone about. It dealt with the need for competent instruction, placed enormous emphasis on the use of Sacred Scripture, the emerging vernacular in the liturgy, the need to temper reform with an eye always on the tradition of the past. This magnificent document was talking about a complete overhaul of what we had been used to.

There was much aprehension and hesitation as to how we should move. The publishing houses were in the process of producing new missals. They were all saying "You had to put the texts in the peoples' hands!" Fr Diekmann was saying the layperson's missal was a thing of the past. It was designed to be a 'key' to translation of the Latin text. Now we were being given the liturgy in our own language - we should be prepared to actively participate by giving our attention to the reading of the scriptures, the proclamation of the prayers of the Mass, especially the Eucharistic prayers, and action - reponding to those who have ministerial roles, such as the priest, the reader, the choir or singing group, and all joining in the common singing of acclamations, hymns, etc. Great emphasis was be given to the principle (No. 28) "In liturgical celebrations each one, minister or layperson, who has an office to perform, should do all of, but only, those parts which pertain to that office by the nature of the rite and the principles of liturgy".
Where to start? Catechesis on what was it all about? Fine! But it soon became clear that the reform was so great that a little catechesis would have to go a long way, and because we could not wait that long 'learning by doing' would have to be the other teaching agent. It was hard to get a balance as exponents of the new liturgy were rare. They themselves were finding the need to experience the new approaches to liturgy in order to understand and evaluate them. This was born out by the comment of several visiting liturgists during these years.

Development of Peoples' Mass Books

Discussions with Archbishop Liston (who 20 years before had been promoting the Peoples' Sunday Mass Leaflet) bore fruit. He had the perception to understand that if there was going to be good participation you had to provide the proper materials. He gave his blessing to the production of a Mass leaflet for the people which should contain their responses A weekly leaflet was produced which made available the English texts of the Introit, Gradual, Alleluia, Offertory and Communion for the people to recite together, besides the common parts of the Mass - Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, Agnus Dei. The old translations were used as I.C.E.L. was only coming into existence in readiness for the 1970 Sacramentary when the Latin texts would be released for translation.
Shortly after the commencement of the weekly leaflet C.P.C. began a Sunday leaflet. The first of these was Sunday 1 December 1968, 1ST SUNDAY OF ADVENT. It contained a theme; proper Mass texts - Introit etc., hymns - words and music for the Prcessional, Offertory, Communion (usually a Gelineau psalm), Recessional. It is interesting to find that even then we realised that the most important music for the Mass was the Lord, have mercy, Holy, holy ...., Lamb of God. Fr. Dave Jillet had written a simple version (based on the old text) for this leaflet. The "Our Father" was commonly sung in those days and a musical version of that was included on the Sunday leaflet. It is outmoded by what has happened since 1970 but the leaflet got the congregation's singing of the liturgy "off the ground" in Auckland, and to some extent paved the way for the reformed Mass of 1970. The leaflet continued in this form until Advent 1970 when the introduction of the new texts from the 1970 Sacramentary bacame available (from I.C.E.L.) and a new Sunday Mass Booklet came into existence. It came out as a monthly. Its contents were all the people's responses and texts (not very different from the current Daily Massbook!); new music for the common parts, with the introduction now of the acclamations following the Words of Institution and the great Amen.
Douglas Mews had arrived on the scene in 1968 and by 1970 the guidance he was giving and the music he was providing was of incalcuable value. He was writing music for the psalm texts that was simple, tuneful and easily managed by a soloist or small group of singers. The responses he had composed for the psalms were catchy, were never maudlin orlacking in diginity, but expressed the mood and prayer that the psalm texts convey.These proved to be so valuable that not only were we able to provide for the Responsorial psalm (which replaced the Gradual of the old rite) be he also gave music for psalms which could be an alternative to hymns.
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (No.s 26, 56i) had recommended the traditional use of hymns to begin the Mass and celebrate Holy Communion. Douglas Mews' compositions suited this recommendation perfectly. With the new emphasis on the use of scripture in the liturgy these were most acceptable. (They were extended over the years and are now published separately under the title "45 Psalms with Refrains". A selection of hymns, suitable for the season were included, for easy access, in the centre of the Sunday Mass Booklet at this time.

At this stage the concern was to provide helps for parishes, schools, religious communities in putting into effect the recommendations of the Liturgy Constitution as spelt out in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. This was 1970. The Sunday Mass Booklet continued until 1978. As congregational singing and general participation increased the realisation that while the congregation did things (sang, responded topriest or reader, etc) it also listened - to the reading of the word of God! Missals, missalettes even, were no longer necessary. C.P.C. was constantly concerned with how best to present in printed texts that were necessary for the peoples' participation. Fortunately we had a very competent guide in the late fr. Eugene O'Sullivan O.P. He understood so well the prayer-value of the psalms. To make the Mass-liturgy a living for people he could see that the psalm of each day's Mass could be made the focal prayer of a person's day. People could find that the love that they had for those few psalms they had grown up with could be extended to so many more. The compilers of the Lectionary had done a poor job in the way they had selected the psalm to be the response to the First Reading and the mutilation of the psalm in the way a few 'relevant' verses were presented. If Eugene had a criticism to offer he always had an alternative to suggest that would be better. He proposed that in as far as possible the psalm number selected for the day should be kept, but the reading of it should be authentic. There should be a continuity of the verses rather than one taken from here and one from there, made to 'fit' the theme of the reading. Moreover, as Para. 39 of the General Instruction had said "If the psalm after the reading is not sung, it is to be recited" - no mention of response. He could see that with the daily recitation of so many more psalms the peoples' familiarity with them would grow and they would become favourite prayers.
It was decided that in 1978 the massbooks (Daily and Sunday) would be recast. In the new book there would be:

  1. The peoples' responses in the Order of the Mass,
  2. the Calendar section with psalm references under the same cover,
  3. the Peoples' Psalms

This format continued until 1984. We were receiving requests for more suitable prayers along with the psalms that could be used by congregations. We complied with the request but found it was getting difficult to fit all this material into a stapled book. We were already up to 212 pages and the maximum should have been 200 pages!
A new idea evolved. Remove the calendar and make the rest of the book a more permanent publication. We hit on the idea of a plastic cover. Parishes could procure the plastic covered Mass and Pslam Book with the new prayers in a green suppliment and also room now for the Liturgy of the Hours. It would be necessary to procure only the Daily Mass Calendar each year which could be slipped into the front cover. The Daily Mass and Psalm Book has continued in this format until the present time.


The "Prayers of the Mass" came into existence in June 1973.
Priests around the country had wrestled with the heavy Australian Sacramentary for two years. They were finding it a difficult book to manage at the presidential chair and taking an unduly prominent position on the altar. The request came to us to devise a suitable small and manageable book containing at least the Opening and Communion prayers for use at the chair. We rushed out a "trial" booklet containing the Opening Prayer only, covering the three-month period June-September 1973. The "feed-back" was that it worked. Bishop Delargey gave it his blessing.
The second three-month period (September - December) was extended to cover the Opening, Gifts, and Communion prayers for each day. The response to its availability made it evident that there was a need for this book and we should keep it going. Like the Peoples' Books an evolution took place.
The 'hard to find' sections like the Prefaces were next included, and the Gloria and Creed placed for easy reference. Because of the pressure of keeping up with the compilation it was published as a 6-monthly. Advent 1975 marked the beginning of the annual issue of the Prayers of the Mass. At time went on it became evident that we could produce a complete small book for the Celebrant at Mass. We found we were even able to go further than the available published Sacramentaries, as we could include the three Eucharistic Prayers for Masses with Children and the two Eucharistic Prayers for Masses of Reconciliation. We also found room for other usefull Mass texts e.g. Ritual masses, Masses for Various Occasions, etc.


Gary Merrylees who had initially been a journalist with the Dannevirke Evening News approached C.P.C. with a plan. Gary's particular interest was typography and he realised that with this particular talent he would very easily be able to make his way in the field of publishing. As C.P.C. was already in existence and also publishing what he was, he considered it would be more advantageous to both of us and the Church if we amalgamated. With his experience and knowledge in the publishing field C.P.C. opened up to accept and publish the writings of New Zealand Catholics who wished to make their contribution to the Church in N.Z.
In 1980 Gary's talents were being recognised by Zealandia Catholic Newspaper. The production of Zealandia for many years, had been done by the Auckland Star. The Star wished to discontinue with Zealandia, and the Zealandia Board turned to C.P.C. In October 1981 a contractual agreement was entered into with C.P.C. for the typesetting and production of Zealandia.
From here on C.P.C. went on the "wane". The weekly 'deadlines' demanded by Zealandia made it impossible, with small resources, to carry on both projects.C.P.C. had to rationalise or go out of existence. All the effort had to go into Zealandia if it was to survive. So C.P.C. virtually withdrew and reduced its output to the Mass Books which had to be compiled each year. Then because we, like Zealandia, though to a lesser extent, had to meet 'deadlines' we had to move right out. Needless to say, our loss of Gary's skills and experience was a serious blow. However, his advice was still available and was always willingly given, and at this stage C.P.C. was able to survive.