Parish of The Holy Family
St Joseph's Morrinsville
From about 1905 until 1927, the Morrinsville Catholic community was part of Te Aroha Parish. Mr James Dignan gave land for a Catholic church, and Bishop Cleary opened this church on 15 June 1913. While the first Catholic church in Morrinsville was located further east, the current site on Thames Street in Morrinsville was acquired in 1923, and the wooden church was shifted from its original site near the railway yards to the new property, when it was enlarged and renovated in 1924.
Morrinsville became a parish from Te Aroha in 1927, with Father Shore as the Parish Priest. The presbytery, still in use (as at 2021), was opened by Bishop Liston on 7th October 1928, with Father Shore named the “Rector” (as recorded on the foundation stone).
St Joseph’s School was opened in 1930, staffed by the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions. (Three Sisters are buried in the “Historic Cemetery” in Thames St.)
Three churches have stood on the current site. On 14 November 1965 the second St Joseph’s Church was opened, “a distinctive brick and concrete structure which … attempted to translate into modern idiom the soaring arches of the medieval Gothic.” Father O’Connor was the Parish Priest at the time, and was “very fixed in his views as to the design of the church.” (Both quotes from earlier parish history.) Difficulties were experienced with leakage, condensation, ineffective heating, poor lighting and draughtiness.
In March 2014, this second church was demolished to make way for the present church. Bishop Denis Browne DD officially opened and dedicated the new church under the patronage of Saint Joseph, on Sunday 14th December 2014. Father Mark O’Keeffe was the Parish Priest.
The last Sister of the Missions to live in Morrinsville, Sister Barbara Cameron RNDM, left the parish in 2020.
St Mary's Paeroa
The story of the original St. Mary's Church at Paeroa goes back 140 years. It was built on on "Te Puru-o-te Rangi”, a site which impressed Monsignor Fynes. On 26th June 1881 the church he opened St Mary’s Church, the cost, excluding extras, being £330. From 1868, Paeroa / Ohinemuri had been served by the Thames parish. Prior to the opening of the church in 1881, Mass was celebrated at the Central Theatre, where all the denominations held their early services. The visiting clergy came generally from Thames or Te Aroha. In 1894 the first resident priest, Father (later Dean) Hackett, was appointed Parish Priest of the Ohinemuri Parish, remaining there for 23 years. His parish included Waihi, Waitekauri, Karangahake, Waikino and Paeroa. Soon after his arrival Father Hackett, a man of great energy and popularity, set about raising funds for the erection of a Catholic school. As well, he built a new presbytery and three new churches, at Waihi, Waitekauri and Karangahake.
In 1900 the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart arrived to open a school. Their foundress, (now Saint) Mary MacKillop of the Cross visited the new school soon after the Sisters’ arrival and made the arrangements to build a convent. This was completed by July 1902 and served as a convent until it was moved in 1976, when a smaller convent was built. The Sisters left the parish in 2004.
Father O’Meara was a greatly loved parish priest, serving in the parish for nearly 40 years. In his time, in 1965, the new (and current) church was opened.
The church at Hikutaia, St James and St John, was opened in 1910, and was originally served from Thames. The Catholic community there was cared for by Paeroa Parish in later years, and an Incorporated Society was established in 2005 to maintain the church and property. The church is no longer used by the parish, and is now leased to David and Anja Corbett, who plan to use the church as a nondenominational wedding chapel, as part of their hospitality enterprise next door.
St Joseph's Te Aroha
The first Mass celebrated in the new settlement of Te Aroha in November 1880 was officiated by Father O’Reilly from Thames. Held in the dining room of Laurence’s Boarding House, the congregation comprised about 20 people.
Within two years, this growing Catholic community with much enthusiasm and commitment had built themselves a church, in Wilson St, high above the township. This was later shifted on to a section of flat land at Morgantown, and was sold for use as a dwelling.
Father O’Reilly ministered to the Catholic community of Te Aroha until Father Thomas Kehoe came to Te Aroha in 1897 as the first Parish Priest, having spent some years in Tauranga.
The Sisters of Mercy established a Convent and school in 1903, to serve both Catholic and non-Catholic children of the small town.
Father Kehoe was succeeded by Father James McGuinness in 1905 and a new wooden church, Saint Joseph’s, was opened in 1906. The first curate was appointed to the Parish in 1918, a young Father O’Connor. Father Mansfield succeeded Father McGuinness in 1921 and a year later Father W.J. Forde took over. Many changes and advances took place under Father Forde – land was purchased and a new convent, school and hall were built. One notable pupil of the Catholic school in Te Aroha was Owen Sneddon, later Auxiliary Bishop of Wellington.
Father Murphy took over after Father Forde. He bought more land and built a new church in the small rural settlement of Springdale, opened in 1936: “Our Lady, Help of Christians.” In 1951, Father W. Sheely, one time a curate in the parish, returned as Parish Priest. A new church in Manawaru, St Patrick’s, was opened in 1954. Among Father Sheely’s many achievements was the completion of the present Church on its corner site, officially opened by Bishop Liston on 22nd September 1957. The outside surface of the church had pink marble chips included in the concrete mix, and the church glowed in the sun. The original altar, made of pink marble and purchased from Italy, was donated by Fr. Sheely’s mother as a gift to him for the new church, to commemorate his appointment to his first parish. Father Sheely was succeeded in 1971 by Father J.J. Caulfield. A new modern convent was opened in 1978.
The development and progress of the Church in Te Aroha during its first century is a tribute to the energy and devotion of many able priests and dedicated lay people. The many different national groups that settled in Te Aroha, with an influx of Dutch people after World War II, have come together to form the strong community of the present day Saint Joseph’s, and their work has helped consolidate the church in Te Aroha through its second century.
The Mercy Sisters withdrew from the school and the parish in 1995. In 1986 the Waitoa church was demolished, and, in 1996, both the Manawaru and Springdale churches were closed and sold. In 1999, Father Brian Playfair commenced “Transparish Ministry”, caring for both Te Aroha and Paeroa Parishes. A characteristic of recent years has been the significant number of parish priests in a relatively short time.