Old News Articles

From the Morrinsville publication "The Month"- dated 15th April, 1930

The blessing of the school and convent at Morrinsville by Bishop Liston was a notable event in the history of the parish. Rev. Father Shore who has erected the presbytery and school, and was responsible for the purchase of the new Convent property, paid a well-deserved tribute to his predecessors for the erection of the beautiful church and the purchase of the property, a six acre block almost in the heart of the town, and spoke of his deep appreciation of the generous co-operation by his own people and the ready assistance he had received from non-Catholics.

The Mayor of Morrinsville, Mr. McPherson, offered a cordial welcome to the bishop and complimented the Catholic people on their progress and good works. In his addresses in the church, and at the school and convent, the Bishop complimented the parish priest and his people on their enterprise, united efforts, and successful achievements. “They have now” he said, “ a fully-equipped parish and splendid buildings. The coming of the Sisters of the Mission, who have secured a fine house and three acres adjoining the parish property, would soon prove a rich endowment for the children and a blessing to the congregation.”

The school opened with 82 children on the roll, all the local children attending, and many coming from the outlying districts.


The present church was built during the time of Father O'Connor. Father O'Connor it is said was very fixed in his views as to the design of the church and I believe, there were some heated discussions within the Parish Council with regard to the costing and the design. Nevertheless the very permanent structure was crafted into existence by a local engineer, Martin van de Vorle, the architects were Angus and Flood of Hamilton and their design is certainly unique. The church is quite a landmark for some distance and the glistening dome makes quite a sight on a sunny day.

At Christmas, 1964, the parishioners of Morrinsville attended Mass for the first time in the new St. Joseph’s Church, a distinctive brick and concrete structure which has attempted to translate into modern idiom the soaring arches of the mediaeval Gothic. It seats 600 people and cost $92.000.00

The wooden cross above the altar was made from a piece of kauri taken from the then recently demolished Catholic Social Services building in Pitt Street, which had been the original Marist Brothers School and before that a boys’ school run by the Benedictines from Newton. The Pitt Street building was built by a public subscription raised by Father Hennebery, a member of the Order of the Most Precious Blood who preached parish missions in Auckland the the Waikato from 1877 onwards. He admired the work of the Sisters of Mercy for the education of girls and thought that there should be a boys’ school to correspond. Father Hennebery actually arranged the building of the school by the contractor George Connelly, so that the kauri cross in St. Joseph’s Church is an interesting link with the diocese of a century ago and a reminder that zeal for Catholic education is by no means a new thing among the Catholic people of this diocese.

The wooden figure of Christ was hand carved in Germany and is just over two metres in height. The Altar and Baptismal Font are of ‘Botticino’ and ‘Verdi Issorie’ marble and were made in Italy to the architect’s design.


The era of the new St. Joseph’s Church was notable by the arrival of Dutch settlers in the Waikato, with many of them moving onto the land and into the numerous dairy factories that were located in the region. There is no doubt that over the last 40 years or so the Dutch settlers have played a huge role in the growth of the parish. One may only need to look at the St. Joseph’s School roles over the years to find scores of Dutch names that are now just as common as Irish names. They have significantly helped to transform this little corner of God’s world. At church and school working bees they have always been well represented and have always contributed generously when fund raising has been needed.

Their skills in farming, building, painting, bricklaying, their love for music, particularly the playing of the church organ and their keen contribution to choirs over the years as well as their deep faith through their involvement in church liturgies have been noted. The Diocese of Hamilton has also been blessed by the presence of Dutch Priests although none have been appointed to Morrinsville.

We have been fortunate in having such a diverse group of cultures in our Parish. Each national group has contributed in their own way to the growth and well-being of Morrinsville. In smaller numbers than the Dutch, we have had living amongst us settlers from Ireland, England, Yugoslavia, Switzerland, Asia and the Islands of the Pacific. The universal church is well represented in our Parish.

Present Day Parishioner Anne Schollum sums up her memories:
"I came to live in Morrinsville in 1956 and remember various organisations active in the church which are no longer existent"

The Holy Name Society - for the men of the parish

Children of Mary - for young unmarried women

St Joseph’s Rugby and Netball Clubs.

The Catholic Youth Movement.

CCD for children not attending the convent school. In the 1960’s and 70’s every room in the school was taken up each Wednesday evening.

Most of the other groups in the parish had their meetings in the annex and it wasn’t until 1989 that the centre was built next to the church and we had a much bigger and more convenient meeting place.

In the 1950’s Gala Days were held to raise money for the new church and any improvements the Sisters wanted at the school. These were great social occasions as well as raising money. A grand dinner was held in the Physical Culture Hall to introduce the Planned Giving Programme, which was a way for people to pledge a weekly amount to the building of the new church.

Just after the church was opened the changes of Vatican 11 started and we changed from having the mass said in Latin to being said in English. Also the Priest now faced the altar instead of having his back to the congregation and the altar rails were removed and we stood to receive communion instead of kneeling at the rails. It was no longer an obligation to not eat meat on Fridays and we only had to fast for 3 hours before communion instead of midnight. The priests who served us during the 60’s onward that I remember were Father O'Connor, Father John Daly , Father Michael Daly,

Father Angland, Father O’Regan and Father Keane.


The Waiti Road church which stands between Tahuna and Hoe-O-Tainui has an interesting yet somewhat sad history. Father G. Haring, who was ordained in Holland during the war years and came to New Zealand as a Mill Hill Missionary, said a monthly mass at Waiti Rd up until 1952, when he was based at Putaruru. He was recently [2000] interviewed by Sister Theresa and by memory, gave her the following information on the history of the area.

In the 1880’s a Father W. McDonald was the only Maori missionary in the Diocese of Auckland. The Bishop asked for priests to serve with the newly formed “Society of St. Joseph” [the Mill Hill Fathers]. The founder, Cardinal Vaughn insisted the the Mill Hill Fathers were to serve only the Maoris and not immigrants who were arriving at the time. The first mission was set up at Matata [ 2 priests] then at Rotorua and Tokaanui. Other mission stations were established in North Auckland including Dargaville.

After a while the Mill Hill Fathers in Dargaville were replaced by diocesan priests who later demolished the church built by the river and built a new [still current] one ‘up the hill’. The Hoe-O-Tainui Waiti Road area was to be the site of a new mission and a young English priest named Father Haydock was put in charge of the mission. Father Haydock and friends had the old Dargaville church hall transported in pieces to Waiti Road via the railway to Morrinsville and Mr. Munroe’s trucking business to the site.

Some land had been given for the new church by Te Ata Keepa. This lady was the great-aunt of Theresa Koinaki who does some housekeeping for Father Keane. A Mill Hill brother, Br. Egbert came to live at Waiti Road. He built a small house and lived in it. He then rebuilt the hall forming it into the church that still stands there. Brother Egbert lived in the district for a year - no doubt a harsh existence.

Fathers Haydock and McCarthy ‘worked’ the mission. There were many conversions. At one stage there were 30 baptisms on one day.

Father Haring suggested that this was somehow connected with the need the local people had to have an official ‘registration’ so that they could prove eligibility for pensions etc.

This was in 1940. The Munroes were instrumental in the building of the church. On a Saturday Mr. Munro would round up about half-a-dozen men [often non-practising catholics] and drive them out to Waiti Road to help with the church’s erection. The family continued to support Father Haydock whom they remembered as a gentle person and a devoted and energetic priest. He often visited the Munro home and spoke to the family about his background. Apparently he belonged to a well-known English family that counted martyrs among its antecedents. When Father Haydock made his decision to leave the priesthood he visited the Munro family to tell them what he was doing. At the time Mrs Wyn Newport and her sister [nee Munro] were still young and retain vivid memories of the incident and also the shock they all experienced because as mentioned they had known him as a devoted and enthusiastic missioner.

There were many difficulties establishing the mission. When the church was being built a lot of children died. The people blamed the church and may disestablished themselves with it. Father Haydock met and formed a relationship with a young lady and subsequently left the priesthood to get married. This story highlights the difficulties imposed by the loneliness and isolation of the mission. There have been rumours that the priests and brother who served the area were often on the verge of starvation. Incidentally Father Haydock lived to the ripe old age of 92, dying in Auckland in June 2000, after being married for 56 years.

When Father Haydock left, Father McCarthy was alone. A room was built for him at the Putaruru presbytery and he worked from there. Imagine the travelling and conditions these poor priests had to endure in those times. It doesn't all end there, either, for a Father Lagan and Irish Mill Hill priest went to Hoe-O-Tainui for a while but he had a breakdown and subsequently went back to Ireland. Following Father McCarthy, a Father McNally was also based at Putaruru and went to Waiti Road once a month to celebrate mass. He died in 1948 aged 25!

It was after Father McNally’s death that Father Haring who supplied the preceding information was appointed to Putaruru. Father Haring was named for Panguru but was there only six weeks when he received a further appointment to the King Country After a week there he received notice asking him to come to Putaruru. He lived in Putaruru from 1948 - 1952 and worked a wide area. He said the Saturday evening mass at Tirau, went once a month to Waiti Road, and visited many other outlying communities. He and the other Mill Hill Fathers who worked in the district are remembered for their contributions to the Maori Mission as far north as Pukekohe.

Theresa Koinaki of Hoe-O-Tainui, was brought up by her great aunt and says that the marae at Waiti Road, though not large was an important one at the time. The Mill Hill Fathers were visiting the area before the church was built. Other ministers also visited and the people were confused and undecided as to which denomination they would follow. The appeared to be more impressed with what the Catholic faith had to offer. In 1955 when Theresa was born Father Laidler was working the mission. She has affectionate memories of Father Horrigan [1957 - 1964] and says she is deeply attached to the little church and sees to the mowing of the grass there.

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