Te Aroha

Present day church

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The present Te Aroha Catholic church was officially opened on the 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 (which is now covered with wood) is made of pink marble and purchased from Italy. This was donated by Fr. Sheely’s mother as a gift to him for the new church, and to commemorate his appointment to his first Parish.

Brief historical background:

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. Father O’Reilly continued to minister to Te Aroha until Father Thomas Kehoe returned to Te Aroha in 1987, after a few 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.

Father Murphy took over after Father Forde.  He bought more land and built a new church in the small rural settlement of Springdale.  In 1951, Father W. Sheely, one time a Curate in the Parish, returned as Parish Priest.  Among his many achievements was the completion of the present Church on its corner site.  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.

Catholic education has been advanced by the Sisters of Mercy; one notable pupil of the school was Bishop Owen Sneddon.

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 will help form the Church in Te Aroha through its second century.

Father Caulfield was succeeded by Father Brendan Sherry in 1979.

Father John Bergin became Parish Priest in 1983.

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