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Life in Early Poverty Bay

Roman Catholic Church — Fifty Years of Progress — Strong Scholastic Development

Roman Catholic Church
Fifty Years of Progress
Strong Scholastic Development

In Gisborne's earliest times, the spiritual needs of the Roman Catholic residents were administered by more or less regular visits from the priests stationed at Napier. It was not until the early 70's that a priest was regularly stationed here.

Father Walter McDonald, during the years between 1860 and 1870, made a number of visits from Hawke's Bay and, during one of these, on behalf of the Church, he purchased the two sections on which the present Church and presbytery stand from the Government at £15 apiece.

During the 70's, Father Regnier, then at Napier, made a number of visits and held Mass in the old Courthouse (then situated on Messrs. Adair Bros.' site) and in the old school which stood on the corner opposite the present Roman Catholic Church. Father John O'Connell was the first resident priest (1872) and he was succeeded by Father J. B. Simpson (1874).

In 1878, Poverty Bay was established as a charge separate from Napier and Father Chastagnon took up his permanent residence here. Archbishop Redwood (then Bishop) visited the district and officiated at the ceremony of laying the foundation stone of the present Church. The following year saw the Church dedicated by Archbishop Steins.

Fathers Vagioli, Reardon, Murphy and Ahearne followed in that order and then came Father Keogh, during whose time the present presbytery was built.

Father Mulvihill next held office for a number of years up till his death in 1906. During his charge, the preset Convent was erected and the Church made great strides in enlarging its sphere of influence. Father Mulvihill enjoyed wonderful popularity throughout the community and, on his death, a public subscription fund was opened to erect a fitting tombstone over his mortal remains. The result is to be seen in the handsome monument over his grave in the Roman Catholic portion of the Makaraka cemetery. He is the only priest who has been buried in Poverty Bay.

Father Regnier

Father Regnier

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St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church.

St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church.

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Father (now Dean) Lane followed Father Mulvihill on the latter's death in 1906 and held office for the long period of nineteen years. During this time, further great strides were made by the Church, of which undoubtedly the most important work was the re-building of St. Mary's school and the acquiring of a new church and school site in Childers Road. It is intended that, ultimately, all the Church buildings shall be situated on the Childers Road site. Like his immediate predecessor, Father Mulvihill, Dean Lane enjoyed wonderful popularity and when he left Gisborne in 1925, he was farewelled not only by the Roman Catholic community, but also by many residents of other denominations.

In 1925 Father Murphy, the present head, took charge, with Father Kelly as assistant. His term of office has seen the building of the splendidly-equipped school in Upper Childers Road and also the establishment of the Marist Brothers' school for boys.

An interesting reflection of the growth of Roman Catholicism is given by a comparison of the numbers attending the school in the past and at the present time.

In 1906, when Dean Lane took over the charge, the old St. Mary's school had a staff of two teachers and 48 scholars.

At the present time, there are the old and new schools with a total roll of 360. The new school has a staff of eight Sisters of St. Josephine and 300 children, while the old school is under the control of two Marist Brothers, who have sixty boys under their charge. This latter institution has made splendid progress, especially when it is remembered that it was established only two years ago.

The full list of clergy who have officiated in this district since its establishment here, in the order in which they occupied office, is as follows:—

  • Father John O'Connell (1872)

  • Father J. B. Simpson (1874)

  • Father Chastagnon

  • Father Vagioli

  • Father Reardon

  • Father Murphy

  • Father Ahearne

  • Father Keogh

  • Father Mulvihill

  • Father (now Dean) Lane

  • Father Murphy (now in charge).