Hastings’ Blossom Festival last September celebrated the city’s 50th anniversary and recalled the contribution of Catholics to the city over 122 years.
The pastoral area comprising Our Lady of Lourdes, Havelock North, Sacred Heart Church, Hastings, and St Peter Chanel, Gordon Rd Hastings, with St John’s College, St Joseph’s and St Mary’s primary schools, the Aubert Centre in Flaxmere, the St Vincent de Paul Society, the Catholic Women’s League, the Sisters of Saint Joseph, the Marist Third Order, the Hibernian Society and the Hibernian Club staged a photographic and memorabilia exhibition in Sacred Heart Church.
The first Catholic church was built in 1882 but replaced by a magnificent wooden Gothic model 13 years later. This was razed by fire in 1992 and the present Spanish Mission style design by local architect, Paris Magdalinos, built in 1996.
The choir of Sacred Heart church has been leading musical worship for over 100 years. Musical concerts are sometimes held in the church which seats 460 and have included the National Youth Choir. Last year the church hosted the annual Flowers in Praise Festival.
Many in Hastings will remember the wonderful dances at the Premier Hall which always included a cup of tea in the supper room. Older residents will have played tennis at the Catholic Tennis Club in Victoria Street, opened in 1926, and swum in the convent school baths opened in 1945, long before the city provided swimming baths.
The annual Charity ball, where Catholic girls were presented to the bishop, was another highlight of the social calendar. The first was held in 1947 and became hugely popular in spite of the lack of alcohol.
The Little Sisters of the Poor visited the city’s sick and lonely and ran the Holy Family Home for the Aged from 1953.
The teaching Sisters of St Joseph lived in the large convent built in 1901, next to the church in Heretaunga Street. These sisters taught classes of over 50 children in St Joseph’s school, Eastbourne Street. Marist priests staffed the parish and St John’s College during the 1950s with 15 priests living in the large presbytery.
There are still two Catholic primary schools and one secondary school in Hastings with a combined roll of 1080 but gone are the enormous classes of the 1950s. Lay people staff the present schools which are up to date and offer a comprehensive curriculum alongside the Catholic character.
The Catholic social scene has changed vastly but the groups that organised it continue their good work. The Catholic Women’s League, for example, continues as does the social work of the St Vincent de Paul Society formed in 1906. The St Vincent de Paul shop in Avenue Road is still providing an opportunity to shop cheaply and distributing food parcels, playing a vital part in the Hastings Community. The Hastings Hibernian Society formed in 1885 and the Hibernian Men’s Club also celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, still offers hospitality to the people of Hastings.