Closure and sale of Murchison church property

The Catholic Parish of Buller and Inangahua have decided to sell their St Peter Chanel church, hall and land in Murchison. 

St Peter Chanel church, hall and land in Murchison. Photo: Annette Scullion

WelCom April 2024

Annette Scullion

The Catholic Parish of Buller and Inangahua have decided to sell their St Peter Chanel church, hall and land in Murchison. 

Parish priest Fr David Gruschow and the parish Pastoral Council have considered the matter carefully, together with parishioners from Murchison, and they have now asked Archbishop Paul Martin sm to relegate the church to secular use. Archbishop Paul has sought the advice of the Council of Priests, who recommended that he take this step which is necessary before a church can be sold.  

The main reasons the parish has requested the relegation of the church and its sale include the cost of upgrading the building to current earthquake standards; the small and mainly elderly congregation who look after the building and land, finding it challenging; and the existence of viable alternative places of worship.

There is currently Mass each 3rd Sunday of the month at 4pm for a congregation of around five to seven people, and for which Fr David Gruschow travels over an hour from Westport to celebrate, across a distance of 97kms. 

Fr David said the Murchison congregation has been assured that, if at all possible, the provision of Masses and pastoral care will be unaffected by the sale. Fr David intends to continue with the monthly Mass after the church is sold. Informal approaches have been made to the Anglican congregation in Murchison, he said, and ‘they seem very open to us celebrating our monthly Mass in their church’. Otherwise the home of one of the parishioners may be used.

Murchison was included in Reefton Parish in 1874. The original white pine log church from c. 1880, was moved to the current site c. 1889 but deteriorated and was declared unsafe. Masses were held in the hall for some years. Fr Augustin Galerne sm decided to rebuild the church in concrete at an estimated cost of 250 pounds. The walls were poured but construction was delayed by WWI. The church was competed by Arcus Brother in 1922 under Fr Herring sm.

From 1922 until 1965 Murchison was a Mass centre in Reefton Parish. From 1965 until 1974 it was a Mass centre in Richmond Parish because of roadworks in the Buller Gorge. It was transferred to Westport by Archbishop Delargy in 1974/75, but around the mid-1990s it began to be serviced by Reefton priests. It was formally moved by decree into Reefton parish in 1999.

In 2023, two of the oldest parishes in the archdiocese, Sacred Heart (founded 1874) based in Reefton and St Canice (founded 1867) based in Westport, became the Catholic Parish of Buller and Inangahua. The new parish became an umbrella for five West Coast local faith communities: Holy Family church community based in Karamea; St Canice’s church community in Westport; Sacred Heart church community, including Sacred Heart school, based in Reefton; St Patrick, on a southern boundary of the archdiocese, in Ikamatua; and St Peter Chanel in Murchison.

See Sacred Heart Church, Reefton 150 celebrations, 17-19 May 2024