WelCom November 2023
Forrestal House and land has a long history with Sacred Heart Parish Inglewood. The future and ownership of the historic convent house and land is up for review as a committee of parishioners begins to explore possibilities. Sue March of Sacred Heart Parish, shares some of the history of Forrestal House history and invites WelCom readers to contribute ideas for its future development.
The arrival of the Sisters of the Mission in 1906 to Inglewood, Taranaki, to staff the new school of St Patrick’s, was to begin a long and eventful life of their new convent home. Although not the Sisters’ first home, ultimately the site on an acre of land across from Sacred Heart Church, was their final home before they were transferred to other convents as their numbers dwindled.
The existing building – known as Forrestal House and named after the late Fr James Forrestal – was built in 1938. The new convent’s spacious chapel was filled to capacity in September 1939, when 23 Sisters and their parents attended Perpetual Vows. The men and women of the parish spent endless hours fundraising and held working bees to keep everything maintained for the Sisters. Tiring of hedge cutting, in 1954 the men built a concrete wall around the section, which is still there.
The Sisters were part of the community in every aspect but eventually the convent was to close. On 11 December 1973, parishioners gathered at a Mass of Thanksgiving for the Sisters’ 67 years of service in Inglewood. Some Sisters returned to carry out duties until the early 1980s when their links with Forrestal House came to an end.
In 1983, the Archdiocese of Wellington purchased the property from the Sisters. Ownership was transferred to the Diocese of Palmerston North when it was formed.
In 1984, then-parish priest Fr Pieter Mul formed a management committee with parishioners from Inglewood, Stratford, Waitara and New Plymouth. There was no available funding and the building, already 50 years old, was in need of work. In 1988, the committee resigned as the complex became too difficult to operate. A new committee of just Inglewood parishioners was formed with Pat Julian continuing as chairman – a position he held until this year, spanning 39 years. The committee decided to buy back the property from Bishop Peter Cullinane. A price was agreed, and with a generous donation from The Burkitt Family, the purchase was secured.
Over the years managing the property has seen money being tight, never-ending applications, favours asked, as well as donations from some amazing people. Through dedication and commitment, heating has been upgraded, bedrooms relined, parish families taking doing up rooms, a new roof donated by the Taranaki Electricity Trust, and several projects that have enticed some to want Forrestal House for their home and business.
Some leases required additional space, so a redundant building was purchased for $13,500 from the Moa Nui Dairy Company. Another donation from the Burkitt Family saw the building – now known as the Manager’s Residence – hoisted over the concrete fence and repositioned.
In June 2011, the new leasee saw the opportunity to use a large area of vacant lawn and asked the committee to fund and build a Community Foodbank Garden – the local Foodbank was already working from the ‘old music room’ on site. Volunteers from the parish and the local Lions Club built and planted raised gardens. With an extra burst this year of new volunteers, the gardens are looking wonderful and continue to help stock those families in most need.
The Forrestal House Management Committee are now looking to the future of this iconic site, and the possibilities that continued or new ownership may bring for its future use to either the Church, or other parties.
For example, Habitat Humanity has approached the committee with an option of gifting land in return for a couple houses, which the parish could sell or rent out. However, the committee wants to explore more avenues yet.
Whether the convent gets a makeover or needs to be demolished to make way for future development, the committee welcomes all interested parties to approach them and invites ideas from WelCom readers.
To find out more and to discuss amazing possibilities that could involve you with this site in the heart of Inglewood, please contact Susan Marsh firstname.lastname@example.org or the parish secretary email@example.com. We look forward to hearing from you and your ideas.