This month we visit St Joseph’s Parish of Hawera, which connects the townships of Hawera, Manaia and Normanby, and surrounding farming and coastal areas.
Hawera, South Taranaki’s largest town, is 71 kms south of New Plymouth on State Highway 3 and is located on State Highway 45, known as Surf Highway 45 for its many surf beaches. Sheep, beef and dairy farming and oil and gas reserves contribute to the local economy. Hawera means ‘the burnt place’ or ‘breath of fire’, taking its name from the old Māori village of Te Hawera, about 3km south east of the present town. The large water tower, built in 1914 in the centre of town to increase water pressure after a series of extensive blazes, is one of Taranaki’s best-known landmarks.
Hawera’s population of about 12000 enjoys arts, music, museums, sports and the natural outdoors. Manaia ‘the bread capital of New Zealand’, 10 minutes west of Hawera, has about 1000 people and Normanby, 6km north of Hawera around 900. The area featured significantly in the conflicts of the 1860s.
Brief early parish history
1841: Taranaki visited from Waikato by Fr Pezant sm, a priest among first group of French Marist Māori missionaries who arrived in New Zealand with Bishop Pompellier in 1838.
1850: From his Ōtaki residence, Fr Pezant visited South Taranaki people more frequently as mission stations at Whanganui and Hiruharama-Jersualem better established.
1959: Fr Pertuis sm from France reached Wellington, sent to Whanganui; travelled through South Taranaki including Patea and Hawera working among Māori and settlers.
1863: Fr Jean Baptiste Rolland sm from France, stationed at New Plymouth. For eight years travelled on horseback as far south as Patea, ministering to soldiers at Patea, Waihi (near Hawera), Opunake, Warea and Okato. Respected by the military and Māori people; attended the dying on both sides of conflict at Te-Ngutu-O-te-Manu, August 1868.
1875: Hawera parish established with Fr Pertuis as parish priest. Catholics few. First Mass said. Small cottage acquired for church and presbytery. Second church erected, gothic style.
1875: Fr Pertuis opened parish school, three lay teachers. First pupils included Thomas O’Shea, later Archbishop of Wellington. Parish extended to Waverley, Patea, Manaia, Kaponga, Opanake and Eltham districts, which eventually became separate parishes.
1878: Fr John Ryan parish priest, extended presbytery, travelled widespread parish on foot.
1879: Fr M Grogan sm parish priest, noted for parish service and ‘speedy travel on horseback’. Enlarged church, acquired site of present church, built church in Patea. Established forerunners of many spiritual associations that flourished in following decades.
1883: Māori Mission Station at Jerusalem re-opened. Missioners visited South Taranaki especially Fr Christopher Soulas sm, remembered as Hōani Pāpita – John the Baptist. Little Church of the Immaculate Conception built in Ketemarae Pa at Normanby.
1884: Fr A Mulville, parish priest.
1885: Sisters of St Joseph came to staff parish school, greeted with much jubilation and fanfare. Temporary convent opened. New convent built 1895.
1887: Third church erected, Former church used by school. Churches built in Manaia, Opunake,and Waverley.
1896: Roll of 62 at parish school; increased to 100 in 1900.
1898‒1905: Fr Power appointed parish priest and oversaw much expansion. Remained parish priest (and Monsignor in 1922) until his sudden death in 1927. Governor Lord Ranfurly laid foundation stone for new school. Archbishop Redwood blessed third church. New school opened and dedicated to St Columba. New presbytery built for Hawera, and convent at Manaia. Friendly Hibernian Society established for Hawera and Manaia.
1910-1913: Extensions to St Joseph’s Church; and extra school facilities. Roll at 171 by 1913.
1913: New school blessed and opened by Archbishop Thomas O’Shea. Roll 207 by 1917.
1925: Golden Jubilee celebrations. Archbishop Redwood presided and preached at Pontifical High Mass. Archbishop O’Shea preached at evening devotions.
1927: Fr PF Cullen (later Monsignor) parish priest until 1969. Oversaw new church building, old church re-sited to Milmoe St as parish hall. New church one of first in New Zealand constructed in ferro-concrete.
1928: New church opened by Archbishop Redwood.
1935: Sisters of St Joseph 50th anniversary of coming to parish. Gathering paid tributes for their works of charity, care of altar, propagation of the holy Faith, and prayers and labours. Pupils noted for singing, musical abilities and performances as among the best in the country.
1947: Property bought for potential school (later became Calvary Hospital). Leased to Government in 1949 as hostel for Polish boys attending St Joseph’s School after leaving Pahiatua camp.
1950: St Joseph’s School 75th year, 264 pupils. Two rooms added to main block in 1957 (roll 360, 1960). School noted for success in athletics, sports and swimming. School baths built in 1962, competitive swimming successes grew.
1950s: Devotion to Mary significant, including Fatima presentation, Rosary Crusade, Legion of Mary. Parish Float ‘Peace – Message of Fatima’ won first prize in Hawera’s 75th jubilee celebrations, 1957. Catholic Women’s League worked for Māori mission and the Sisters of St Joseph, made altar breads, served meals on wheels, and other community activities, locally and overseas.
1960s: Third Order of Mary, Christian Family Movement, revised St Vincent de Paul Society branch, gave formation to members. Works for Good Samaritan Society, Combined Churches’ Committee, and Society for Protection of Unborn Child. SVdP gave financial help, budgetary advice, visited sick and aged and joined world relief appeals; High St shop opened 1967. Major renovations to St Joseph’s Church started 1965.
1966: Mons Cullen celebrated his 50th jubilee attended by all six bishops and large gathering of priests, religious and parishioners. He died 1969.
1970: Fr TP O’Brien appointed parish priest. Parish pastoral council instituted following directives of Vatican II.
1975: Fr CJ O’Sullivan became parish priest, 100 years since the foundation of the parish by Fr Eugene Pertuis sm.
St Joseph’s Hawera
Pauline Annabell and Craig Butler
St Joseph’s Parish Hawera has deep roots, having served the people of Hawera for more than 144 years. Some families have been part of this parish community since 1875, when it was created following the arrival of Fr Eugene Pertuis sm that same year. Other families have continued to make St Joseph’s their spiritual home right up to the present day, arriving from other parts of New Zealand, India, the Philippines and other far flung parts of the world. This growth and development has brought a richness to our parish community, adding to the already diverse cultural mix, with Tangata Whenua Māori and including English, Irish, Polish and Swiss immigrants who now call Aotearoa home.
In its history, St Joseph’s has had four church buildings, with the most recent opening in 1993. A great deal of fundraising and generosity on behalf of parishioners has meant we have been blessed with worthy places to pray. Last year we celebrated a Mass to mark the 25th anniversary of our beautiful church. It was noted with some irony, that history has repeated itself with some shortcomings in the weather proofing of this building.
Our parish includes three churches – Sacred Heart in Manaia, St Joseph’s and Hōani Pāpita in Normanby. Pastoral care also extends to school families, the sick and elderly, the local public hospital, two rest homes, Trinity (formerly Calvary Hospital) where Mass is celebrated weekly and Annie Brydon where parishioners are organised by Lynne Williams to provide regular Communion Services and Masses.
As with so many parishes, St Joseph’s has been blessed with good people who have quietly got on with caring for the physical needs and spiritual life of the Church while at the same time providing for their families and reaching out to the vulnerable and those in need in our wider community. Representatives from our parish make up a strong St Vincent de Paul team. This willing and able group raise money through their shop and provide for those in need, under the patronage of St Vincent de Paul and Blessed Frederick Ozanam. Their hard work and dedication have benefitted numerous families over many years.
We have also been blessed with many generous and talented musicians over the years, including Mr Trevor Powell who composed a complete series of Sung Psalms for use during Sunday Mass. Trevor continued to play up until a month of his death, at age 96 in 2017. Aware he wouldn’t be around forever, Trevor nurtured the musical skills of 16 year old Yani Remoto who, before he died, played alongside Trevor on the organ and continues to share her God-given talent for music.
The Church in New Zealand has benefitted significantly from this parish’s commitment to nurturing vocations to priesthood and religious life, including 43 Religious sisters and brothers, 22 priests, two bishops and one archbishop, some of whom continue to serve the wider church. Local boy, Bishop Owen Dolan, who was ordained for our diocese is still a regular visitor and loved by all who know him.
We are fortunate to have a very active parish school, which was opened in 1885 and for many years was run by the Sisters of St Joseph of Nazareth. The school saw a large period of growth during the last 25 years under the past principal, Cath Clough and director of religious studies, Jude Fevre.
One aspect of our close relationship involved the building of the Mission Centre, which is a combined parish and school administration block. We now have a new principal, Geraldine Sumner and a new director of religious studies, Erica Stephens, who both began their new roles this year. The parish and the school leadership both recognise the challenge of connecting our young families with our parish worship and giving our young parents and children a sense of belonging.
Lastly, St Joseph’s is blessed with a dedicated and hardworking secretary, Patrea Clement, and equally hardworking administrative-pastoral care and ministry teams including the Parish Council, Finance Committee and a newly formed Liturgy Committee ably led by Rachel Kowaleski.
Looking to the future, our Parish Council has recognised the need to look outward and move from a maintenance-focussed church to a missionary one. We have recognised the importance of discipleship in the life of a Christian and we are in the early stages of providing opportunities for our parishioners to refocus on their baptismal call to joyfully witness to the person of Jesus Christ. We have a great foundation and now we want to build on this and grow an even stronger parish.
Craig Butler is parish priest of St Joseph’s Hawera and Pauline Annabell is parish council chair.
Hōani Pāpita (John the Baptist)
Teoiroa Te Amo Joyce Luke
Hōani Pāpita is a Māori Eucharistic community in Normanby, South Taranaki.
In 1879, Fr Christophe Soulas sm arrived in New Zealand from France. From 1903 to 1920, he devoted himself entirely to spreading the faith among Taranaki Māori and was based at Okato. He was called ‘Hōani Pāpita’ – John the Baptist – by Māori, because he baptised so many. Fr Soulas and the Venerable Suzanne Aubert were friends of Rure (Te Manihera Keremeneta, 1864–1959).
The Māori Mission was established in Normanby in 1945. Fr T Gordon Kerins sm (Gordie) worked there from 1945–1947. Fr Francis Wall sm, known as Werahiko by local Māori, joined him in 1946–1952. Fr Wall received a CBE in 1974 and the Queen’s Medal in 1977 for his efforts for the Church and New Zealand society.
In 1949, a full ceremonial pōwhiri was given for Archbishop McKeefry at Ngārongo marae (also known as Ketemarae marae) by the principal hapū of the area, Araukuku of Ngāti Ruanui. Today, Araukuku Catholic Māori Club continues to take part in the annual Hui Aranga (Easter Gathering).
In 1964, the Archbishop opened and blessed Hōani Pāpita, the new Mission Hall, which had been built with volunteer labour. Today, Mass is celebrated on the first Sunday of the month. Catechism classes for tamariki, baptisms, confirmations and marriages take place and the community participates in parish Masses at St Joseph’s, Hawera and Sacred Heart, Manaia.
Three Papal Award recipients from Hōani Pāpita are Polly Edwards (deceased), Ray Edwards and Henare Ngaia. Mahuru Robinson is a representative on the school board and I am on the parish committee. Hōani Pāpita has its own Catholic Māori Council, which deals with all the business pertaining to our beloved Hōani Pāpita.
Joyce Luke (left) and her husband Boyd are Kaitiaki of Hōani Pāpita. They purchased the adjacent house in 1984, returning from Normanby to live on Tupuna land. Joyce and Lloyd were married in the chapel in the early 1960s and have been very involved in the Māori Eucharistic Community ever since.
The Māori Mission Station, Normanby, est 1945
From 1903, the Māori Mission was administered by Fr Soulas from headquarters in Okato, but Fr Soulas retired to Ōtaki in 1921 aged 75. In 1930 the Mission of Jerusalem on the Whanganui River resumed the care of the Taranaki Māori Mission, making up to three of four visits a year. Three priests who came during the ensuing years were Fr A Venning sm, Fr J Dynman sm, and Fr JD Cullinane sm. Hawera parish encouraged their efforts and in 1933 instituted Sunday Mass in the Town Hall at Normanby.
For up to 100 years the Māori missioners had visited Sth Taranaki from stations elsewhere. However, Fr F Wall sm who first came in 1936, was such a frequent visitor that the Hawera Presbytery was virtually his parish. In 1940, the Okato Mission station re-opened with Fr J Durning sm in charge. Fr Wall worked in Sth Taranaki from Okato until 1945 then came to Normanby. He took up residence with Fr T Kerins sm in an old house near Ketekarae Pa. The newly consecrated Archbishop MrKeefry visited the Mission in 1949, and was given a full ceremonial welcome.
In 1950, an Easter Hui was held at Ketemarae for the Federated Catholic Māori Clubs, attracting hundreds of visitors. Another Hui was held in 1960 and in recent years Hui Aranga has again been hosted at Ketemarae.
Over the years as people moved into the towns, the meeting halls remained and are used for community events. With volunteers a Mission hall was built in the early 1960s and opened in 1964. The hall is called Hōani Pāpita.
A Vocation to the Priesthood
Fr Alan Roberts
I am one of those who probably always knew, at least from the age of ten or so.
Was I inspired by a priest? Yes, one priest in particular, but for some reason I didn’t set out to become a Diocesan Priest. I joined the Redemptorists, and when I realised I could no longer continue there, it was the memory of his example that kept the dream alive within me and at 28 I was ordained in Hawera.
Was there family influence? Yes, but not pressure. My mother was always assuring me I was to do this only if God was calling. She was terrified I might think I had to do it to please her. I think it is from this memory I have come to realise the Will of God is the basis of our spirituality.
Was there influence from other sources? Yes, the Sisters of St Joseph and the Marist Brothers must bear some of the blame! We’ve listened to a lot of criticism of these educators over the years but to me it’s undeserved and certainly not my experience. Who could not appreciate the encouragement and concern of those men and women? Tough people? Of course! Mad, bad or sad? You must be joking.
When I look back at how it all happened, I understand we do influence one another. St Paul says something about it…the life and death of each of us has its influence on others. If we live, we live for the Lord…” ‒ Romans 14:7ff.
I am truly grateful for the influences on me from people who belong to the Lord. What a world it would be if we handed it on.
Fr Alan Roberts is parish priest at Hāta Mere rāua ko Hāto Hōhepa Parish – Ss Mary and Joseph Parish of Ōtaki and Levin. A priest of the Archdiocese of Wellington, he previously joined the staff of Holy Cross Seminary in 2012 as Spiritual Director. He was ordained in 1972 and has had many years of interest and involvement in contemplative prayer and Ignatian spirituality. He has also written three books to assist and encourage others to deepen their prayer life. Prior to joining the seminary staff, he was parish priest at St Mary’s parish in Blenheim for six years.
St Joseph’s School
Geraldine Sumner, Principal
St Joseph’s is a fully integrated primary school in Hawera. Our pupils live throughout the South Taranaki area in both urban and rural settings – from Manaia, Kapuni, Normanby, and Hawera through to Patea in the South.
St Joseph’s School was founded by Hawera’s first parish priest Fr Eugene Pertuis sm and opened in 1875. Archbishop O’Shea was a founding pupil. The Sisters of St Joseph of Nazareth came to Hawera in 1885 to staff and grow the school. The foundation stone in honour of Fr Pertuis from the first school is located at our school today in the garden by the library.
The school used to cater from new entrants, all the way through secondary school. In 1935 there were 23 senior students and in 1951 there were 18 senior girls. The school was integrated in 1981.
Our current roll is 261 students in 11 classrooms ranging from new entrants to Year 8. We are lucky to have a stand-alone library and a learning centre – used for one-on-one learning for those who need extra help, for our extension programme and also for speech and drama tutoring.
Every year we celebrate St Joseph’s day, Matariki and during Social Justice week we have Mission Shop Day where all proceeds go to Marist Mission in Ranong, Thailand, who we have a fantastic relationship with. We do school-wide activities on these days, where we encourage the community and school to join together to celebrate.
We have wonderful Mission Groups, where our senior Year 8 students become Mission Group leaders and help, support and mentor our junior students. It is fantastic to see how the junior students interact and enjoy spending time with the senior students. We are also very strongly involved in the community and with other schools in a variety of sports, the arts and Kapahaka performances throughout the year.
We look to our Special Character to guide us in our teachings. It includes: Our Catholic Community, Our Pastoral Care programme, Religious Education. We encourage our staff to embody their code of ethics, which details their commitment to our students, our community, to education, to the parents and caregivers and to ourselves. We also have a code of ethics for our students where we inspire them to commit to fair play, to fellow students, to the teachers, to their learning and to themselves.
Kia te wairua tapu ki runga ki a koutou katoa. May the Holy Spirit be upon you all.