He Hīkoi Whakapono: A Journey of Faith

WelCom June/July 2022 This month, WelCom visits Holy Family Parish in Porirua East, 22kms north of Wellington. The pastoral area includes Cannons Creek, Porirua East, Ascot Park, Waitangirua and Rānui. …

He Hīkoi Whakapono: A Journey of Faith Archdiocese of Wellington

WelCom June/July 2022

This month, WelCom visits Holy Family Parish in Porirua East, 22kms north of Wellington. The pastoral area includes Cannons Creek, Porirua East, Ascot Park, Waitangirua and Rānui. 

The area was developed following the second world war. The village of Porirua became the site of a new city after the government acted on an urgent need for new housing. Work began and more than 2,700 state houses were built. Many immigrant families from Pacific Island countries made Porirua their new home.

Earliest human habitation in the area dates back to 1450 AD. A succession of Māori tribes lived around the twin inlets of Porirua Harbour. 

Today the area is home to many whānau – Māori, Samoans, Tokelau, Cook Islands, Myanmar, Fijians, Kiribati, Tongans, Philippines, Indians and Pākeha. 

Brief History 

1842: Fr Michael Borjo sm first parish priest for whole Wellington district.

1843: Fr Jeremiah O’Reily ofm, Wellington’s second resident priest, walked bush tracks over hills to serve widespread Wellington parish district including Porirua.

1844: Ōtaki Mission established. Marist priests tended small community from Porirua Basin. 

1850: Hutt parish established, included Catholics from Porirua Basin.

1878: First Catholic church in area built as small wooden church in Pāuatahanui. Consecrated by Bishop Redwood as Church of The Sacred Heart of Jesus. Re-opened by Archbishop Redwood and renamed St Joseph’s in 1894.

1886: Fr Joseph Lane of County Cork, Hutt parish priest, travelled on horseback over Hayward Hills tracks, down Tawa Valley and old Porirua Road, saying Mass and administering sacraments.

1887: After building of psychiatric hospital in Porirua, population grew. Catholic church erected on land in Kenepuru Drive donated by wife of proprietor of Porirua Hotel. 

1903: The church was dedicated to Sacred Heart and blessed by Archbishop Redwood. For nearly 50 years it was the only church for Catholics living in Porirua, Tawa Flat, Elsdon and Tītahi Bay. The church is now on Bishop Viard College grounds, and since 1999 it has been the church for Te Ngākau Tapu.

1922: Johnsonville parish established taking in Porirua and Pāuatahanui. Fr Michael Griffin first parish priest. Established convent for Brigidine Sisters, built first Catholic school in area for children of Porirua, Plimmerton, Tawa.

1940: Parish of Plimmerton established for Plimmerton, Pukerua, Pāuatahanui, Porirua, Tītahi Bay.

1946: Post WW2, huge growth and housing development in Porirua, Tītahi Bay, Tawa. Faith and parish evolve.

1951: Tawa parish established.

1953: St Francis Xavier School prefab buildings opened behind Sacred Heart Church, Porirua. Brigidine Sisters commuted from Johnsonville to teach at school.

1958: Porirua, Tītahi Bay and Elsdon, separate parish from Tawa and Linden. 

1959: Holy Family School site, Mungavin Ave, used as Mass centre until Holy Family Church opened.

1959: Brigidine Sisters came to live in parish.

1960: Holy Family School commenced. 

1961: Griffin Hall, army building bought from Trentham Camp for church hall. Used for 50 years until condemned.

1965: First parish celebration in new Holy Family Church, Christmas Midnight Mass.

1968: Bishop Viard College founded by Cardinal Peter McKeefry, Archbishop of Wellington. Staffed by Assumptionist Fathers and Brigidine Sisters. School consisted of two institutions on same site for boys and girls.

1973: Little Sisters of the Assumption took up residence in parish, one Sister had been commuting daily from Petone since 1969, helping people re-settle in Porirua area.

1975: Bishop Viard College single co-educational unit.

1976–1979: Fr Thomas Williams parish priest of Holy Family Parish, later Archbishop of Wellington and Cardinal.

1984: Catholic population around Waitangirua and Ascot Park grew, church needed in area. St John of the Cross officially opened by Cardinal Thomas Williams.

1989–1992: Assumptionist Fathers, who previously taught at Viard College, worked in parish.

2001: Missionary Sisters of Charity began mission in Porirua. 

2018: Bishop Viard College 50th Jubilee.

2019: Missionaries of Faith formally welcomed to Parish. Now have pastoral care of Holy Family Parish.

Holy Family Parish 

Holy Family Parish is centred at Holy Family Church and Holy Family School on Mungavin Ave, Cannons Creek, with St John of the Cross Church in Ascot Park and Bishop Viard College in Kenepuru Drive, Porirua.

The parish leadership team includes Missionaries of Faith parish priest Fr Andrew Antonio, and assistants Fr Ramesh Songa and Fr Peter Timoteo, the parish council and catechists. Regular Sunday Masses include Samoan, Cook Island and Tokelauan Liturgies. The Missionary Sisters of Charity have a quiet and gentle presence in the parish. Their mission began in Porirua in August 2001 ‘to care for the most vulnerable and assist with the Sacramental Programme’.

The parish pastoral plan, based on the priorities and directions from the Wellington Archdiocesan Synod 2017 and in consultation with the parishioners, is built around four core pillars: liturgy and eucharist; spirituality and formation; evangelisation and mission; and planning and structure.

Parish Council chair Peter Setefano says, ‘It is Christ who tells us how his Church should live these days. We find our way of being the Church by listening deeply to the Gospel and living the spirituality of the Holy Family. We want to be a Church which is a true community, where all feel they are brothers and sisters in Christ. Our plan is to be a Church which serves all people, helping them to a life which is truly human, truly formed in the image of God. 

‘The reality of our Parish, Holy Family Parish, Porirua East, is best described as being rich in everything except money. It is rich in the many different cultures that make up our congregation. It is rich in its tradition of faith. It is rich in a spirituality of service.

‘It is truly a family.’

Fundraising appeal for donations for church canopy 

He Hīkoi Whakapono: A Journey of Faith Archdiocese of Wellington
Holy Family parishioners after Sunday Mass in front of the church canopy in need of renewal. Photos: Annette Scullion

Holy Family Parish is currently trying to raise funds to renew the church’s front canopy in need of repair. 

When it was originally constructed Fr Tom Duffy employed parishioners who were qualified carpenters to build the 550-seat church. The church cost £17,000 and was blessed and opened by Bishop Owen Snedden in 1965. At the time it was considered one of the most economical new churches built in New Zealand.

Today, Fr Andrew is also using parishioners who are qualified carpenters to fix the canopy.

Parish chair Peter Setefano says, ‘Our current goal to complete the project is $50,000. To date, parishioners have raised $23,105, bringing us almost halfway towards our target. A second collection at Masses is helping towards the fundraising and parishioners have been invited to discuss how their family, group and community can help raise the remaining necessary funds.

‘The parish is looking for ideas and offers to help reach the $50,000 target and invites you to let us know your ideas and offers to help.’

If people would like to contribute, donations can be made to: Holy Family Parish, Porirua: 02-0536-0003269-05

Holy Family School, Cannons Creek

Suzanne Goodin, Principal

He Hīkoi Whakapono: A Journey of Faith Archdiocese of Wellington
The Brigidine Sisters school staff in the 1960s.

The Brigidine Sisters founded Holy Family School in 1960 to serve the Catholic community of the Holy Family Parish in Porirua East. The Sisters and the Assumptionist Fathers staffed the school. 

Today, our roll of 215 children in 10 classes are mainly Pacifika students, as well as Māori, Burmese and Ecuadoran students. Our staff are professional, dedicated, caring and always keen to laugh, dance and sing.

The school focuses on six ‘Phenomenals’: Grit, ICan, Optimum, Mana, Courage and Mafana. These invite us to do the best we can in all situations while showing care, respect and kindness. We speak about our Phenomenals in our classes, and our staff award tokens to students in the playground and at assemblies for these behaviours. At the end of term the ‘top squad’ or ‘buddy class’ is awarded lunch and a movie afternoon. 

Our school has a close connection with Holy Family Parish. Students delight in attending Mass and are amazed at how much better our singing sounds in the church. We thank Fr Andrew, Fr Isaac and Fr Peter for their care as they watch over us.

We work hard to make connections with our ‘aiga (wider family). In 2019 we were recognised nationally by winning the ‘Excellence in Engaging’ category of Prime Minister’s Education Awards for the The Family So’otaga programme.

The Family So’otaga (Samoan for ‘connection’) has been a huge success in improving student achievement and parents’ engagement with their children’s education. Our So’otaga team ensures students and ‘aiga have the support they need to get to school, the supplies they need and are there to listen.

Our school Blessing Mass last month welcomed new staff and students and was well attended by ‘aiga. After Covid restrictions, it was a joy to be back in our parish church and hear our students’ wonderful singing there again.

Our healthy and vibrant school community is proud to be a Catholic School where, as some Year 1 and 2 students recently said: ‘We share’. ‘We are kind’. ‘We love each other’. ‘We are holy’. ‘We are part of a family’. ‘We play together’. 

The future is bright for us at Holy Family School. 

He Hīkoi Whakapono: A Journey of Faith Archdiocese of Wellington
Holy Family school photo, 2022. Photos: Supplied

Bishop Viard College 

He Hīkoi Whakapono: A Journey of Faith Archdiocese of Wellington
2022 Head students Mannfred Sofara and Lesina Taualai. Photo: Supplied

Chris Theobald, Principal

Bishop Viard College, 20 Kenepuru Drive, Porirua is situated on a hill overlooking the city centre and the harbour. The college is named after Philippe Joseph Viard (1809, Lyon, – 1872), a French priest and first Bishop of the Catholic Diocese
of Wellington.

The college was founded in 1968 as two separate colleges on the one site as Viard Girls College and Viard Boys College. The co-institutional design didn’t last long and by the early 1970s the two had combined to form the one Bishop Viard College. The Assumptionist Fathers and Brigidine Sisters led the college for its first 25 years. Sr Anne Phibbs csb was the last religious principal.

The first lay principal, Hedley Aitken, led the adaptation of the college name to Bishop Viard College in the early 2000s to ensure its history was not lost on current students. The diverse student population base features Whānau Māori from across the motu as well as those who whakapapa to most islands across the Pacific, and several nations in South-East Asia and South America.

After much change at the college in recent years, the strength of the community the college serves is the one steadfast element. With over 85 per cent of students coming from Porirua East, the college is re-establishing itself as the home of Catholic Education from the wider Porirua basin. The four contributing Catholic primary schools – Holy Family Porirua East; St Theresa’s, Plimmerton; St Francis Xavier, Tawa; and St Pius X, Tītahi Bay – are all thriving and that strength is beginning to flow into Bishop Viard College.

Bishop Viard College has a strong history of successes in various sporting codes, cultural exchange and entrepreneurial developments. Having Te Pariha o Te Ngākau Tapu and the Tu Hono Marae Māori Cultural Centre on the same campus is a huge asset that the college staff are starting to tap into. There are plans for a formal arrangement of collaboration underway. That collaboration and the varied connections the college has to the wider Porirua community ensure our college values of Faith, Fortitude, Service and Dignity are nurtured, developed and lived out on a daily basis. 


He Hīkoi Whakapono: A Journey of Faith Archdiocese of Wellington

Mena Antonio (2nd right), newly appointed Chief Executive of Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand, is a former student of Bishop Viard College and grew up as a member of Holy Family Parish. Mena is pictured with family members Manuel Antonio, Imeleta Avei, Francis Taito, and Anita Lefaoseu, at the recent powhīri in Porirua welcoming her to Caritas. 

‘Growing up in Holy Family Parish epitomised the name, holy family. My own family congregated, socialised, prayed, sang together. Our lives were intertwined, much as if this new land was a new village away from the villages left behind in Samoa.’

‘I remember the day our parish priest Tom Williams was named Archbishop. It was a jubilant time with the newspaper Kapi Mana there taking photos and us kids swarming Fr Williams. The fascination with Tom and the likes of Rex Begley and Fr Robert was they all spoke Samoan too. This was the true connector to a church community that was forming a new home and family away from their own in Samoa.’

He Hīkoi Whakapono: A Journey of Faith Archdiocese of Wellington

The Missionaries of Charity Sisters, founded by St Mother Teresa of Kolkata to ‘work with the poorest of the poor’, have been living among the people of in Porirua since 2001. Their mission involves caring for the most vulnerable and assisting with the Sacramental programme. Their presence touches the lives of many – the schools, those in rest homes, former refugees, and offering spiritual nourishment to people in the wider community who have lost their way. The current community (l-r) Sr Joy Marie, Sr Antonella, Sr Oliva (leader) and Sr Zelia assisted with the recent Sacramental programme of Confirmation and Holy Communion for over 40 candidates. 

He Hīkoi Whakapono: A Journey of Faith Archdiocese of Wellington

Over 40 young people received the Sacrament of First Holy Communion at Holy Family Church on Sunday 22 May 2022, with the girls and women adorned in their shiny white dresses and the boys looking smart in their white shirts and black trousers.

Photos: Annette Scullion/WelCom