He Hīkoi Whakapono: A Journey of Faith

WelCom August 2022 This month WelCom’s Hīkoi Te Whakapono, Journey of Faith, visits St Francis of Assisi Ohariu Parish. The parish encompasses Wellington’s northern suburbs including Crofton Downs, Ngaio, Khandallah,…

He Hīkoi Whakapono: A Journey of Faith Archdiocese of Wellington

WelCom August 2022

This month WelCom’s Hīkoi Te Whakapono, Journey of Faith, visits St Francis of Assisi Ohariu Parish. The parish encompasses Wellington’s northern suburbs including Crofton Downs, Ngaio, Khandallah, Johnsonville, Newlands, Paparangi, Glenside, Grenada Village and Ohariu. The area population is about 45,000.

Prior to the arrival of early settlers in the 1840s, heavy forest covered a well-worn track used by Māori, whalers and missionaries travelling through from Te Aro, Pipitea and Kaiwharawaha Pā sites to Porirua and the coast. Parish history reaches back to 1873 with the dedication of Ohariu Valley to St Joseph, and the first celebration of Mass in the valley. In 2016, the new parish of St Francis of Assisi Ohariu incorporated the former parishes of Newlands, Onslow and Johnsonville. Photos: Supplied

Brief History 

1873: Dedication of Ohariu Valley to St Joseph, and first celebration of Mass in the valley.
1875: St Joseph’s Church, Ohariu Valley, built as memorial to late Bishop Viard.
1878: New church at Pauatahanui, dedicated to the Sacred Heart, consecrated by Bishop Redwood.
1894: Petone Parish included Ohariu, Johnsonville, Tawa Flat, and Pauatahanui. These areas reverted to Lower Hutt Parish under Fr Lane, October 1895.
1895: Enlarged church at Pauatahanui, now known as St Joseph’s, reopened.
1895: New church of Ss Peter and Paul at Johnsonville blessed and opened by Archbishop Redwood.
1903: New church at Porirua blessed and opened by Archbishop Redwood. Church of the Holy Name later known as Sacred Heart.
1909: First Mass in Khandallah celebrated by Fr Walsh of Lower Hutt.
1911: First Mass in the new Church of the Holy Name, Ngātoto St, Ngaio. Later known as St John’s.
1922: Fr Griffin installed as Parish Priest at Johnsonville. New parish, embracing district from Ngaio to Plimmerton, included five churches – at Pauatahanui, Porirua, Johnsonville, Ohariu and Ngaio.
1929: Four Sisters of St Brigid arrive in Johnsonville from Brigidine Congregation of St Bride’s in Masterton to staff St Brigid’s School. St Brigid’s School opened.
1931: Opening of new St Theresa’s church at Plimmerton.
1931: Enlarged Church of Ss Peter and Paul, Johnsonville, opened.
1934: Fr Francis Vernon Douglas, born and bred in Johnsonville, celebrated his first Mass in Ss Peter and Paul. Joined St Columban’s Foreign Mission Society, reported killed by Japanese in Philippines in WW2.
1936: St John’s Church, Ngaio, reconstructed. Schoolroom included.
1937: Opening of new Brigidine Convent at Johnsonville by Archbishop O’Shea.
1940: New parish of Plimmerton established, reducing the size of Johnsonville Parish. Tawa Flat, Elsdon, Titahi Bay, Pauatahanui, and Porirua also part of Plimmerton Parish.
1950: New parish of Onslow incorporated Khandallah and Ngaio.
1952: St Benedict’s School in Onslow Parish opened.
1963: St Andrew’s Church in Black Rock Road, Newlands, opened and blessed by Archbishop McKeefry.
1965: St Benedict’s Church, Khandallah, blessed and opened by Bishop Snedden.
1967: New parish of Newlands established.
1973: Original 1895 portion of Ss Peter and Paul Church demolished.
1975: Reconstructed Church of Ss Peter and Paul, Johnsonville blessed and opened by Archbishop Delargey.
1976: St Andrew’s Church, Trebann St, Newlands, blessed by Cardinal Delargey.
2010: Wellington North Pastoral Area established.
2012: St John’s Church, Ngaio, closed.
2016: The new parish of St Francis of Assisi, Ohariu incorporated the former parishes of Newlands, Onslow and Johnsonville.
2017: St Andrew’s Church closed.
2018: St Andrew’s Church reopened.
2019: Leadership Formation Team, in partnership with the Archdiocese of Wellington and the Society of Mary, assumed operational and pastoral leadership of the Parish, with Fr Peter Roe sm as Administrator.
2022: Lay Pastoral Leader, Joe Green, appointed Parish Director of Mission.

Catholic Parish of St Francis of Assisi Ohariu

He Hīkoi Whakapono: A Journey of Faith Archdiocese of Wellington

Joe Green, Kaiārahi Katorika/Lay Pastoral Leader, Parish Director of Mission

St Francis of Assisi Ohariu parish traces its origins to 1873, with the dedication of Ohariu Valley to St Joseph and the first celebration of Mass in the valley. From pioneering priests covering large territories on horseback to today’s model of collaborative leadership and pastoral ministry, our parish has undergone enormous change.

In 2016, the new parish of St Francis of Assisi, Ohariu incorporated the former parishes of Newlands, Onslow and Johnsonville. With a pre-Covid Mass count of about 930, today our parish is served by three churches – St Benedict’s at Khandallah, Ss Peter and Paul’s at Johnsonville and St Andrew’s at Newlands. And we are blessed with two primary schools, St Brigid’s in Johnsonville and St Benedict’s in Khandallah. 

Our pastoral community delivers a range of ministries including baptism preparation, visitation to the sick and dying, bereavement, a St Vincent de Paul conference and shop, Passionist Family Groups, liturgy groups, an ecumenical group, and a refugee and migrant outreach activity. Challenge 2000 – the well-known youth-development, community and family social-work agency – is based in the parish, with a reach across the Wellington Region. 

Since early 2019, the parish has been developing a collaborative leadership model to bring together future-focused changes for the benefit of our parish community. The Leadership Formation Team includes Fr Pete Roe sm as ‘priest administrator’, with support from Society of Mary priests for Masses and sacramental care. When a priest is not available, a trained team leads Liturgy of the Word with Holy Communion while another team has undergone formation in homiletics – [sermons].

A property review proposes to centrally locate our mission-focussed, liturgical, administrative and pastoral activities at the pastoral area centre – on the site currently occupied by Ss Peter and Paul Church and former presbytery in Johnsonville.

A Lay Pastoral Leader [Joe Green] was appointed this year to provide pastoral, spiritual, and organisational leadership for the parish community, and a Pastoral Advisory Group has been established to bring together parishioners’ concerns and ideas for pastoral development. This consultation aims to get everyone involved. So the team might be described as ‘a new synodal council’.

Originally part of what is now the Te Awa Kairangi parish [in Hutt Valley], on 26 June 2022, Ss Peter and Paul church community of Johnsonville celebrated 100 years since being established as a stand-alone parish. 

He Hīkoi Whakapono: A Journey of Faith Archdiocese of Wellington

St Andrew’s Church

St Andrew’s is the largest of all three churches in the parish. Opened in 1963, it is based in the hills of Newlands with a community outreach to surrounding suburbs.

He Hīkoi Whakapono: A Journey of Faith Archdiocese of Wellington

St Benedict’s Church 

Opened in 1965 and nestled in the hills of Khandallah, ‘St Ben’s’ shares the village feel that is Khandallah. 

100-year anniversary

A celebration of 100 years since the establishment of Ss Peter and Paul Parish Johnsonville was held on Sunday 26 June. Cardinal John Dew, assisted by Fr Pete Roe sm, presided at the celebration of the Eucharist. Themes of remembering, thanks and a future with hope were reflected in word and song. Past parish priests, Greg O’Connor MP for Ohariu, and the Wellington Mayor, Andy Foster were among the gathering. Cardinal John presented Pat Collier with a Benemerenti medal from Pope Francis for her distinguished service to the Church. Past and present parishioners reconnected, reminisced and mingled over refreshments while viewing the displays of history and photos. A book of the 100-year history is for sale in the church after Sunday Mass at $20 or by emailing bookings@stfrancisohariu.nz, at $25, via the parish account 02-0524-0203642-00.

St Brigid’s School

Fiona Kearns, Deputy Principal

He Hīkoi Whakapono: A Journey of Faith Archdiocese of Wellington
Our Catholic Character teaches children to respect, forgive and show kindness in their words and actions.

At St Brigid’s, we are a Catholic multicultural school in the centre of Johnsonville. We believe every child is unique and all children bring gifts and talents that shape who they are and enable them to reach their potential.

Our collaborative and caring staff work to ensure our children get the best educational programmes and opportunities. We value our partnership with Challenge 2000 who offer support and guidance and help us to connect our tamariki with our St Francis of Assisi Parish family. We also value our partnership with parents and caregivers and encourage them to contribute to the growth of the school.

We have a passion for maths and science and are particularly strong in environmental science where children are given lots of opportunities to grow their understanding about the world around them in practical ways. We continue to make positive links with our local community including a gardening club with our neighbours. 

We offer a range of music, cultural, leadership and sporting activities. All of this is underpinned by our Catholic Character, which teaches children to respect, forgive and show kindness in their words and actions. Our vision ‘to learn together with strength of character and gentleness of heart’ helps our children grow as future-focused, kind-hearted and lifelong learners. We are always seeking opportunities to share our skills and talents with people in our community through musical events, visual arts and cultural performances.

Our school is named after St Brigid of Ireland who worked with the poor and established an order of sisters who worked tirelessly for the good of others. Our children are taught the traditions, rituals and beliefs of the Catholic Faith and are encouraged to live these in their daily lives.

St Benedict’s School, Khandallah

He Hīkoi Whakapono: A Journey of Faith Archdiocese of Wellington
St Benedict’s students greet guests from the community.

Tania Savage, Principal/Tumuaki

St Benedict’s is a new-entrant to year 8 school, which has faithfully served the Wellington northern suburbs’ Catholic community since 7 September, 1952. Our school values of Empathy, Perseverance, Integrity, and Creativity (EPIC) have been developed from our founding order, the Brigidine Sisters, whose wisdom guided the school from 1952 to 1976. 

Our motto ‘Developing our Children’s Minds, Growing our Children’s Hearts’ aligns with our vision of being a school community that provides a challenging, co-operative, and supportive environment, together with Catholic ideals, attitudes, and practices.

Our school’s success lies in developing dynamic tamaiti/kaiako – child/teacher – relationships. Our experienced and dedicated kaimahi – staff – in partnership with our whānau, strive to meet our mission. 

Our EPIC values and our focus on academic achievement for all, allow tamariki to shine as engaged and active learners who enjoy school and are proud to attend. They go on to secondary schools, including St Mary’s and St Patrick’s Colleges, well equipped for challenges ahead and with a passion for lifelong learning. 

We have a knowledgeable and passionate School Board and are blessed with an engaged Helping Our Kids (HOK) committee. They fundraise to provide additional resources for the school and support new families by hosting many events to socialise together as a community.

We work closely with the St Francis of Assisi Ohariu Parish and the Challenge 2000 team to deliver the sacramental programme and opportunities for Liturgical experiences. We identify positive relationships are at the heart of students achieving success, and we strive to be an inclusive and active member of our community.

If you would like to visit or have a question about our school, please call us on (04) 479-6878, email office@st-benedicts.school.nz or visit st-benedicts.school.nz

He Hīkoi Whakapono: A Journey of Faith Archdiocese of Wellington
As part of its commitment to working with young people, in 2017 the Society of Mary purchased the old Brigidine convent at 1 Wanaka St, Johnsonville, to be used as a base and outreach centre for Challenge 2000. The centre provides a base from which Challenge offers a wide range of services, including an alternative education college and youth development and youth ministry programmes.

Religious communities leave enriching legacies

The parish has a rich heritage of faith support and dedication from many religious communities who have well served us over the decades. They include the Society of Mary, the Brigidine Sisters, the Cenacle Sisters, the Sisters of St Joseph, the Dominican Sisters and the Sisters of Mercy.

The Sisters of St Brigid – Brigidines – arrived in Aotearoa New Zealand in 1898, to begin their mission in Masterton, Wairarapa, offering religious and literary education to young women. In January 1929, four sisters came from Masterton to establish St Brigid’s School in Johnsonville, bringing Catholic education to the parish. In 1952, the Sisters established St Benedict’s School at Khandallah. In the early years this order provided principals and the teachers for both schools. Originally the sisters received no teaching salary and supported themselves by teaching music and elocution, short-hand typing and bookkeeping. The parish continues to hold the Brigidine Sisters in loving and high regard. 

We have been blessed with the presence of sisters from five religious orders who, over the years, have enriched the life of the parish through various ministries, and making warm and lasting friendships. The sisters from the Cenacle, Dominican and Josephite communities are on record as saying that though relative newcomers they were made to feel very much ‘at home’ and enjoyed being part of such a prayerful, inspirational parish.

These religious orders have contributed to a depth of spirituality, each in their own way and according to their own charism.

Today, Fr Pete Roe sm, as priest administrator is supported in providing Mass by several priests from the Society of Mary and Assumptionist Fr John van der Kaa.

He Hīkoi Whakapono: A Journey of Faith Archdiocese of Wellington

Parish visitation ministry

Our dedicated team provides visitation and pastoral care to parishioners at home and to those living in rest homes in our parish area. We meet quarterly for prayer, formation training and mutual support. Our ministry works closely with the parish office with the support and guidance of our lay pastoral leader Joe Green, and we liaise with the bereavement ministry.

He Hīkoi Whakapono: A Journey of Faith Archdiocese of Wellington
Vinnies Op shop in Broderick St Johnsonville.

Vinnies in the parish

Widely known in the community for its Op shops, the Society of St Vincent de Paul (Vinnies) exists to provide personal service to the poor. Organised into local ‘conferences’ it was founded in Paris in 1833 and established in New Zealand just 34 years later.

Personal service to the poor means person-to-person contact is both a fundamental and unavoidable part of what we do and reflects the long-held Catholic belief and challenge for us to see Christ in those who suffer or are in need. 

The Johnsonville and Khandallah conferences meet monthly. We invite you to email us at Johnsonville.SVDP@gmail.com to find out more.

He Hīkoi Whakapono: A Journey of Faith Archdiocese of Wellington
Jo-Anne Carley (r), Refugee and Migrant Family Support Coordinator with Annie Coates QSM (l), a representative of the Myanmar community. 

Parish refugee and migrant outreach

We are a culturally rich and diverse parish with about 40 per cent of our northern suburbs’ community members being born overseas. So far, our parish has set up 26 houses for refugee families. With the help of grants from the Tindall Foundation and the Caritas Pro Vitae Gradu Charitable Trust, this year we employed a Refugee and Migrant Family Support Coordinator, Jo-Anne Carley, who has been visiting families and connecting communities. New initiatives include art holiday programmes and conversation evenings for migrants to gain English language confidence. Stand-out moments have been assisting new mothers, providing practical support during Covid, partnering with Challenge 2000 to empower parents to access education systems, supporting the Dia de las Velitas Liturgy and enabling adults to gain a driver licence.

Ecumenism and our parish

He Hīkoi Whakapono: A Journey of Faith Archdiocese of Wellington
Ecumenical group with Nativity crib on float in Johnsonville’s Christmas Parade. 

Ecumenism has long been an important part of our parish, and, three years ago, the Leadership Formation Team established a special ecumenism portfolio managed by parishioners. 

Johnsonville’s Op shop, in operation for many years, is run jointly by the Anglican, Uniting, Catholic, and Broderick Rd Brethren Churches, and across our parish’s three worship centres, we collaborate with Presbyterian, Uniting, Brethren, Salvation Army and Anglican Churches. 

We also come together for events such as Ash Wednesday, the Good Friday walk from church to church, provision of homes for new refugees, the Johnsonville Christmas Parade, Passionist Family Group gatherings, World Day of Prayer and the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. These and many other events have illustrated how we work together with our sisters and brothers in Christ.