St Gerard’s Church is to be closed. The last Mass will be celebrated by Cardinal John Dew on Pentecost Sunday, 24 May 2021.
St Gerard’s Church, which is part of Wellington’s most distinctive and iconic landmarks, is to be closed. The Church has been a missionary hub since it was built by the Redemptorists in 1908, and was subsequently used as a base for the evangelical outreach of the Institute for World Evangelisation-ICPE Mission, which bought the buildings in 1993.
St Gerard’s was the first church in the world dedicated to St Gerard Majella (1726–1755) an Italian lay Redemptorist brother, canonised in 1904. Some Wellington Catholics may recall the Novena Masses to Our Lady of Perpetual Help at the church, which were so popular that the City Council put on extra bus services to meet demand.
The prominent and dominant position of the monastery on the cliff above Oriental Bay can be viewed from almost any vantage point around Wellington Harbour.
St Gerard’s Church to close
The last Mass at Wellington’s historic St Gerard’s Church will be celebrated on Pentecost Sunday, ending 113 years of solemn services at the capital landmark above Oriental Bay.
Cardinal John Dew will celebrate the final Mass on behalf of the lay Catholic missionary group, the Institute for World Evangelisation-ICPE Mission, which acquired St Gerard’s in 1993 from the Redemptorists order.
The church is closing due to safety concerns and an inability to raise the substantial funds required for earthquake strengthening. Several attempts to source the funds have ben unsuccessful. ICPE Mission, the owners of the building, have made the decision to close in consultation with the Archdiocese of Wellington.
St Gerard’s Church was built for the Redemptorists in 1908, with the monastery completed in 1932. By the late 1980s, the buildings were too big for the Redemptorists’ needs and the buildings were put up for sale. The ICPE MIssion hired the buildings for its missionary work and then purchased them in 1993 thanks to a generous overseas donor.
ICPE Mission’s New Zealand Director, Silvana Abela, says the buildings were yellow-stickered after the Christchurch earthquakes. Although the monastery, completed after the Napier earthquake, was built with some reinforcements, the church was not. A substantial sum of money was needed for the earthquake-strengthening of both buildings, she said.
Silvana Abela said the Covid-19 pandemic meant 2021 was the second year running that the ICPE School of Mission could not take place, with overseas missionaries and students unable to attend.
‘At the same time, the reality of a large building that needs serious earthquake strengthening has led the ICPE Mission to re-think our long-term presence in Wellington and look at new ways of being Christ’s presence in the city,’ she said.
Both buildings have a ‘Category 1’ Heritage New Zealand rating.
The ICPE Mission has yet to decide their future.
ICPE Mission re-thinks its future
Having decided to close down St Gerard’s Church, the Institute for World Evangelisation-ICPE Mission is going through a period of discernment.
The ICPE Mission, the owners of St Gerard’s, is a lay Catholic Mission dedicated to the formation and training of Catholics as evangelisers. The community was founded in Malta in 1985, and gained Pontifical Right as an International Association of Christ’s faithful in 2002.
The ICPE Mission purchased St Gerard’s in 1993 and has used the landmark site as a base to spread the Gospel through its charisms of worship and evangelisation. Between 1996 and 2019, 18 Schools of Mission were held, attracting young people from around the world to a five-month, fully residential faith formation programme that ended with a month of missionary outreach.
ICPE teams have conducted parish missions in every diocese – from Whangarei to Invercargill. Hundreds of children in Catholic schools and colleges around the country have enjoyed their youthful and dynamic presentations of the Gospel – shared through personal testimonies, music and drama, and interactive activities that helped them relate faith to their daily lives.
The ICPE missionaries have also brought the Gospel to prisoners, served the homeless at the Compassion Soup Kitchen, worked with youth groups and local prayer groups. The celebration of the Sunday Eucharist at St Gerard’s has continued through their tenure.
Silvana Abela, ICPE Mission’s New Zealand director, said the ICPE Mission had been greatly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
‘This year was the second year running that the ICPE School of Mission could not take place, with overseas missionaries and students unable to attend.’
She said the ‘need for serious earthquake strengthening has led the ICPE Mission to re-think our long-term presence in Wellington and look at new ways of being Christ’s presence in the city.’