WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

First Catholic cemetery in for a makeover

A new conservation plan for the Mount Street Roman Catholic Cemetery in Kelburn, where Wellington’s first priests and nuns are buried, has been unveiled.
The archdiocese commissioned the plan last year with a city council grant and a contribution from the university and a charitable incorporated society has been set up to implement it. Sacred Heart parishioner Karen Adair is coordinating the project with Friends of Bolton St Memorial Park of which she is a member.
Commissioned in 1841 when Bishop Jean Baptist Francois Pompallier arrived in Wellington, the cemetery was Wellington’s main Catholic burial ground for 50 years until its closure in 1891 with burials in existing family plots continuing until 1954.
It has remained under the ownership and control of the church unlike the nearby Anglican (Bolton St), public (Sydney St) and Jewish cemeteries which were vested in the Wellington City Corporation and are now maintained by the Wellington City Council as a memorial park and part of the Botanic Gardens complex.
However, maintenance of the cemetery has been an ongoing problem with burial plots disappearing due to soil erosion, unchecked vegetation, scrub fires, natural weathering and vandalism.
Dec09MountSt2.jpg The conservation plan was presented during a wreath-laying ceremony at the graves of Wellington’s earliest priests on All Souls Day, November 2.
The party comprised the French Ambassador Michel Legras, Mme Veronique Sauzeau and Mr Brazil of the French Embassy, Frs John Craddock SM, and Rowan Donoghue SM, the Society of Mary’s chief archivist Br Gerard Hogg SM, archives manager Ken Scadden, archdiocesan property manager Kevin Brown, his daughter Amanda Lafoi, her parents-in-law M and Mme Lafoi (from France) and Victoria University French student Siobhan Byrne.
The group walked up through the university grounds to the top of the cemetery and the graves of Frs Petitjean SM, Sauzeau SM and O’Reily OFM Cap.
After listening to an outline of the lives of the three priests, Ambassador Legras and Mme Sauzeau laid flowers on the graves.
The group then proceeded down the hill, admiring the views of Wellington on the way and, after pausing at the graves of the first Mercy Sisters in Wellington, arrived at what is believed to be the grave of Jean Francois Yvert.
Yvert arrived from France in 1841 at Kororareka in the Bay of Islands and established a printing press at the Catholic Mission Headquarters in what is now Pompallier House. He came to Wellington with Bishop Philippe Viard in 1850 and taught at the Catholic boys primary school in Hill St until he died in 1867.
Dec09MountSt3.jpg Ken Scadden outlined Yvert’s life and presented the ambassador with a folder of documents about Yvert’s life which sparked considerable discussion.
Kevin Brown then sketched plans to tidy up the cemetery and the ambassador spoke about the significance of the occasion and the possible role of the French Government in commemorating important French nationals buried overseas.
Meanwhile, the cemetery has had a spruce up thanks to a BNZ ‘closed for good’ project.
The cemetery was cleaned up on November 4 when 14 BNZ staff helped Karen and other friends of Bolton St Memorial Park clear weeds from around graves in the top section of the cemetery and clean headstones.
This is a start to improving this central city historic area and the university has also offered its gardening staff to help tidy up the cemetery.
Working bees to continue the cleanup will be held over the summer. If you would like to help, or are a descendant of someone buried at Mount St,  Karen would love to hear from you karen.adair@xtra.co.nz or 473 1778.