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

Remembering 140 years at historic St Joseph’s church

WelCom September 2018:

Catherine Gibbs

Fr Maurice Carmody, parish priest St Theresa’s Plimmerton, blesses the statue of St Joseph. Photo: Margaret Jorgensen

The bell in the historic church tower rang out over the Pāuatahanui hillsides on Sunday 27 May. It proclaimed to the 60-strong crowd inside this day marked an important act of solidarity by honouring families connected through time and space. St Theresa’s parish Plimmerton is responsible for the maintenance and use of St Joseph’s church and cemetery so some parishioners organised a gathering on the historic site to remember the past 140 years.

We began with a talk by theologian Dr Christopher Longhurst who demonstrated how to ‘read’ the church design and imagery in the ‘poor man’s glass windows’. He explained how the 11 windows were also known as the ‘poor man’s bible’ because they depicted biblical scenes, along with apostles, evangelists, and other Christian symbols such as musical angels to help teach the Catholic faith to the early pioneers and their children.

Historian Helen Reilly shared stories beginning with the purchase of the land in 1876 by four local farmers for five pounds each. Her informative summary of the history included many Wellington diocesan characters such as Dean Lane, Fr Donnelly, Suzanne Aubert and Barney McGovern. Local family members shared anecdotes that illuminated the ongoing story of this special place. This was followed by offering a prayer for each family memorial window and tree planting.

Consecrated as the Church of The Sacred Heart of Jesus in 1878, the small wooden country church was renamed St Joseph’s Church in the early 1890s. It had been gifted with three statues but it didn’t have one of its patron saint. After a nationwide search this year for a statue of St Joseph, the sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart Whanganui, generously gifted a beautifully-carved wooden statue of St Joseph the worker.

The celebration concluded with a scripture reading and a blessing of the St Joseph statue – quite at home in the rimu and matai-lined building. Our stories and prayers will continue to be woven into the shared history of our parish community.