He Hīkoi Whakapono: A Journey of Faith

Published on 4th Apr, 2021

Published in WelCom April 2021

Ko Tahi Ano – Together as One, is made up of five communities in and around Palmerston North: the Cathedral; Our Lady of Lourdes, Palmerston North and Sacred Heart Church, Rongotea; St Mary’s, Foxton, and St Joseph’s Church, Shannon. There are four Catholic schools: St Peter’s College, St James and Our Lady of Lourdes in Palmerston North, and St Mary’s in Foxton.

Ko Tahi Ano is a rich and diverse multi-cultural community. Its numerous ministries and active parish groups include a strong pastoral team, music directors, catechists, a Guild, after-Mass morning-tea gatherings, Joshua Men’s breakfast meetings, a Passionist Family Group, an active and well-supported St Vincent de Paul conference and many more.

Brief Parish History

1844: Fr J Compt sm first priest to visit Foxton area – missionary priest for Catholic Māori and settlers, from Johnsonville to Whanganui.
1855: Fr Seon baptised Henry Curley born at Manawatu.
1871: Bishop Viard appointed Fr Delphine Moreau to Kāpiti Coast and Manawatu and small towns between, including Foxton. Pastor for whole area up to 1885.
1872: Fr Moreau arrived in Palmerston North from Ōtaki, to celebrate Mass on St Patrick’s Day with about a dozen people in a surveyors’ hut, Coleman’s Place.
1875: St Patrick’s Parish Palmerston North founded.
1878: First church at St Patrick’s blessed and opened. St Patrick’s Parish covered a wide area, including Palmerston, Rongotea, Linton.
1881: St Mary’s Church Foxton blessed and opened.
1894: Sisters of Mercy came to teach in Palmerston North.
1895: Sacred Heart Church Rongotea, blessed and opened.
1900: St Joseph’s Church Shannon blessed and opened.
1908: Parish of St Joseph’s Shannon and St Mary’s Foxton formally established as part of Wellington Diocese.
1911: St Mary’s School, Foxton, established and staffed by the Brigidine sisters, with 55 pupils. Foxton then centre of a thriving flax industry.
1924: St Patrick’s Church built in Palmerston North. Now Cathedral of the Holy Spirit.
1951: Parish of Our Lady of Lourdes established. Fr (later Mons) McManus parish priest. Fr Gerard Donoghue assistant; then parish priest later that year. For next five years, school used as a church.
1955: Our Lady of Lourdes Church and St Berndaette’s Hall – stone blessed and laid by Rev P McKeefry.
1956: Our Lady of Lourdes Church and School officially opened by Mons Connolly. Sisters of Mercy, St Theopane as head and Sr Francesca as assistant staffed the school. Lived in convent at Fitchett St.
1957: Church in Longburn, St Jude Apostle, established for farming community, blessed and opened by Rev P McKeefry.
1950s and 1960s: Foundation of many groups including – Children of Mary, Legion of Mary. Holy Name Society, Third Order of St Francis, Altar Society, Catholic Family Movement, Catholic Men’s Dinner Club, Indoor Bowls, St Vincent de Paul Society, Our Lady of Lourdes Guild. Later, Passionist Family Movement.
1960: School block built for Our Lady of Lourdes School.
1962: St James’ School established, Palmerston North.
1973: St Peter’s College foundation stone laid by Cardinal McKeefry.
1974: St Peter’s College blessed by Archbishop Reginal Delargy and officially opened by Prime Minister Norman Kirk. Opening roll of 700 provided for boys and girls a combined Intermediate and Secondary School in Palmerston North City. Administered initially by Marist Brothers and Mercy Sisters.
1975: Our Lady of Lourdes School and Parish celebrate 25th jubilee.
1987: St Jude’s Church, Longburn closed due to shortage of priests. Last Mass celebrated mid July.
1992: Fr Joseph Grayland sm ordained. Former pupil of St Mary’s School and St Peter’s College, now parish priest at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Palmerston North.
2001: Our Lady of Lourdes 50th Jubilee celebrated.
2018: St James’ School, Palmerston North, celebrated 60th anniversary.
2020: Sacred Heart Church, Rongotea, 125th jubilee.

Catholic Parish of Palmerston North

Ko Tahi Ano – Together as One

Fr Joe Grayland

The Cathedral of the Holy Spirit. Photos: WelCom and supplied

Ko Tahi Ano names the co-operation between the Cathedral parish and Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Palmerston North and St Mary’s parish in Foxton. The three parishes, made up of five communities, including Sacred Heart Rongotea and St Joseph’s Shannon, have been working together since December 2019. The challenge has been to keep three pastoral faces – for each parish – while integrating the administration that makes their pastoral work more effective. This is not an easy task in the current situation.

Before this, Our Lady of Lourdes and St Mary’s Foxton were operating together and had begun the long process of discerning what that co-operation would look like. One of the objectives was a single, shared newsletter. The name Ko Tahi Ano was sought through a parishes-wide competition.

Following the resignation of Bishop Charles Drennan and the decision to appoint the parish priest of Our Lady of Lourdes and moderator of St Mary’s Foxton. [Fr Joe Grayland] as the acting parish priest of the Cathedral, a wider frame of co-operation was begun. Then the 2020 lockdown hit and disrupted everything!

During lockdown, the parishes moved to an online newsletter that contained huge amounts of information about Covid assistance and spiritual material. The online newsletter has continued after lockdown as the most efficient and cost-effective way to stay in touch with parishioners across Ko Tahi Ano. Presently there are more than 700 email recipients and parishioners take turns in providing the Sunday Reflection and the Pastor’s Desk.

Throughout the process of co-operation each community has experienced the impact of structural change. The separate pastoral teams have now become one and the flow of information and influence across the parishes has increased. The finance committees of each parish agreed to integrate their financial systems and to move the financial administration of the three parishes to a new trans-parish role based at the Cathedral. The pastoral councils have met several times together as one to discuss matters applicable to all three. The parish clergy also move between churches and Sunday communities, providing a variety of voices and homilies.

Some ‘priest-centric’ losses have also been part of this experience: the loss of a permanent and resident parish priest at the Cathedral; and the loss of a regular engagement with the parish priest at Our Lady of Lourdes and Foxton.

The evolution of co-operation is made possible through the generosity of so many people who give their time to parish works of charity, mercy, and worship.

This Easter we will share the Paschal Triduum between the Cathedral and Our Lady of Lourdes. Sharing this central event of faith reminds us we are One People, gathered at One Table by the One God and that unity is our strongest expression of catholicity. In our oneness we are diverse but not divided.

The future face of Palmerston North’s Catholicism is also rich in diversity and evolving with the influence of Catholics from southern India and south east Asia. This brings a rich blend of cultural Catholicism that are not always in step with each other because there are different perspectives on worship, devotion, pastoral work, priesthood, and lay ministry. The challenge for all lies in the ability to compromise and to discover the common places of belief and practice. For instance, the local charismatic prayer groups, Filipino, Keralaese and Pakeha join together one Friday each month to share Prayer and Praise with Exposition. This initiative is about finding the commonality of our Catholicism that while expressed ‘ethnically’ is not ethnic, but Catholic.

We await with hope the arrival of a new bishop, who we hope will be able to lead us in new and challenging times with wisdom and courage.

Our Lady of Lourdes Guild

Rose Semmens

Our Guild was formed in 1956 after a parishioner attended a meeting of St Mary’s Guild, in Palmerston North.

The aims of our Guild, from a 1967 list, were to: promote the social life of the ladies of the parish; give practical help in times of sickness or need; and offer help at parish events.

The Guild provided a social place for Catholic women to meet as well non-Catholic wives of Catholic husbands to be involved in the life of the new parish. Many knew each other as parents from the school, which had opened before the church was built. The 1960s was a time when many women were at home raising their families and the Guild gave them an opportunity to enjoy a social evening out together.

Membership has waxed and waned but there is still a gathering on the first Wednesday of each month either at the church or a café to celebrate a birthday or pre-Christmas event.

The aims are still adhered to although practical help might now be offering a ride to a parishioner, or having a group to help at parish events such as with hospitality after funerals at our church.

In the earlier days there was an energetic Mission Circle that at one time assisted five different mission activities. The Guild continues to help two mission stations in the Pacific. We are grateful to families for their donations after funerals, payments from Meals on Wheels, along with a Christmas raffle donated by members, which allow us to send financial assistance to the mission stations every year.

St Vincent de Paul shop, 252 Rangitikei St, Palmerston North.

Society of St Vincent de Paul

A good number of parishioners are active and associate members of the St Patrick’s conference, which operates Palmerston North city wide. The parish is very supportive of those who visit the housebound and those in residential care and provides weekly support of the food store. Members are involved in the distribution of food and other essential items to those in need as well as volunteering at St Vinnies’ shop. Conference meetings are held the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month, 5.15pm, at the Cathedral lounge.

St Mary’s parish Foxton has an active branch of St Vincent de Paul with food parcel supply and visiting. The Society also has rental accommodation on Foxton’s main highway. The Branch is very active and part of the social-care structure of Foxton.

St James School – Te Kura O Hato Heemi

Joining in prayer at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit. Photos: Supplied

Tom Sheehan, Principal

Our school on Albert St, Palmerston North was founded by the Mercy Sisters in 1958. Since then it has proudly provided Catholic Education for people in Palmerston North.

‘Veritatem Vivere – Live the Truth’ is our motto. Te Whakaruruhau – a haven, a place of refuge, a sheltering place is our essence.

St James’ is a family-friendly school. In partnership with the Cathedral parish team, we support and encourage families to encounter Christ and live authentic Catholic lives.

Our vision is to grow Catholic, Christian young people, who are confident, connected lifelong learners inspired by Jesus’ teachings, and who make a positive difference in their community. Our learning focus is strongly aligned with our SAINTS Gospel values: Strive – Wehi; Acceptance – Mauri; Integrity – Pono; Nurture – Mana; Talents – Ihi; and Service – Aroha.

Our staff are passionate and committed. Our current roll is 168 students and many of our new enrolments are from the Indian community. We have eight learning spaces, and around 80 per cent of our Year 6 leavers move on to St Peter’s College.

We support and encourage students to encounter Christ and live authentic Catholic lives.

We have a committed whānau-fanau parent group, a strong PTFA and a Board that provides steady governance. In 2021 we were blessed to have a new library built that is a fantastic new asset for teaching and learning. We plan an official opening and blessing early in Term 2.

We are a PB4L School [Positive Behaviour for Learning], which recognises and respects each person’s dignity as made in God’s image and likeness, and encourages learners to be self-managing, curious and diligent. We enjoy sports, science, arts and cultural learning. We support St Vincent de Paul and DRS Andrea Cawood leads our Young Vinnies group. We are members of our local Catholic Kāhui Āko.

St James’ is famous for its annual gala. For the first time ever it was unable to be held in 2020 but we are planning a big event for October this year.

I have been principal here for just over 18 months moving from St Matthew’s in Marton and benefitting greatly from former St James’ principals who have been faithful to our Mercy founders’ charism. St James’ has felt like coming home. I have every confidence St James’ will provide quality Catholic Education for many years to come.

Our Lady of Lourdes School

Caring for Creation at Our Lady of Lourdes School. Photo: OLOL Facebook

Te kura o to Matua Wahine o Ruata

Caroline Deazley-Gilligan, Principal

‘Mercy in action – to live, love, learn the mercy way.’

In 1894, a group of Sisters of Mercy from Wellington were invited to take charge of the Catholic school in Palmerston North. Srs Mechtilde, Aloysius, Stanislaus and Cecila Benbow set up a branch house, which began the Sisters’ many years of work in the Manawatu community. Over the years the Mercy Sisters taught in several schools, sharing their deep love for God with the children.

Mercy schools still open today are St Matthew’s in Marton; and Our Lady of Lourdes, St Mary’s, St James’ and St Peter’s in Palmerston North.

Our school was founded in 1951 by the Sisters and the Integration Agreement was signed on 30 June 1980. The Sisters’ legacy remains among three key words that highlight our aspirations for our tamariki – Encounter, Witness and Growth.

Our diverse community is rich in cultural heritage from our many Māori, NZ European/Pākahā, Pasifika and Asian families. We strive to provide the best possible education for our learners/ākonga in an environment that enables our tamariki to reach their full potential. ‘We are each made in the image and likeness of God’.

We are blessed to have our school/kura sited alongside our Catholic church/te whare karakia Katorika.

There is significant building modification for the first half of 2021 with six junior and middle-school classrooms undergoing major upgrades.

Outdoors, we have a large field, a junior and a senior playground, netball and tennis courts and a recently-upgraded swimming pool.

We provide a modern learning programme to enable our children to thrive in an everchanging world. Wellbeing and Hauora are a focus for our school community.


St Mary’s Catholic School Foxton

Students on a project supporting Caritas.

Mary Kleinsman-Powell, Principal

In the heart of Foxton stands our iconic kura, Hato Maria o te Awahou – St Mary’s Foxton. Founded in 1911 by the Brigidine Sisters, this U1 Catholic Integrated school is a integral part of the community. Alongside our historic gem of a church, we are known as a small beacon of light and hope to others, under the protection of Mother Mary and the Brigidine charism. The symbol of this charism is the Irish Brigidine cross that stands for a shield against poverty, fire and anything unsafe.

Our Catholic mission and vision is to always incorporate social justice values including Integrity, Dignity, Equity, Concern for the Poor and Vulnerable, Solidarity and Stewardship. This is alongside Cultural Inclusivity and Gospel Values: Love–Aroha; Courage–Kaha; Community–Whānau; and Service–Ratonga.

We are reminded daily we are all made in the image and likeness of Christ, no matter how vulnerable our families may be feeling. On our fence our Bible quote is a visible daily reminder, ‘Treasure in your heart all things.’ 

Our school is a taonga and although we are in danger of not having enough pupils due to the latest housing crisis around rental properties we are determined to let the world know we represent beautiful children and people. We have a big heart that makes a difference and responds to culture and the love of Christ no matter what.

Rippa Rugby.

If you think you can contribute in any way to helping promote and to save our school of service, we would love to hear from you. We are proud of our mana, our whanaungatanga, our manaakitanga and our kotahitanga with other local schools and the entire community. Our programmes are founded in our values; they are full of fun and laughter; they are innovative and progressive with small class sizes and a family atmosphere. Dare to dream a brighter future with us here at St Mary’s!


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