St Patrick’s Church in Waipawa, Central Hawke’s Bay, will be the centre of celebrations over Anzac weekend, 23–25 April this year, to commemorate 150 years since the first Catholic church was dedicated in the district in 1871.
During its long history St Patrick’s has been a focal point for many families. The parish invites those families and their descendants, as well as past pupils, teachers, and Religious of St Columba’s School, to return for this special celebration.
Waipawa is the oldest inland town in New Zealand, dating from 1860.
There have been three churches on the site over the 150 years since the first church. Fr Reignier, who from 1851–1871 periodically trekked from his Meanee Mission station to minister to Māori and the growing number of Catholic settler families in the Waipawa District, instigated the building of the first church. He wrote to Suzanne Aubert in 1870, ‘I’m building a chapel over here’. That chapel, the first St Patrick’s church, was dedicated by Bishop Viard on April 16, 1871.
The arrival of a resident priest Fr McGuinness in 1879 created the first Catholic parish in the district. People travelled great distances to Sunday Mass and eventually when the church was too small for the increasing population, it was moved to the back of the property and used as a schoolroom. A new larger church was built around 1890.
This second church was destroyed by fire during the night of March 30, 1920. People of all denominations from throughout the district rallied to raise funds to build the present church, designed to look like St Mary of the Angels Church in Wellington. It was opened debt free in 1921.
St Patrick’s Church withstood the 1931 Hawke’s Bay Earthquake and stands today as a testimony to the faith of those earlier hard-working generations.
The 2021 anniversary programme includes an opening event on Friday evening 23 April with a ‘meet and greet’, as a chance for many to reunite, and a book launch at the historic Waipawa Municipal Theatre.
Saturday’s programme includes morning tea, a cemetery tour, and dinner. A special Mass will be celebrated at St Patrick’s Church at 4.30pm by Cardinal John Dew – who grew up in neighbouring Waipukurau. Parish priest Fr Paul Kerridge and visiting priests will co-celebrate.
Organisers are gathering history, information and stories to produce an anniversary book. They wish to contact and hear from as many interested families and individuals as possible who can share stories.
For more information and to register attendance, please contact Sue Cullen, ph 021 232 9516, email [email protected] or Jo McGowan ph 021 171 3189, email [email protected]