28 July 2017 » Home > The Quinn Years
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THE QUINN YEARS

The next parish priest was Father Michael Quinn. He was an Irishman who was also trained at All Hallows. He had served in a number of parishes and joined us from Papatoetoe. It was a real thrill for him to have, in a neighbouring parish, his own brother Charles Quinn at the parish of Christ the King. He was a quiet, self ­effacing man who had a ready ear for the needs of his parishioners, a very generous soul, and was particularly loved by so many families in the parish.

Father Rodgers retired in 1976 but continued to live in the old presbytery where he immensely enjoyed visits from the older parishioners, those who had pioneered the parish with him. About that time the parish council decided that the various families should take it in turn on a fairly regular basis to invite the parish priest for Sunday dinner. This proved an excellent way to foster a greater warmth between the parish and its priest. Father was an easy person to cook for and had a wealth of Irish jokes to whet the appetite for any meal. 

On two occasions the Quinn brothers took trips back to their beloved Ireland and it was then that the parish had relieving priests. The parish was indeed grateful to the priests who filled the breach. 

Hugh Kelly, who had almost single handedly looked after the counting of the collection money and administering the pledge envelopes since the inception of the system in the parish, passed away. Peter McConnell and Roy Butler took over this task; the former supplying the envelopes and the latter recording. Frank Donohoe began a new roster of counters. 

The Legion of Mary was reconvened under the leadership of Linda Kilkenny. Her helpers were P. Sharkey, J. Smyth, F. Hehepoto and Margaret McCarthy.

Joan Dunlop joined the parish from Ponsonby and using her expertise in upholstery, she made pew cushions. When Pope John-Paul II came to Auckland, Joan made special banners for the parish in gold and white to identify the parish members at the domain gathering to welcome the Pope. Val McConnell kindly took responsibility for the church flower arrangements. Any help is gratefully received. 

Gertie Le Sueur was for many years the sacristan and kept the altarboys in check. Her strict glance quickly silenced any chatter. The ladies of the parish used to meet in the parish hall for keep fit sessions. Val McConnell, Margaret Farnan, Maude McCartney, Gertie Le Sueur, Lorraine Smith and many others took advantage of this opportunity provided by Margaret's sister-in-law, Peggie Clarke. It was a lot of fun.

Changes were made at Easter time. The custom of the priest washing the feet of representatives of the parish began and continues to this day. For a couple of years too there were Seder meals on Holy Thursday but this experiment lapsed. George Askew and Gertie Le Sueur were among the first readers at Mass and are easily remembered for the clarity of their diction. For a number of years it was felt that the nave of the church was impractical as it had only one central aisle. This fault was remedied by shortening the pews and by creating two side aisles. This meant less congestion for the reception of Holy Communion and for receiving the ashes on Ash Wednesday.

Perhaps the most dramatic changes in the school occurred in the mid 70's. The Catholic schools were all integrated into the state system of education. This meant that staff salaries were paid and so there was more financial flexibility. The school had never employed a caretaker. Admittedly Cyril Schischka had kept a watchful eye on things but it was Father Quinn who first appointed Tom Kilkenny as caretaker, a job he was to hold for some 16 years.

Monte Cecilia school now came under the aegis of the Josephite order. This meant that a car was bought to transport the sisters who were staffing Monte. The principals of Saint Therese school during this period were sisters Margaret Mary Dwane and Margaret James. 

Another innovation was that a pastoral assistant was appointed. Sister Johanna was an Irish sister of the Holy Faith Congregation who continued to wear her full habit. She was indefatigable and managed to visit every Catholic household in the parish either walking or driving her Toyota. She was much admired and set the highest standards for her two followers: Sisters Colette and Margaret Mary. The number of parishioners from the islands continued to grow, and Father Quinn encouraged their full participation in the parish. So it was that the Tongan and Samoan communities lead the singing with their ethnic choirs at the second Mass on a fairly regular basis. Their natural ability to sing strongly is much admired.

In response to a plea for help from the Franciscan Friars a group of ladies of the parish go to the friary twice a week, normally before and after the weekend retreats, to prepare and tidy up the rooms for the retreatants. This is voluntary work given freely and generously. Each year the friars show their appreciation with a special banquet which is certainly much appreciated by the faithful band of ladies, who included Val McConnell, Julia Kelly, Thelma Smolenski, Lorraine Smith, Marissa Travaglia and Joan O'Connor.

Father Quinn's health was indifferent and he found the changes in society distressing. The loss of his brother left a grieving sorrow in his heart. "The old order changeth yielding place to new" but Tennyson was not a source of comfort. He was disturbed by the pro-abortion campaign, by the Socialists sweeping to power and by the changes in the religious orders. He retired but waited for his replacement to return from Bologna. There seemed to be a hiccup in communication and nobody seemed sure whether the replacement was coming or not. A beautifully warm and sincere farewell was given to Father Quinn in the parish hall. There was no doubt that he left on a wave of popularity.


Father shifted into a small house in Mangere so that he could be chaplin at Middlemore Hospital. The property had few enormous trees which needed felling and a house that needed tidying so the McConnell family spent several weekends helping Father to settle in. However, weariness of spirit overtook him and six days before Christmas he passed away.   .

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