28 July 2017 » Home > Year 1946 - 1960
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IN THE BEGINNING


The First Labour Government which was determined to provide modest and affordable housing, embarked on a great building programme immediately prior to the war and, indeed, continued the policy during the war years. As the war drew to a close, it was obvious that the Balmoral parish of Good Shepherd would spawn another parish. It was to the credit of Dean Murphy that part of a farm, known locally as Peck's Paddocks, on the south side of Mt Albert Road was purchased. War-time restrictions and shortages caused problems but the Dean and his assistant, Father Lenihan, canvassed donations, organised fund­raising endeavours and rallied the true pioneering spirit of working bees. The early pioneers gave of their time, their sweat, their labour, their supply of fresh scones; each contributed, each happy to build a new parish.

1946

On March 31, 1946, Bishop James Liston celebrated the first Mass in the parish of Saint Therese at 9.30 a.m.The founding priest, Father Joe Rodgers, was stationed at the presbytery of St Benedict's. It must have been a truly moving occasion for him because it was the beginning of four decades spent in this new parish. It was a humble beginning but so was the start of Christ's life in a humble stable. The church itself was a Y.M.C.A. hut from the military camp; the pews were backless benches of pine and the kneelers were non-existent. Yet, for the 180 people present, the fact that the parish had officially begun was a cause of intense pride. The first person to be baptised was Jillian Mathews and the first nuptials in the parish were for Jean Stubbs and Allan Chapman.

Before long the bishop wrote to Bob Semple, the Minister of Public Works, asking to purchase over an acre of the land the government had bought from the Wesley Training College Board for further state housing. This request was conceded and 4 acres 3 roods were purchased the following year at a cost of 1280 pounds. A further 2.5 acres were purchased in 1950 for 465 pounds. It was opportune buying and ensured the growth of a parish and school community.  

In May of the same year 53 children were enrolled by Sister Norbert and Sister Agneta. Reading the surnames of the first pupils brings back memories. Some families shifted away while others remained in the parish for years and are easily recalled. Do you remember these names: Music, Mallinson, the Wareing and the Nicholson girls, Cook, Bishop, Courtney, Collett, Topliss, Boreham, Bosley, Dick, Pedlar, Le Sueur, Scully, Gawne, Marsh, Pearson? The two Josephite sisters were stationed at St Benedict's and took the tram daily to the old tram terminus at the junction of Mt Albert Road. They then walked from the terminus to the parish school and at the end of a full working day faced the lengthy return trip to Symonds Street. This was pioneering spirit in action and worthy of the founder of the Josephite order, Blessed Mary MacKillop.  

The church itself doubled as parish convent school at that time. This meant that on Sunday afternoons all pews had to be stacked under the church and the desks set up for classes. The latter were removed on Saturday and replaced by the pews in readiness for the Sunday services. The effort and physical struggle appears daunting to us today yet such a challenge was generously taken up by the early parishioners. One recalls some of the names of those tireless men:

Jim McConnell, Captain Kennedy, Dinny Sullivan, Chas O'Connor, Herb Moran, Brian Weaver, Cyril Law and Cyril Schischka.

The children were quickly taught their catechism and no doubt can still patter off the responses to the theological questions. So when their preparation was completed, the children received their First Holy Communion. In those days there was no parish hall so Mr Wareing, a non-Catholic who had two daughters at the school, kindly offered the fire station on Mt Albert Road for the children's party. One wonders what would have happened had there been an emergency call. No doubt the children would have taken it in their stride especially the boys who were well used to chasing cows which had strayed onto the school grounds back to the paddocks where Bremner Avenue now is.

1951

At the time that the state housing was further developed in Bremner and Milliken Avenues, another 3.5 acres were purchased for the sum of 600 pounds. The ever generous Tom Locke built a four-roomed school block in fibrolite and the basement was used as a clubroom. The playground was asphalted and doubled as a carpark for the parishioners attending Mass. The opening of the new school block on April 8 was a grand affair. Archbishop McKee fry of Wellington, Bishop Kavanagh of Dunedin as well as Archbishop Liston of Auckland attended. It was a considerable achievement to have a building used exclusively for a church. Paths, playing grounds, fields and parking areas were formed; debts were liquidated; and a sense of real achievement and pride permeated the youthful parish. Names of the old identities in the parish come to mind such as Zita Nicholson, Pat and Joan Molloy, Thelma and Stan Smolenski, Jim and Val McConnell, Tom and Alma Greaney, Mrs Chris Bolton, Mrs Erin Leslie, Mrs Bosley, the Matthews family, Bill and Marie Kennedy, Hugh and Julia Kelly, the Tollichs, the Draffins, Jack and Betty Hawkins, etc. The list seems never-ending!

1952 

Yet pride comes before a fall- a whirlwind in May 1952 lifted a seventy foot wide section off the school roof and dashed our pride. The forlorn building featured in The Auckland Star and the insurance covered the 500 pound damage. There was a deep sense of personal dismay and loss. However the parish restored the building and the sisters continued their lessons with renewed energy. Records show that there were three nuns: Sisters Norbert, Philomena and Michael who had the responsibility of teaching 151 pupils. No mean feat at all. The following year the roll had burgeoned to 160. Sister Aloysius joined the staff but Sister Philomena was transferred. There was a desperate plea for an increase in the teaching staff, but how often have teachers in the private and the state sectors been promised unrealised relief!

In October a property at 465 Mt Albert Road was offered for sale, so without hesitation George Joseph and Tom Locke viewed the house and paid a deposit of 100 pounds to secure it. This meant that Father Joseph Rodgers, who had since 1946 rented a house at 48 Balmoral Road, could now become a resident priest. In fact, the presbytery was to be his home for the rest of his life.

1953

Good times and bad often come together and so it was in August. The parishes of Henderson and Papakura joined us to launch the Weekly Raffle. It was an immediate and spectacular success to all three parishes. It was a boon beyond all expectations and provided a healthy fund for future building development. It was not achieved without the absolute loyalty, persistance and energy of the raffle book sellers. Does anybody really enjoy trying to sell off books of raffle tickets especially after weeks and weeks of doing so. Yet the parishioners showed the grit of those pioneering days. They had a goal; they realized their targets. The feast of the Assumption, which is normally a festive day in the liturgical calendar, was the harbinger of grief and dismay. Our parish priest was struck down by spinal meningitis which he is said to have contracted in the confessional. He made slow progress but when he returned to his beloved flock, his hearing and of course his balance were impaired. During this worrying period the parish was well served by Father John Mackey, who was later to become the bishop of Auckland until, in his turn, he suffered a serious health problem. It was at that time that Peter McConnell became the regular and often sole altarboy at the first Mass on Sundays. This role was to last some four years. Michael Farnan and Brian O'Connor were also altarboys in the fifties.

1954

The sisters continued their daily expedition from St Benedict's in fine weather and foul. Imagine the daily trudge along the windswept Mt Albert Road, in full habit and laden with teaching materials! But this year was one long prayed for and the credit is claimed by Sister Norbert. She is reputed to have placed a religious medal under the hedge next to the school just before she was transferred to Matamata. In November 1954, the home of Mr and Mrs Wareing in 7 Frost Road came on the market and was snapped up by the parish for three thousand pounds. The valiant and tireless sisters had at last come to stay.

There were now 192 pupils at the school and the resident staff were Sisters Josephine, Celine, Andrew and the postulant, Bernadette. The following year another sister made her presence felt. She appeared to be scurrying to Mass but seemed to have a cold disposition. Yes, a statue of St Therese was erected to the immediate right hand side of the church entrance. The original statue is metal and much smaller. It stands in the gardens of the Villa of the Propaganda College at Albano in Italy. Our version still stands as a reminder to attend Mass and to arrive on time.

1955

In
the new year the parish was honoured in welcoming an assistant priest to help Father Rodgers. He was a young, unassuming Irish priest who had a sweet tooth and although he found delivering sermons a gigantic chore, his quiet and sincere homeliness made him a popular priest in our parish. Father Hugh Smith was able to visit the parishioners initially on foot and later by bike. It was a shame that he could not have a motorbike as did his brother, who was assistant priest at the parish of St Benedict's.

The Vincent de Paul Society was founded. The society has a long and varied history in our parish. Names of members over the years include: Mesdames Phillips, Stevens, Travaglia, Harvey, Lorraine Smith, Gertie Le Sueur, Des Sarsfield and Vince Stevens. This society has helped the needy in the parish and visited the prisoners in gaol.


March 13, 1955 was a red letter day; it saw the opening of the new church. George Tole designed and Tom Locke built a new nave at right angles to the old army surplus hut which now became the sanctuary, sacristy and the side altars. The modem echelon style with a huntly brick interior and beautiful parquet floor in the sanctuary together with a pleasant choice of pine, sycamore and rimu breathed a feeling of achievement, repose, quiet and prayer. The well-chosen Latin quotes from the psalms call us constantly to prayer. The cost of the new church was some 6000 pounds while the furniture added another 2000 pounds. An exquisite stained glass window featuring the nativity scene with the Magi underlined the fact that we are the Three Kings parish. There is therefore a marriage of the geographical and theological themes. This was the masterful work of the Dutchman, Martin Roestenburg. He was an expert in glass work, a painter in oils and an inspired teacher. He was later to become the curator of the Palmerston North Gallery but sadly passed away in the mid 60's. So impressed was the nation with this large full length window that it was reproduced in the 1973 Christmas stamp issue, when there was a campaign to put Christ back into Christmas.

In the same year further additions were made to the presbytery. This was to provide a flat for May Harris who was Father Rodgers' housekeeper from 1946 until her death in 1966.

1956

This year saw another building programme. A modern toilet block and two spacious classrooms, both in brick, were erected. These were necessary additions because the school roll had increased to 350 pupils. September of that year witnessed an extraordinarily large number of confirmations taking place. 180 were confirmed.

1958

The building fever continued. The convent was enlarged to afford accommodation for three more sisters and in August the men of the parish crowned all this rich endeavour by building the parish hall mainly from voluntary labour. It was a solid, attractive, aesthetically pleasing hall and, to boot, was the largest parish hall in the diocese.

The St Therese bowling club was started. Ada Phillips, Gertie Le Sueur, Cyril Schischka, Norma and Dennis Sullivan, Bill Croul, W. Moyle, W. Fugue, J. Lawson, B. Boreham, L.Wright, M.Comrie, and J.Hawkins were some of the keenest players. The honours board in the parish hall provides an excellent record of the office bearers and champions of the bowling club and is well worth consulting. Mr Sullivan always played a very important role in the parish as manager of the hall, collector, builder, and fair committee man. In fact he exemplified many of the original parishioners. He and they gave generously of their time and expertise.

In twelve years the embryonic parish of St Therese on an exposed hill overlooking farm paddocks, a babe in swaddling clothes, had grown into a strong and youthful parish with an important cluster of debt-free buildings boasting a church, a convent, a presbytery, a school, and a parish hall. In turn, it became the mother church for a daughter parish of St John Vianney, which was built on land acquired in Hillsborough. Twelve years of growth; years of toil and endeavour.

There was growth and expertise on the playing field too. The school's 14th grade rugby team coached by John Moran won its grade championships.

1960

Financing the parish and diocesan schools was becoming an increasingly worrying burden. The inability of religious orders to provide teachers in the schools meant the increasing employment of lay teachers. This development was of considerable importance but it came as another financial burden. Election campaigns were used to gain sympathy and promises from the politicians but it was not until integration that the schools found real relief. The early days of the Weekly Raffle were highly successful but after two years it was less popular and returns dwindled considerably. Yet the parish had mortgages to clear, deferred maintenance to attend to and improvements needed to be made. Clearly the parish was in financial stress.
It was at this time that a new system was introduced, a method of planned giving, known as "The Pledge System". This meant that the parish had a good general knowledge of what income it would likely receive over a period of three years. Men such as: J. Rosser, W. Robinson, D. Joseph, and N. Bell led the campaign and headed a faithful group to invite personally all parishioners to a parish meal at the Manhattan Rooms at Dominion Road. There was a real family feeling at the festive gathering; the pledge system was launched; almost 13000 pounds was pledged over three years; the parish was well and truly put on its feet.

When Father Smith was transferred to another parish, Father Pierre Denzil Meuli replaced him as assistant priest. He was an earnest curate who prepared his written sermons meticulously. Although tending to be lengthy, they showed remarkable erudition. After only a short sojourn in the parish, he left for further study and experience in Italy. Buona Viaggia!

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