A Catholic Monthly Magazine

The Restoration of St Patrick’s Church, Akaroa

Fr Paul Shannahan sm

The iconic St Patrick’s Church on Rue Lavaud, Akaroa, is to receive a major restoration. The 153 year-old category 1 Historic Church was built in 1864 by Irishman Patrick Joseph Cullen, funded by the Apostle of Canterbury, Fr Jean-Baptiste Chataigner sm, and has served the Catholic community all that time and is still doing so.

St Patrick’s Church is open every day and all day. In the summer months, hundreds of people make visits each day, taking up the new roadside invitation to ‘make a visit, light a candle, say a prayer,’ especially when the busy cruise ship season is at its peak. It must be one of the most photographed churches in New Zealand. The well-used visitors’ book carries comments such as ‘so peaceful and beautiful; a lovely sanctuary; delightful.’

However, getting to the stage of a full restoration has been full of delays. Action was imminent in 2012 but the Christchurch earthquake pushed it off the diocesan radar screen as destroyed and damaged churches in the city took priority.

But the local parish committee pressed ahead with getting engineering and heritage assessments and their persistence has led the new Christchurch Catholic Diocesan Management team to take over the project. They have recently been successful in getting final resource consent from the Christchurch City Council, which was concerned to see this treasured heritage church fully and correctly renovated.

Age and the elements over the past 153 years have meant much of the Church has to be replaced or renewed. Borer has fed on much of the timber, the roof needs to be completely replaced and some earthquake damage to the tower needs to be repaired. The estimated cost is $810.000, a tall order for the small number of resident Catholics of Akaroa! The Parish has been challenged to raise $260,000, and an all-out effort is being made to achieve that under the direction of a professional organisation called ‘Askright’ that the late Bishop Barry Jones DD engaged.

Campaign committee members have been visiting every known Catholic in the area, and another team in Christchurch has been calling on people who own holiday homes here.

The Church will be closed soon for perhaps four or five months. Our Sunday 9.30 am Mass will be celebrated in the nearby Trinity Church Hall – thanks to the spontaneous agreement of their leadership. The good will existing between the different denominations in Akaroa will be furthered by this genial cooperation, and even deepened by the plan to have divine worship at the same time and then share food and fraternity afterwards.

The St Patrick's parish Fundraising Team:
Back: John Bowden, Ged Foley (Chairman),
Fr Paul Shannahan sm, Patsy Little,
Front: Robin Jones, Kevin McSweeney, Janis Haley
Absent: Bernie Rennell

Parishioners John O’Connell and Bernie Rennell setting up new signage

Good news arrived recently from Heritage NZ, who had been approached to assist us in funding the restoration. They have set aside $200,000 towards the estimated cost of $810,000. A real boost for us here. However, we are required to do our part and find that $260.000. It would be most appreciated if you could ‘give a little or give a lot.’ Details can be found on the enclosed brochure or by going to our website www.akaroacatholicparish.co.nz. 

There you will see many photos of St Patrick’s, as well as the Renovation and Donations section. It would be wonderful if you can come to the rescue of this historic church and its people.

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