A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Marist Messenger — the Beginning

by the Editor

The Marist Messenger, with Fr Kevin McGrath SM as the editor, began life as The Empire Fetelist in a very modest way in St Heliers, Auckland, in November 1929. The old-fashioned term ‘fetelist’ meant something like ‘an advertisement for a fete’, in this case, the ‘Empire Fete’, to be held on 14 December. The advertisement read,

Here’s a true tonic. Nine stalls laden with good things. Sports, Decorated Vehicles and other competitions, Baby Show, Band in attendance. (No reflection on the babies.) Fun for everybody. The one and only place for December 14th – Mr M Walsh’s grounds, Kohimarama.

The magazine was delivered to ‘The Householder’, with postage paid, and ‘With the Compliments of the St Ignatius Church Committee’. The opening paragraph, headed ‘Our Name and Aim’, was as follows:

The Empire Fetelist, with a message to the Catholic people of Tamaki, for whom it is specially intended and whose interests it will represent, in this its first number introduces itself to a wider public of proven generosity. Should anyone reproach the Editor for intruding its interests into every home in the district, remembering the many kindnesses shown on all sides for months past, he can only say in excuse you began it.

On page 2 of the four-page publication, the following is of historical interest:

Bishop Henry William Cleary

Fr Kevin McGrath SM

To the Right Rev. Dr. Cleary, Bishop of Auckland, the parish acknowledges a deep debt of gratitude for so unexpectedly and fully providing for our spiritual care, long before our numbers and financial strength gave us hope of any such recognition. By giving the church to a missionary order (the Society of Mary) His Lordship has conferred a singular boon on the Catholic residents. As it is the Bishop’s ardent wish to see the diocesan journal THE MONTH in every home in the parish, it gives us great pleasure to urge in the interests of everyone that this excellent paper be given a universal welcome.

There follows a brief history of the Church in New Zealand and in the St Heliers’ area, with mention of Father Garin SM, and of parish missions conducted by Marist Frs McCarthy and and Spillane, the latter joining with Fr McGrath to take charge of the parish in March, 1929. It goes on to note that Bishop Cleary decided on the parish boundaries in September, and to record the first baby born within the new parish boundaries, Marie Pauline Monaghan (‘We extend to the little lady a cordial welcome’); the first marriage, that of Eva Margaret Bradley to David Alexander Hipkins; and the first death, Mrs Mary Josephine Cooper.

The magazine carried thirty advertisements (!), which almost certainly covered the cost of printing, and readers were urged to support the advertisers, as ‘Only worth-while Professional Men and Tradesmen get the nod from us. Be sure and tell them we told you about them’.

There was no formal jokes’ section, but MM readers will possibly recognise a foreshadowing of the Can You Bear It page in a paragraph under the heading of ‘Christmas Cake’: Take no chances with this important item. Mrs Main will execute your order (not you), and all profits will go to the cake stall ...; and, under the heading ‘Strictly Personal’: While Mrs Main is acting as Minister of Internal Affairs, Mrs Monaghan ... is busy with External Affairs. Shirts and pyjamas are the ‘long suit,’ and those who know say ‘Men swear – by her men’s wear.’

The second and final edition of The Empire Fetelist, 6 pages long, hit the church porches in January 1930. Under the heading ‘Our Dead Chieftain’, it paid tribute to Bishop Cleary, who had died on 9 December 1929: In deepest sorrow we would lay our humble wreath on that grave of many flowers, which enfolds all that was mortal of our dear dead Bishop, it began.

The next heading, ‘Landmarks of Grace’, dealt with First Communion, the Holy Name Society, the Children of Mary, Stations of the Cross, Apostleship of Prayer, Church Services and Consecration of Homes. There were also articles about The Empire Fete, the Coronation Concert and Our School, and among the many advertisements, one for Corban’s Invalid Port!

And readers were advised that the Fetelist would become The Marist Messenger for its next issue, and ‘subscriptions at the rate of 2/- per year post free’ were solicited. And so the Marist Messenger began!   

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