A Catholic Monthly Magazine

MM 50 Years Ago

First Mass, and First Christian Service, in Aotearoa New Zealand

In our issue for May, 1967, Professor John Dunmore, of Massey University, an authority on the French explorers of the Pacific, first proposed the view that the first Mass (and, ecumenically speaking, the first Christian service) in New Zealand, was said by the Dominican chaplain of de Surville’s ship, Saint Jean-Baptiste, at Christmas, 1769, at Doubtless Bay, not far from Kaitaia. (This was 45 years before Rev. Samuel Marsden’s Christmas sermon to the Māori in 1814 that was recalled by the 1964 postage stamp).

The Messenger was thus the first to have put this view in print. Only this year has Professor Dunmore’s precise point about the first Mass been taken up by a learned Paris review devoted to Pacific studies. An article in the Journal de la Société des Océanistes deals expressly with Father Antoine Léonard de Villefeix OP, and the first Mass in NZ exactly 200 years ago this Christmas.  

December 1969

Editor’s Note: the February 2020 MM will carry a more recent article by Emeritus Professor John Dunmore on NZ’s first Mass.

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