A Catholic Monthly Magazine

St Joseph’s 

The Pride of South Canterbury

The first church in Temuka, South Canterbury, was established with the arrival of the Marist, Fr. Louis Fauvel SM. It was a simple wooden building with a shingle roof, built as waves of settlers came into the area.

In 1879, Fr Henneberry OSD, the famous missionary, visited. He encouraged locals to build a new church that would be “The Pride of South Canterbury”. Within a day, two thirds of the cost had been raised and the land gifted by a local landowner. 

St Joseph’s then ...

St. Joseph’s was officially opened in 1882. This beautiful Gothic church was based on Fr. Fauvel’s home church in Normandy and made of native Black Pine and Kakahu limestones. These were carted 22km from the Waitohi quarry with the help of local Presbyterians. Key features include bells cast in New York, a working mechanical clock from London, and its chief glory, the 31-piece stained-glass windows commissioned from France, made possible by donors whose names still show beneath each window. 

Fr. Fauvel served Temuka parish for 28 years and was instrumental in bringing the Sisters of St. Joseph from Australia.

After hearing of the Sisters’ work in rural Australia, he convinced then Mother Superior, Mary Mackillop to provide education for children from the rapidly growing families in Temuka. The first three sisters arrived the same year that the church was completed. St. Mary MacKillop would have prayed in St. Joseph’s for her mission and for the people of the area. 

Sisters of St Joseph in the South Island with St Mary Mackillop front, centre,
during her first visit to New Zealand, 10 January 1895

St. Joseph’s is an example of how faith and generosity make great things happen. Built in a time of scarcity, by a congregation of migrants, construction would have been long and hard, using picks and shovels, wheelbarrows, horses and drays, with the foundations alone requiring over 500 cubic meters of concrete. 

Today, the church is home to 200 parishioners and regularly used by locals and children from the nearby Catholic primary school. The church remains open all day for anyone to stop by and pray. 

… and now

After 129 years of service, St Joseph’s sustained damage following the 2011 earthquake. Severe structural weaknesses and cracks have been found in the body of the church, the bell tower and window frames. Initial work including the removal of the spire allowed the church to be partially reopened. However, as time passes these problems are worsening with the overall condition of the building. 

Parishioners of The Parish of St Mary Mackillop, Opihi,
with Bishop Paul Martin SM and Parish Priest Fr Francis Joseph Arackaparambil

The scale of work required means it will cost $2,074,000 to strengthen and restore St. Joseph’s so that it can be fully reopened. Despite hurdles and delays brought by COVID-19, parishioners have already raised over $400,000 toward the $1,000,000 needed. Work is scheduled to start next year but funding is urgently needed from the wider community. It is hoped that readers of the Marist Messenger will consider helping preserve this important heritage church for future generations.

To find out more or to make a donation please use the brochure enclosed or email Sharon Lee at campaign@cdoc.nz or call 03 366 9869.

Thank you from the parishioners of St Mary MacKillop parish!

Parishioners of The Parish of St Mary Mackillop, Opihi,
with Bishop Paul Martin Marist Priests in Temuka from 1876-1957

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