A WORD FROM OUR PARISH PRIEST
It would be ideal to write this chapter with a short resume of those members of this parish who have taken religious vows, or been ordained to the priesthood. But sadly that is not possible.
The pride of every parish is its past parishioners who have received and answered the call from God to serve people in this special ministry of religious life or diocesan priesthood.
Has God passed us over here in Glen Eden? Have we been lacking in our approach to the young members of our parish in promoting vocations?
This jubilee is the ideal time to examine this area of our parish life. We do not have to look back and see if, or where we went wrong. But we must look to the next fifty years and take definite positive steps toward providing shepherds for the church both here, in New Zealand and overseas.
Our parish is fifty years young this year making 2008 an opportune time to put things in place to redress this dearth of young people offering themself as religious Sisters, Brothers or priests. Let us put in place some definite actions as part of our celebrations – providing opportunities for our young people to have these vocations very much in their minds while they are discerning their future.
There are a number of positive things in place this year which should help with discernment.
Firstly, twenty-eight of our young parishioners have taken part actively in the World Youth Day. What an opportunity this has been! To travel together with close on 4000 other New Zealander’s to meet up with Catholics of so many different backgrounds and cultures: to sit at the feet of qualified catechists and learn of the Holy Spirit’s place in their lives.
Surely this is the chance for the grace of the Holy Spirit to find fertile ground for thought and commitment. And what a great sense of solidarity they have all felt – that the one faith is believed and practised in all these different countries. That religious and priestly vocations are very much part of the church’s life.
And nothing can match their being in the presence of the Holy Father, benedict XVI, a father to us all. His words of encouragement must surely awaken us to the need of providing workers in our church who will continue providing the sacramental life for people.
The spirit of the World Youth Day Pilgrimage must burn brightly for the years to come, continuing to enflame our youth with a desire to give themselves for others.
This year also sees the increased involment of the youth in the liturgy of our parish. All new readers at the Sunday masses will now be twenty-one years of age and under. This lets the youth know that they are valued and needed in the parish. Their added input giving the introduction and welcome at our masses – along with gospel re-enactments – brings a renewed vitality to us all.
Secondly, our jubilee grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes is becoming popular as a shrine for devotion to Mary. The masses, and rosary and prayers on the hour, every first Saturday of the mouth are offered for vocations. Our patron, Mary, will surely hear our prayers and provide our youngsters with food for thought.
Our jubilee is not just a celebration of mixing and meeting old friends. We hope there will be lasting good effects that come from it in the way of vocations. The parish retreat conducted by Bishop Leonard Bolyle has renewed us spiritually and the presence of the three bishops is a tangible reminder of the place the sacrament of Orders has in the life of the parish.
And the Jubilee Foundation that will continually provide fees for a student from this parish to attend Good Shepherd College will be an extra incentive to students selecting religious studies with a view to participate in the life of the church as priests, religious or lay people.
AND YOU THINK YOU’VE GOT IT TOUGH!
All credit to our foundation parishioners who showed true mettle over fifty years ago when a church had yet to be built in Glen Eden and the nearest services where held at St Mary’s Church in Avondale.
People like Jack and Pat Devereux who moved to live in Kaurilands Rd in May 1955.
They, like many others, got themselves organised early on a Sunday to walk the mile or so to te Glen Eden township where a bus vapid be caught to Avondale.
Public transport was unreliable and it was not uncommon for those making the journey to arrive some ten minutes after Mass had started.
Turning up late often meant being forced to stand outside the little Avondale church – later used a hall when a bigger version was built – huddled a porch while straining to hear the services within. Rainy days were worse and occasionally an unfortunate parishioner would fall in the mud surrounded the front entrance.
“We only saw the inside of the church as we went to receive communion”, the Devereux’s say. Then it was off to catch the bus again followed by another mile walk home”.
Frustrated parishioners petitioned Archbishop James Michael Liston for action and arrangements were made for services to be held in the Glen Eden Town Hall and cinema which was later converted for use as a live theatre venue. The situation wasn’t perfect and many people had to stand on sloping floors designed for seated movie buffs. But few complained. “We were absolutely delighted”, says Pat Wojcik and her husband stun – foundation parishioners who’d grown wary of the long and arduous weekly trip to Avondale. “It was just a short walk away from home”. Finally, early I 1958, Glen Eden was declared a parish in its own right – taking in the surrounding suburbs of Kellston, Oratia and the west coast beaches. All it needed was a church, a presbytery, a whole lot of enthusiasm and priest.
OUR FOUNDING FATHER
The New Zealand government committed the first of its troops to war torn Vietnam in 1962 amidst a wave of controversy.
One of the first Kiwi soldiers to fall was Corporal Maurice Manton of Glen Eden, a veteran of the earlier Malayan conflict, whom died on September 2, 1967, after stepping on a landmine.
Corporal Manton’s body was carried out of the jungle by his colleagues and returned home to his family. His funeral, celebrated at Our Lady of Lourdes, attracted a lot of attention when anti-war sentiment was growing.
Three volleys of rifle fire in the car park marked the close of Mass and a lone bugler played the last post as Corporal Manton’s coffin was carried from the church by army pallbearers, placed on a gun carriage, and transported to Waikumete cemetery for burial.
Fr Peter Battersby
The celebrant, Fr Peter Battersby, was no stranger to military life, having served as an army and air force chaplain overseas during the World War Two in places like Guadalcanal. He also worked as a navy chaplain while based at St Patrick’s Cathedral after the war.
Full Name Maurice Jude Manton, Rank Last Held Corporal, Forename(s) Maurice Jude, Surname Manton, Also Known As Morrie, War Regular Military Service Vietnam War, 1961-1975
Serial No. 346598 - Gender Male - Date of Birth 8 June 1938, Religion Roman Catholic - First Known Rank Corporal - Occupation before Enlistment Soldier, Embarkation Unit V1 (Victor 1) Company, 1st Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment (1RNZIR) - Last Unit Served Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment, 1 Battalion, Victor 1 Company - Place of Death Lonmg Green area, Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam - Date of Death 2 September 1967, Age at Death 29 - Year of Death 1967 - Cause of Death Killed in action - Cemetery Name Waikumete Cemetery, Glen Eden, Auckland, New Zealand
Grave Reference Roman Catholic Berm B Row 5, Plot 14 - Memorial Name Sacred Heart College Roll of Honour - Biographical Notes Attended Sacred Heart College 1952-53
Killed in action by a land mine, Listed in the ANZAC Battalion Roll of Honour - Memorial Flag - Presented to family - Formerly buried with a civilian headstone fellow soldiers Brian Wilson, Graeme Turvey, Raymond Beatson and James Bell erected a headstone that commemorated his service and death in Vietnam.
Further References VietnamWar.govt.nz www.vietnamwar.govt.nz
Fr Peter Battersby was born in Huntly on Ju;y 1, 1915 and trained for the priesthood at Holy Cross College, Mosgiel before being ordained on December 17, 1939 in Hamilton.
His first appointment was at Avondale where he stayed for a short period until his shift into the armed forces. He returned from the war and worked as a curate in the Huntly parish from 1946 before being transferred to St Patricks Cathedral as navy chaplain in the Apostleship of the Sea in 1950.
View down West Coast Rd towards Scott Rd, Glen Eden
Fr Battersby was 43 years old when, on July 20, 1958, he arrived in Glen Eden with instructions to set up a new parish. A site had already been identified at Pleasant Rd where land with an old house on it was bequeathed to the church a number of years earlier. But the property had its limitations and parishioners felt there was no room for expansion.
The land was sold and the money set aside for construction of a church once a better prospect emerged. The existing three hectors location came on the market around the time of Fr Battersby’s appointment and was bought after an inspection by Archbishop Liston during an unexpected visit out west. Fundraising, already underway for a number of years, picked up pace and early parishioners made weekly contributions – hoping they might also collect enough money to build a catholic school.
Plans for the school were first mooted by those in the parish who had large families.
Money was definitely a problem but the biggest obstacle was a failure to persuade any of the teaching orders to settle in the suburb.
Two orders of nuns were approached but both said no – citing strained resources and the lack of vocations within their religious communities. Disappointed parishioners cheered when their long awaited church building started to take shape through the work of the Hillsborough Construction Company. The company was set up by West Aucklander Graham Martin to build churches and associated buildings throughout the region at reasonable cost.
Graham, who died in 1973, was among the first of Glen Eden’s church goers to get the building project rolling. He had a background in carpentry and was well known in the area for his involvement with several community groups, including the RSA.
The Church foundation stone was laid and blessed on May 1, 1960 by Archbishop Liston and the finished building was ready for use a couple of months before Christmas.
Graham’s workers, including foreman Jack Moloney, laboured long hours alongside parishioners to get the job done as quickly as possible.
Another of his helpers, Dave Moir, made all of the wooden appetences inside the building – donating both the timber and his hours free of charge. The wooden cross above the altar was among his creations and the figure of Jesus that later complemented it was donated by the late Norah and Harold Richton. Others were equally generous
The figures of Our Lady and St Bernadette on the front of the church were given by Robert Covich, his wife Maria and the late Fr Joe Maguire – a curate at Avondale who was later parish priest at Balmoral.
The statue of Our Lady – now kept in the grotto, and a similarly sized depiction of the Sacred Heart were gifted by parishioners who asked to remain anonymous and the vesting bench in the sacristy was the work of Bob Mayne. Fr Battersby was always there at the forefront – giving advice and input where he saw fit. Some people wanted a separate space for noisy infants incorporated into the church design but the answer was a firm no.
“Children should be made welcome in the House of God”, he reportedly said. “If any adults object then it is they who should go to the crying room.” Fr Battersby is still remembered fondly by those who recall his enthusiastic sermons, a love for gardening, and, in particular, his fine singing. His melodies voice filled the church and encouraged others to join in. It invigorated people looking for a spiritual and physical uplift after days of hard slog in the workplace or at home. Many milestones were recorded during Fr Battersby’s tenure.
The original presbytery, catering for a housekeeper and one priest, was purchased in his day and the parish was extended to include Laingholm and Titirangi.
One of the country’s first Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) classes was also established in the parish with Pat Wojcik and Bob Mayne as its teachers. Future choirmaster Carl Oudenhoven – today a resident at the Ons Drop retirement village in Henderson, looked after administration.
Holy Faith Sister Una Coughlin, who now lives in Ireland, later assisted after joining the parish as its first full time nun working in the field of religious education. “She was a very nice person,” Mrs Wojcik says – “her job was to make sure we were orthodox enough to teach the children.”
Fr Battersby, who celebrated the silver jubilee of his ordination with parishioners in December 1964, also guided his congregation through the newly structured Mass introduced by the Second Vatican Council.
The relatively new church sanctuary also needed upgrading to meet the requirements of the new liturgy and it was the late Dave Moir who again came to the rescue. The altar was moved forward from its original location and the tabernacle shifted to the side. The altar rails Dave had lovingly fashioned just a short time earlier were also removed and the organ was shifted from the choir loft to the middle of the church – offering the people visible support for congregational singing. Meanwhile the empty loft was rendered out of bounds, encouraging everyone to be present in the community of the faithful.
Fr Battersby left Glen Eden in 1971 and went to Ngatea where he worked as Hauraki Plains parish priest. Hi died on April 15, 1986 and is buried at Panmure.
Fr Sebastijan Palich, a curate in the district since February 1969, stepped into the breech after Fr Battersby’s departure while the church hierarchy searched for a more permanent replacement.
He was already well known as a hard worker who frequently visited parishioners and their families in their homes.
Father Ante Klarich, Chaplain to the Croatian Community in Auckland, asked me to write some personal reflections about Reverend Doctor Sebastijan Palich. I am honoured to respond to Father Klarich's request. These reflections are based on my memory of Father Palich and what he and others have told me. I will try to be accurate when I refer to times and events but cannot guarantee complete accuracy in all that I write. I have available to me a list of Father Palich's appointments in the Auckland diocese but apart from this I have no written material to refer to. Throughout I will refer to Father Palich as Father Seby. The title of `Father' was much more important and significant to him than `Doctor' and he preferred to be called `Seby' rather than `Sebastijan'.
Father Seby was born in Janjevo, Kosovo in the then Yugoslavia on 12th January 1918. His father was Cesko Palic who died in approximately 1972 and his mother Antonia Palic (formerly Berisic): Not many would know that his mother died at the time of or shortly after his birth. Although he was born in Kosovo he was proud of the fact that both parents were Croatian. At the time of his death in 1989 he had one elder brother, a younger sister and a step-sister still alive. All were resident in Kosovo. I understand that Janjevo was a very Catholic city with a very high proportion practising the Catholic Faith. It was in this family and community environment that Father Seby was brought up. He would have completed the equivalent to his primary and secondary schooling in Janjevo. It is important to mention that Reverend Doctor Mate Kolich was also born in Janjevo and he and Father Seby's families knew one another well. They would both spend their formative years and years of priestly formation and education together. Dr Kolich came from Rome to the Archdiocese of Wellington where he remained until recently returning to Croatia.
From School to Ordination
Father Seby left his home and family and went to Zagreb where he studied philosophy and graduated with a Diploma in Philosophy. In the early 1940's he was then asked by his Bishop to travel to Rome and become a student at Propaganda College. Propaganda College was well known to many New Zealand and Australia priests who had also studied there. It was (and is) a College in Rome where students for the Priesthood from Mission countries were chosen to complete their studies in philosophy and theology before being ordained to the Priesthood. Quite a few of those ordained would then remain on at the Propaganda University (the Urbaniana) to complete a degree in philosophy, theology or canon law.
This was a major move for Father Seby. Not only did it involve leaving his country of birth but also learning a new language (Italian) and living in an institutional form of life in which there were at least thirty different cultures and languages represented. This experience was to give him an understanding and appreciation of the church as universal. He also learnt to tolerate and appreciate the differences that existed between peoples who had in common the Catholic faith.
There were immediate challenges and adaptions to be made. I recall, for example, his mentioning that the lectures were in Latin and he had to struggle to learn to understand spoken Latin and also how to respond in Latin. The classes in the auditorium were large and in his early days he dreaded being asked to respond to a question proposed by a professor. However in class he heard a question asked and the name `Domine Palich' (Mr Palich): Not knowing what to do he stood and said "Ego habeo malum in capite" thinking he was replying "I have a headache." Instead he had said "I have a bad thing in my head" which could be open to various interpretations!
At Propaganda College - like all colleges and seminaries throughout the world - he would have been well trained in Catholic theology, scripture, history etc. We need to recall that this was before the Second Vatican Council, something I will refer to later. Apart from this intellectual formation the most important part of his preparation for priesthood was his spiritual formation. After studying theology for four years he was granted a Licentiate in Theology. On 18th March 1945 he was ordained a priest by Cardinal Fumasoni-Biondi who was the Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith. None of his immediate family would have been present.
After completing his theological studies and after his ordination he was asked to attend the Urbaniana University and begin his studies in canon law. At this time it seemed there was little hope for those Croatian priests studying in Rome to return to their homeland. He was happy to undertake graduate studies. Obtaining a degree in canon law (or theology etc) requires great commitment and discipline of self and mind. I think he spent five or six years doing research and writing a thesis which had to be written in Latin. This was not an easy task for him but he finally completed his thesis and then had to defend what he had written before a board of professors. I recall this was an occasion Father Seby would have rather avoided! However he successfully defended his thesis and was granted the degree Doctor of Canon Law. Like other episodes in his life he realised that when the task was completed the time, effort and personal concern involved made the end result well worthwhile.
I know from priests who studied in Rome with Father Seby that he was well liked and remembered. There are numerous stories about him. He must have been quite a character! What is common to them all is that he had a sense of humour, a practical wisdom and kindness about him which endeared him to many. He is best remembered for the person he was rather than any achievements he had in his studies.
One story he liked to tell about his time in Rome was when his class had an audience with Pope Pius XII: This would have been a very formal occasion in the presence of His Holiness. On Father Seby's left and right there were two students from Africa - both well over six feet tall. The protocol was that each student knelt and kissed the hand ring of the Pope when the Pope stood before him. Father Seby knelt and stood up but Pius said to him `Surge" (Stand up!) and Father Seby responded "Ego sum Zacchaeus" (I am Zacchaeus). The Pope could only smile!
Fr Seby comes to New Zealand
Father Seby was an ordained priest and had completed his studies in Rome. What was he to do? Many of the Croatian priests had not returned back to their homeland. Some stayed on in Rome and worked in various Congregations in the central Vatican offices. Others went to the United States and South America. Father M Kolich had already gone to Wellington.
If I remember correctly it was Fr George Marinovich (later Msgr Marinovich and now deceased) who suggested to Father Seby that he volunteer for the Auckland diocese in which there was a large number of people who had emigrated from Dalmatia since the turn of the century. There was a large community in Auckland especially in the western part, and many had gone north where they worked hard and long hours as kauri gum diggers, farmers etc. They very much appreciated the opportunity New Zealand offered them and wanted to build a future for themselves and their children. Father Marinovich considered it was important that there be a priest who spoke their language, knew their culture and who could attend to their spiritual needs.
At the invitation of Archbishop Liston (then Bishop of Auckland), and with the approval of Cardinal Fumasoni-Biondi, Fr Seby agreed to come to the Auckland diocese. I am quite certain that Fr Seby understood his coming to Auckland meant he would be a priest in service to his own people. He arrived in Auckland on 13th April 1953. He spoke little if any English but he was eager to begin his mission! He was appointed to St Patrick's Cathedral. I suspect the reason for this was because Father G Marinovich was an assistant priest there and also Fr O Sneddon (the editor of the Zealandia and later Bishop Sneddon) was present. Fr Marinovich was born in New Zealand and he was fluent in speaking and in writing Croatian. Fr Sneddon had studied in Rome and would have been there until the end of the war. He was fluent in Italian and would have known Fr Seby in Rome. The same can be said about Fr J Flanagan, the secretary to Archbishop Liston. This meant that Father Seby had priests present with whom he could communicate.
Often he recalled the first meal he had at St Patrick's presbytery. Besides the three priests mentioned above Fr M Kolich had come from Wellington to welcome Father Seby. They sat down for dinner and were served a fine meal by New Zealand standards. Amongst other delights on the plate were roast beef and kumara. Father Seby looked at the plate and decided not to eat the same. When asked `Why?' he replied that he "could not eat rotten potato and string!". When it was explained to him that the kumara was a sweet potato and the string was part of roast beef he thoroughly enjoyed the meal! Father Seby's reaction may seem funny and reasonable but it showed how he had to make adaptions in a new country and how others had to appreciate that these adaptions had to be made. What we took for granted could be confusing to new immigrants. Time would show that Fr Seby had to make many adaptions in New Zealand.
While at St Patrick's he began to take lessons in English. It must be remembered that each word in Croatian, Italian and Latin is spoken as written. These are phonetic languages. English is not. He appeared to have some difficulty in speaking English fluently but I was impressed with his knowledge of English grammar and spelling. To my knowledge there were very few other people who were as competent as Father Seby in writing English as a second language not learnt from birth.
Between February 1954 and February 1965 he had various appointments. He was assistant priest at Kaitaia, Whakatane, Frankton and Pukekohe before coming to Dargaville. He also spent one year at the Mission House in Ponsonby during this period. His experiences in these parishes varied as did his memory of his time there. He particularly liked Whakatane. The parish priest there was Father Matthew Curley (now deceased). Father Seby occasionally recalled an instance when he, Father Curley and the other assistant priests were at table: Father Seby took a loaf of bread and broke off a piece. Father Curley said: "Use a knife" and Father Seby replied: "Jesus took bread, blessed it and broke it". Father Curley replied "You are right". From that time on they were close friends and after Father Curley retired Father Seby would occasionally visit him.
I was appointed to Dargaville in 1965. In October that year I met Father Seby for the first time on our annual retreat at the Friary. I had already heard of him. He came to Dargaville in February 1966. The parish priest at the time was Father B Doherty (now deceased) which meant there were three of us living in the presbytery. Dargaville was not unknown to Father Seby since he and Father Kolich had given a mission there in the 1950's. I detected that Father Seby was happy to come to Dargaville. The Catholic population in the parish of Dargaville was approximately 19% (4% higher than the national average) and a large number of these were from Dalmatia. After his arrival it became fairly clear to me that Father Seby considered he had not been permitted to do what he had originally came to New Zealand for, and that was to attend to the spiritual needs of his people. Now there was the opportunity to do this.
From my perspective Dargaville was a good parish to serve in. There was St Joseph's convent school, a hospital in Dargaville and a maternity and geriatric hospital at Te Kopuru. There were state schools to be visited once a week where the priest taught catechism to the Catholic children for thirty minutes (at Te Kopuru, Tangowahine, Tangiteroria. Arapohue and the Dargaville Intermediate School). There was the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine [=CCD] for the on-going catechesis of children, and different groups within the parish (the St Vincent de Paul Society, Legion of Mary, Catholic Women’s League, Finance Committee etc.). Added to this there were many elderly people in the parish who needed to be visited and given pastoral care, and also a fairly large Catholic Maori community who were served by visiting Mill Hill priests. Because most of the population lived outside of Dargaville it meant there was a considerable amount of travel - much of which was on shingle roads - to do in parish work. Father Seby and I had the responsibility of attending to many of these pastoral works. This also gave each of us the opportunity to get to know one another very well.
On a personal level Father Seby opened up a bank account in Dargaville. I learnt that the reason for not doing this earlier was his suspicion that banks may crash as they had done in Europe. Given the amount of travel to be done it was important that Father Seby obtain his driver's licence. This would give him a certain independence to do what he wanted to do but was also necessary to share the pastoral work. The stories Father Seby told about his experiences in Whakatane when he drove a scooter to Ohope and other churches to offer Mass became legendary. He was quite correct when he used to say that "God looked after me!". Obtaining his licence to drive a car was a major undertaking. It took three months of continual daily practice with a mutual friend of ours explaining the Road Code to him in Croatian before he obtained his licence. At very short notice it was arranged with the local Traffic Officer for Father Seby to sit his written and driving test. He considered he needed more time but `with a little persuasion' he finally agreed to what had been arranged. With `fear and trepidation' he went to the Traffic Department. Thirty minutes later he appeared smiling and very content since he had passed the written test in English and the driving test with ease. We had to have a celebration since to Father Seby it was a major achievement! It reminded me of his defence for his doctorate in canon law and other events in his life: After achieving what he set out to - even if he had some difficulty and lacked a little in confidence - the end result made it all worthwhile. There are lessons for us all to learn in life!
Father Seby had a simplicity about him which was contagious. He appeared as a simple, wise, uncomplicated, likeable person. Underlying this there was a certain shyness and lack of confidence. He related well to children and he appreciated that "what they are today may well determine what they will be tomorrow." Although it was not easy to teach catechism in the state schools he considered the presence of a priest there was a message in itself. I recall there were forty eight Catholic children between the ages of five and thirteen at the Te Kopuru School. Through the kindness of the Anglican Church we used their small hall at Te Kopuru for catechism each Tuesday of the school year. It was not an easy task but Father Seby would catch their attention with his simple explanation of a gospel scene or his recitation of a prayer. I suspect his accent may have also been part of the fascination! He also taught catechism in the CCD and at the convent school. Added to this he taught French to the Form 11 students at the convent school.
The care of the sick and elderly was a priority for him as a priest but this was not without personal cost to himself. He found visiting the hospital draining and would often remark "How terrible it is to be sick." However he had a real charisma for bringing peace and acceptance of God's will to those who were approaching death. I know of many people who - like Dismas on the cross next to Our Lord - were reconciled to the Lord and the Church at the end of their life because of the understanding, concern and goodness of Father Seby. This certainly was one of the gifts of his priesthood throughout his priestly life.
He enjoyed and gave enjoyment to many of the families in Dargaville who had come from the Dalmatian Coast or were descended from settlers who came from there. They were strong in their belief of family life; they had a practical wisdom based on sacrifice and experience; they were very loyal in their friendship. All these qualities and values Father Seby could easily identify with and appreciate. He deeply appreciated their warm welcome into many of their homes and their hospitality and kindness. He was delighted to be able to communicate in his own native language. In these circumstances I observed Father Seby the priest and Seby the person. He would repeat stories and events from the past which often were very amusing but also on occasion showed a certain sadness of heart. He was very careful not to become involved in any political questions especially those concerning his country of origin. He often said to me "I am a Catholic priest first and my obligation and joy is to serve all Catholics no matter what their political (or other personal) beliefs may be!". Father Seby knew what his priority as a priest was and must be and would never allow his personal views to interfere with or influence his priestly ministry.
It was during Father Seby's time in Dargaville that the first influences of the Second Vatican Council came into effect. This was particularly so in the celebration of Mass and the celebration of the other sacraments. Their celebration was no longer to be in Latin but in English. For Father Seby this meant celebrating the sacraments in English and in Croatian. I can vividly recall his practising certain parts of the Mass - different phrases - in English. Some of the changes were introduced with little warning and I know that some priests had difficulty in adjusting to these changes which concerned not only the language in which the sacraments were celebrated but also the way in which they were celebrated. I used to think to myself that this must be particularly difficult for Father Seby but he accepted the changes and certainly did his best to faithfully implement them.
Even before the changes were introduced Father Seby would spend hours preparing his Sunday sermon. He had a deep knowledge and love of scripture and this combined with his simplicity of person meant that whenever he prepared a sermon it was well worth while listening to. He would often reveal his own goodness on these and similar occasions.
He never lost his sense of humour nor practical wisdom. My enthusiasm or impulsiveness would often be tempered by his saying "If you have not got a horse a donkey will do." Other sayings which come to mind are "Justice may suffer but justice will never die" and "Give me a glass of water when I am thirsty and not when I'm drowning". Some of his sayings were direct translations of sayings he had learnt as youth.
I am sure I could mention many other events and give other impressions of Father Seby's time in Dargaville but I hope what I have written gives a glimpse of the priest and the person at that time.
In February 1968 Father Seby moved to Matamata and one year later came to Auckland. He had two appointments in Auckland beginning at Glen Eden in February 1969 till February 1972 when he moved to the presbytery in Onehunga. In Auckland he assisted in each of these parishes and also served the Croatian community. The details of this time of his life and ministry will be known to many so I will only highlight several matters.
In 1971 Father Seby decided to return to Rome and also visit his homeland. He was excited about returning to Rome which had been so much part of his life and he appreciated the history and culture it provided. Added to this he had a number of Croatian priests friends there. However he was somewhat hesitant about returning to Janjevo but the wish to see his father, family and place of birth again overcame this. It must be remember that when he went to Rome as a student priest in the 1940's he did not know that he would not be returning home after ordination and completing his studies. His father and family had never seen Seby the priest.
On returning to Auckland he had a sense of achievement about him. All had gone well and any fears or hesitations he had were not realised. However the excitement of travel, seeing familiar places and faces were quite secondary to two events which took place. The first one was the humility he experienced in being able as Father Seby to visit his father and give him Holy Communion. The second one was that after much searching he found a photo of his mother in the local school records. He had an enlargement photo made of his mother as a teenage woman. He had never before seen a photo of his mother and he always carried this with him from that day onwards. These two events made the expense, concerns experienced and time, all worthwhile. Nothing else really mattered.
Subsequent to this he made several other trips to Rome but not to Janjevo. On these trips to Rome he decided to take the opportunity to visit the Holy Land. The internal problems there did concern him but the overriding factor was to visit where the Lord "had lived and walked" as he often said. His visits to the Holy Land made a deep impression upon him and I am sure helped him spiritually. Many would know that he had a profound knowledge of early history - in fact he would have preferred to study history rather than canon law. These visits encouraged him to read and reflect upon the Roman Empire, the birth and life of Christ etc. and he had seriously considered writing a book in which he would give his impressions. He had taken many photos of the holy places in Israel and even written notes to be used in any publication but he never realised this plan.
Even when he was in Dargaville he did not enjoy good health. As the years passed it became more obvious that he was not well. More effort was needed to attend to the pastoral needs of people and it must be remembered that many demands were made of him as a priest even in his latter years. However he continued to strive to give of his best.
I must acknowledge the priestly friendship, kindnesses and concern of Fr P O'Reilly and Fr F Shannahan who were the successive parish priests at Onehunga during Fr Seby's time. He was content and happy in the presbytery there. However his illnesses began to take their toll and finally he had to realistically restrict his ministry to offering Mass and to attend to the dying.
On several occasions he was admitted to Greenlane hospital and on the last occasion I am quite sure he knew that this would be the last visit. I recall I took him to hospital and intuitively knew that this was the end of the journey. He was well prepared for death. Even in those last few weeks I noticed that he was more concerned with the well being of others rather than himself. This is indicative of a soul at rest. He died peacefully on 4th March 1989.
From what I have written one may think that Father Seby was a saint. He was not and he would be the first to admit it. Like all of us he had his failings and human weaknesses and realised that he had to rely on others to be understanding and accepting of him as he was. He also knew that he needed the Lord's forgiveness for any imperfections he had. One of the sayings he often quoted was a Latin proverb "De mortuis nihil nisi bonum" (Only say good things about those who have died). Since he applied this to others in his own life I think it fitting that we should also apply this to himself - and to other deceased persons we know.
Father Seby served in the diocese of Auckland for thirty six years. We can thank the Lord for what he achieved through Father Seby's priesthood. Msgr David D Price
Fr Felix Cornelius Donnelly, QSM
NO TIME TO SPARE
Father Felix Cornelius Donnelly, QSM, was born in Christchurch on 23 November 1929. He was educated at St Peter's College, Auckland (1940–1946) and Holy Cross College, Mosgiel (1947–1953). He was ordained a priest in 1954. He has an MA from Auckland University and a Ph.D. from the same institution. He was Director of Religious Education for the Auckland Diocese 1962-1971. As an academic, he was Director of the Department of Community Health and Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Science at the University of Auckland, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences from 1972 until his retirement in 1994.
Donnelly has been a controversial commentator on issues in relation to sexuality. His views have often been seen to be in conflict with the teachings of the Catholic Church but, although his ministry has at times been limited, Donnelly has always remained a priest of that church. He was the founder and long-term director of the Youth link Family trust and for twenty years was a talk back host on Radio Pacific. Donnelly has been a prolific writer of non-fiction and has written one novel. The Felix Donnelly College is named after him.
Today Fr Donnelly is retired and living “in peaceful solitude” at Grace Joel Retirement Village in St Heliers.
LAST STOP DOWN UNDER
Fr Daniel Fagan arrived at the parish and made an immediate impression with his colourful sermons.
He previously worked in parishes at Whakate, Mangakino, Kihikihi and on Waiheke Island.
Glen Eden was his last New Zealand post and he left to take up positions in Denver, Colorado and Miami, Florida where he was also principal of High School in Key West.
Fr Fagan was especially well known in the Miami Diocese for his fundraising efforts.
He eventually returned to his native Ireland where he worked for a short time in the Archdiocese of Armagh as a curate. He died on February 18 1995.
“Fr Fagan was a very gifted man with a good intellect and a brilliant sense of humour,” long-time friend Bishop Denis Brown says. “He had an ability to relate well to his people and left many of us when he decided to leave the Auckland diocese for the USA.”
Msgr David Price
A PLACE TO CALL HOME
The man with perhaps the strongest physical link to the parish is Msgr David Price.
He was sent to Glen Eden during the early years of his priesthood in 1971 to “help out for a few weeks” and has been here ever since. It has been his home for over half life and he spent 80 per cent of his ministry working alongside all but the first of its parish priests.
His humility, dry wit and intellectual prowess are well known among generosity of church going families – particularly those who worshiped at Laingholm in recent years and attended Saturday vigil Mass at Glen Eden after its closure in 2004.
Msgr David Price was born on March 16, 1940 and ordained in the cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament at Christchurch on July 5, 1964.
His first appointment at St Patricks Cathedral ended after just two days when an urgent vacancy arose in Dargaville, where – coincidentally, he worked with Fr Sebastian Palich.
“From my perspective Dargaville was a good parish to serve in,” he says. “There was St Joseph’s convent school as well as general, maternity and geriatric hospitals. “There were state schools to be visited one a week where the priest taught catechism to the catholic children for thirty minutes. “There was also CCD for the on-going catechesis of children and various groups. Added to this were the many elderly people who need to be visited and given pastoral care.
“Fr Sebastijan Palich and I had the responsibility of attending to many of these pastoral works and this also gave each of us the opportunity to get to know one another very well”.
More parishes followed – Morrinsville in 1969 and St Benedict’s back in Auckland two years later. Then, in 1971, Msgr Price was sent to Glen Eden by Bishop Delargey to lend a hand.
He was appointed parish priest later in the year and held the position until 1972 when Fr Meuli arrived.
Msgr Price, qualified in canon law, became Monsignor Price in 1988 and has been on the Tribunal of the Catholic Church for New Zealand since 1971.
He has consistently maintained a strong presence in the parish despite his day to day work at the tribunal’s Ponsonby – based office and his associated duties elsewhere. The 40th anniversary of his ordination was celebrated on July 11, 2004. “The Lord has been very good to me as have so many priests and parishioners in the parishes I have been in,” he says. “This especially applies to Our Lady of Lourdes. “The concern, kindness, supports and, I am sure, patience on some occasions, of its people has been a wonderful example to me of what it means to be a follower of the Lord.”
Fr Denzel Meuli
CLEARING THE DEBT
Fr Denzel Meuli first came to the parish as assistant towards the end of Fr Battersby’s term of leadership.
The presbytery was too small for an extra priest and he lived at Ambler Terrace in a building belonging to early parishioners George Ambler and his sister Claire.
Fr Denzil Meuli (Pierre Denzil) S.T.D. U.J.D. Ph.L. LL.B. Barrister and Solicitor of the High Court of NZ was born 22 September 1926, Fr Meuli spent his childhood in Auckland and was educated, as a foundation pupil, at St Peter's College, Auckland. He entered the national seminary, Mosgiel, New Zealand in 1951. He transferred to the Urban College for the Propagation of the Faith and to the Urban University, Rome, in 1953 where he obtained a Licentiate in Theology and a Licentiate in Philosophy in 1956 and 1959 respectively. December 27, 1956 he was ordained to the priesthood. He secured a Doctorate in Theology at the Gregorian University in 1959, returned to New Zealand to work in parishes in the Auckland diocese. He graduated Bachelor of Laws from the Auckland University Law School in 1976 and was admitted as a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of New Zealand the same year. He returned to Rome to enter the Lateran University School of Canon and Civil Law in 1976 and graduated in 1980 Doctor in Utroque Jure, Summa cum Laude after defending the thesis: 'The Status and the Defences of the Unborn Child in Common Law'. A three year course of studies in law was then undertaken in the school of the Sacred Roman Rota leading, in 1983, to the qualification 'Rotal Advocate' licensed to appear before the Sacred Roman Rota and the Signatura Apostolica. This was followed by an administrative law course given by the Sacred Congregation for Sacraments and Divine Cult. From 1980 to 1985 he was attached to the Regional Tribunal located in Bologna, Italy where he functioned as Defender of the Bond.
In 1985 he returned to New Zealand and parish work. In 1987 he became acquainted with the arguments of Patrick Henry Omlor, particularly Mr Omlor's 'Questioning the Validity of the Masses using the new, all-English Canon.' From then on Father Meuli was in turmoil until he returned to the Immemorial Mass, the Mass for which he had been ordained. By the kindness of the then Ordinary (Bishop Denis Browne) of the Diocese of Auckland, this was greatly facilitated. In 1989 a small church was detached from the jurisdiction of the parish wherein it is located and placed under Father's care. This singular apostolate was designated: 'Alternative Ministry.' There, to this day Mass is celebrated and the sacraments administered according to the old rite.
Fr Meuli made an immediate impression on his arrival at Glen Eden in 1972. Few people had ever met a priest who owned two classic Monaro vehicles and a classic Jaguar. Fr Mueli established the mini market that is still popular today, set up regular Bingo evenings and got parishioners involved in various fundraising recycling schemes. Previous efforts to address the problem had not been overly successful and there was much concern over what lay ahead. “Fr Mueli saved us” recall Jack and Pat Devereux.
Fr Mueli, left the post in 1976 and returned to Rome where he studied for degree in church law before spending a number of years working in the north of Italy.
He come back to New Zealand in 1985 and assisted Fr Joe Rogers at St Therese’s Church I Three Kings.
Fr Meuli returned west some three years later to base himself at Mt St Marys in Titirangi. The little church there at Rangiwai Rd was originally an RSA building that was bought by Fr James McGrath and renovated as part of the Avonadel Parish in 1959. It became a wing of the Glen Eden parish in 1971 and a sizeable community attended weekly services but numbers dropped away when Sunday Masses were centralised to Our Lady of Lourdes in 1988 and Mt St Marys was no longer fully utilised.
Fr Meuli was looking for a place to celebrate Latin Mass and Bishop Denis Brown suggested he use the Titirangi church. He agreed and still heads a congregation of people who travel from all over the greater region to worship in the pre- Vatican II manner.
Fr Patrick Collins was parish priest at Our Lady of Lourdes when the Silver Jubilee was celebrated in 1982.
He oversaw the production of a commemorative booklet and included in it a letter to parishioners.
“May this magazine help us all to appreciate the struggles and achievements of the past and to remember that if we are further along than we were then it is because we stand on the shoulders of giants,” he wrote. “May it help us, under the protection of Our Lady of Lourdes, to work with courage and hope for Christ and his kingdom in our hearts and parish as we embark on the next 25 years.”
Fr Patrick Collins was born on December 29, 1931 and ordained at the All Hallows College in Dublin on June 16, 1957.
He served as a curate in Grey Lynn, Ponsonby, Kaitaia, Avondale, Tokoroa, Helensville and Takapuna before being appointed parish priest at Otorohonga in 1973.
Glen Eden followed in 1976 where Fr Collins amazed the congregation, according to Jack and Pat Devereaux, with his “amazing memory for names” Fr Collins celebrated the silver jubilee of his ordination at a special function where entertainment was provided by the parish and Samoan choirs.
That evening, he days, still ranks among his most special memories. “Afterward, at the dinner in the hall, someone arranged a singing telegram,” he says. “It was very witty.” The church’s wooden floor was carpeted during Fr Collin’s tenure, helping keep the building warm during the chilly winter months.
Fr Collins left Our Lady of Lourdes in 1995 to take up at position at East Coast Bays where he stayed for ten years and built the church at Mairangi Bay. He moved to the Warkworth/Puhoi parish in 1995 and celebrated his 50th jubilee there in 2007. Fr Collins is now living in retirement at Devenport.
The doctor’s advice was simple - “work in a quite parish, live life at a slower peace.”
Monsignor Paul Cronin, in remission after a bout with cancer, instead found himself at Our Lady of Lourdes, coordinating Masses at Glen Eden, Laingholm, Titirangi and Piha where a small church had operated since 1964. “The role was pretty extensive,” he says.
The year was 1984 bad it was, he says, a “difficult time” given his health problems.
But the workload was made a little lighter with help of Msgr David Price, who celebrated Sunday Mass at some of the outer suburbs. The assistance of parishioners in other areas of church life was also invaluable. “That’s one thing I remember well,” Msgr Cronin says. “The people at Glen Eden were very devout.”
Msgr Paul Cronin was born in Ponsonby on September 9, 1929.
He was baptised and confirmed in the old Sacred Herat Church on O’Neil Stree and was ordained at St Patrick’ Cathedral on July 18, 1954. His first parish was Franklin Junction where he spent two years, followed by Hamilton (two years) and St Patrick’s Cathedral (nine years). He then spent two decades as a naval chaplain based at Motuihe Island, Devenport and finally Wellington.
He left the post as a Monsignor and stayed on in Wellington to look after a parish until he was sent to Glen Eden Eden in 1984.
He was pastoral administrator for twenty-four chaplains if various denominations at the time of his retirement from the military and is the only catholic to have held the position.
It was during his time at Our Lady of Lourdes that the front porch was added to the church, providing much needed shelter for those standing outside during larger services when the weather was poor.
The project was financed through the sale of a small, disused church building at Oratia.
Msgr Cronin also organised a group of parishioners to build a tower for the bell that still hangs there today after sitting in the presbytery garage for many years. He was posted to Devenport in 1988 and is parish priest at Sacred Heart in Ponsonby where, coincidently, his religious life began. “I have, “he says, “done a complete circle.
Msgr Paul Cronin was parish priest of Ponsonby and has a strong connection to the area. He was born in Ponsonby Road, in a nursing home that stood alongside what is now Joe's Bargain House. Msgr Cronin was baptised at the old O'Neill Street church, he made his first communion there and said his first Mass in the old wooden building. Msgr Cronin was educated at Trinity Street School, Herne Bay, and Marist Brothers in Vermont Street before moving to Wellington for his secondary education at St. Patrick's College, Silverstream. After college he entered the Holy Cross College at Mosgiel and was ordained in 1954. Now many years later he finds himself as spiritual director of the very same seminary he attended but now relocated just down the road from Sacred Heart Church in Vermont Street. The first two years of his priesthood were served in Frankton and then a further two years in Hamilton before being attached to St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Archbishop James Liston then decided to appoint him naval chaplain at HMNZS Philomel and Tamaki in Auckland. The Monsignor is no stranger to the military life with his father serving in the NZ Army for 33 years reaching the rank of Regimental Sergeant Major. Msgr's naval career was to last some 17 years and he served those latter years as the Principal Defence Chaplain for the Defence Forces in Wellington. This was the first time a Roman Catholic had held the post.
Then came a move to Glen Eden for four years and a further ten years in Devonport before moving to our parish in February 1999.
Aside from his parish and seminary responsibilities Msgr Cronin was the Chancellor of the Diocese of Auckland and as such an advisor to Bishop Pat Dunn.
Monsignor has a vision for our parish:
"Socio-economic patterns have changed the pattern of Ponsonby. I want to see the unity of the different ethnic groups in our community and to restore the vibrancy of parish life that was so much a part of our past." "The universality of the Church is very evident in our community here."
Msgr Paul Cronin died peacefully 19 December 2010 in his armchair at Ponsonby presbytery last night, watch or dozing in front of TV, after a full Sunday's ministry! When he failed to arrive for Mass this morning, parishioners broke into the presbytery, led by the Sister Disciples, and found him dead. He has "gone home for Christmas"! May he rest in peace.
A MAN OF THE PEOPLE
Fr Joseph (Joe) Shepard spoke fluent Spanish after spending a number of years as missionary priest in Chile.
Adjusting to life back in New Zealand was a challenge after being exposed to extreme poverty in a politically unstable environment. But the experience made him a man of the people - a quality that endeared him to many on his arrival at Glen Eden in 1988.
He was, according to parishioners of the day, a jovial man who related well to every one – irrespective of their stations. “He was amazing in his ability to associate and get along with people who priests normally wouldn’t get to meet,” Msgr David Price says.
Fr Joe Shepherd was born on October 21, 1932 bad raised in the parish of St Michaels in Remuera where his father worked for New Zealand Railways.
He entered the Holy Name Seminary in Christchurch in February 1947 and completed the rest of his vocational training at the Holy Cross College in Mosgiel.
Long-time friend Msgr Brian Arahill was with him throughout and both men were ordained together on July 22, 1956. “Fr Joe lived with his family in a railway settlement as a child and was always proud of his working class origins,” Msgr Brian Arahill says. “His first appointment was at Papakura and he was in the diocese of Auckland for a number of years before doing his voluntary work in South America. ‘Fr Joe was there in stirring times and it must have been around 1969 or 1970 when he came back and our paths crossed again.”
Fr Joe left Our Lady of Lourdes in 1990 after being appointed parish prist at Takapuna eher he died on April 9, 1997.
His brother John, who died on October 23, 2005, was also well known to many parishioners as a Christian Brother who taught at Liston College in Henderson for a number of years during the 1980s.
A TIME FOR CHANGE
Fr Bernard (Bernie) Waters never shied away from controversy.
He had strong views on various aspects of church doctrine that saw him, on occasion, doing battle with its hierarchy. He was open to change and welcomed the idea of girls joining boys as altar servers when the concept was first mooted.
Not everyone shared his enthusiasm and some parishioners started attending Mass at Titirangi after this proposal became a reality. Fr waters also promoted lay ministry at Our Lady of Lourdes. Older church – goers recall his departure to the US on a one month vacation and his insistence that the congregation fend for itself in his absence. And so, for the first time, extraordinary Eucharistic ministries like parish treasurer David Cockerton stepped in to lead Eucharist Services when no alternative celebrant could be found.
Fr David took on the role after being approached by Fr Waters in the early 1990s. The idea was been mooted several years earlier but not put into practice. Fr David, who owned and operated a menswear store in Glen Eden between 1960 and 1998, was reluctant at first. “The thought was frightening, “he days. “And it still is today. It is great honour and a huge responsibility. The concept also proved popular with the congregation. “It really helped bring the parish together, Pat Wojcik says.
Fr Waters is also remembered as a man of varied interests. He was a keen gemmologist and a talented musician who played in a band and spent two or three days a week working as a house painter. He oversaw a major upgrade of the crypt – bringing it into line with building regulations of the day.
Fr Waters arrived at the parish in 1990 and left four years later. He spent some time as a priest in the Diocese of Las Vegas, USA where he is now retired from active ministry.
LUCK OF THE IRISH
Fr Manus Lyons did what no priest before him had managed to do by addressing some of the car parking issues that had plagued parishioners for several years.
Various agreements were forged with the neighbouring RSA to rent the car park and ensure plenty of spaces were left available for church goers on Saturdays and Sundays. Today we continue to benefit as a result of his negotiations though unfortunately the Glen Eden Playhouse did not join the agreement. Fr Lyons – renowned for his significant alterations to the crypt, mostly in the kitchen.
The avid golfer was sent to Orewa in 1999 where he built a new church. He returned to Ireland in 2004 to spend time with his ageing mother during her final years. He is now based in the Palmerston North diocese.
A NEW MILLENNIUM
Fr David Mullins s.m. never dreamed he’d be spending the 50th anniversary of his ordination in a hospital bad.
Plans had been made to celebrate the occasion with a special function in the parish once he returned from a much deserved trip to the UK in 2006. They were put on hold after he injured himself in a fall during a stop off a Darwin.
Later, after a long period of recovery, he recalled the early days of his convalescence with typical hour. An email, he said, one of many sent by concerned parishioners, had given him good reason to smile as he lay in Darwin Hospital ward with his broken leg in a cast.
It said, quite simply: “Thank God you are not a race horse.” Fr David Mullins was born in Christchurch on September 29, 1930 and ordained at St Marys Church, Christchurch, on July 15, 1956.
His father, Jack, was a World War One veteran who’d captained Canterbury in rugby and was a long serving sports editor at that Christchurch Press. Fr Mullins senior passed on both talents to his son who has written five books and was coach of the Tongan rugby team during its first tour to New Zealand. In 1969 the team won the two tests against the New Zealand Maoris.
Fr David, who also managed well beyond the pulpit he was also principal of a catholic boy’s secondary school and a Tonga for 35 years. His work there stretched well beyond the pulpit and he was also principal of a catholic boy’s secondary school and a director of catholic education. He was also Vicar General of the diocese for ta time. Fr David later served seven years as chaplain to migrant Tongans in USA and New Zealand.
He arrived at Glen Eden in late 1998 and is its second longest serving parish priest behind Fr Battersby.
He has overseen numerous projects including the purchase of a new organ in 2000, the renovation, and painting and re carpeting of the church between 2005 and 2007 and the establishment of Our Lady of the West – the parish bulletin that has been published three times a year since 2004. Fr David’s jubilee was eventually marked with festivities in October 2007.
Over 400 parishioners and friends crammed the church for the Jubilee mass he celebrated and Msgr David Price preached a fitting sermon on priesthood. A large number then gathered at a Henderson events centre for catered dinner and entertainment. The choir presented church and secular songs and various cultural items were performed. The parish presented Fr David with two paintings of Waitakere scenes.
Parishioners at Glen Eden have never shied away from heard work or a good cause.
The participation of all in the liturgical actions that take place is in direct response to the dictate of the Second Vatican Council held in the 1960s.
Readers, Eucharistic Ministers, altar servers, organists, singing leaders, announcers, greeters, counters, sacristans and those taking part in the offertory procession all ensure things run smoothly. Among them is pastoral assistant Brian Dallow whose primary role is to assist the parish priest.
Brian has been actively involved in the parishes at Glen Eden and Owairaka for over 30 years and was chairman of the Diocesan Pastoral Council under Bishop Denis Browne. His role is varied and there is seldom a day when he is not engaged in a church related task.
“One of my jobs is to work with the bereaved in planning requiem and funeral services. It is a privilege to be involved with families on these occasions and it is very satisfying to be able help people at these sad times. “Then there are the men and women who take the children’s liturgy on Sundays. “These ministries are all catered for and new parishioners of all ages are often surprised to be asked which one they wish to be involved in,” Fr David says. “Some responded immediately while others take some time to summit themselves. “It was the people of the Second Vatican Council that the Church could incorporate all its members into full, conscious and active participation in the liturgical celebrations. “In our parish the norm of active participation has always been to the fore in planning for building and action.”
THE BIGGER PICTURE
The parish has also becoming increasingly more global in its outlook.
The most recent examples including the outstanding responses to the calls for funds to help with the St Patrick’s Cathedral restoration project and the fantastic show of generosity following the tsunami that wreaked havoc through parts of south Asia on Boxing Day 2004.
Glen Eden parish donated $17,100 towards relief efforts launched in the wake of that tragedy – a significant portion of the $1.1 million given by the New Zealand catholic community through Caritas. The women running our mini market also did their bit, packing and crating thirteen cartons of clothes to the worst stricken areas for distribution among the survivors within ten days of the disaster.
Those efforts did not go unnoticed and five sets of hand sewn silk vestments were presented to the parish as a gesture of thanks by members of the Wijeratnes family who were visiting Sri Lanka at the time of the event and were lucky to escape unscathed.
“We will treasure these as a reminder of the people who lost so much and also as a memory of the charitable response our parishioners made to the people who were suffering,” Fr David said after accepting the gift. Our thoughts and prayers again turned to the international stage, when on July 7, 2005 news broke of a terrorist bombing on the London underground. Among the many casualties was one of our own.
Shelly Mather, 26, who made her first Holy Communion in our church as a youngster, was the only New Zealander killed in the blasts that claimed over fifty lives and injured seven hundred people.
Our Lady of Lourdes is also making a difference in wider west Auckland society, spreading the word through the efforts of groups like Legion of Mary whose members visit the sick and elderly of all denominations.
The Marian Mothers group also promotes Mary’s spirituality and hospitality. The Catholic Women’s League is a hard working body behind the scenes.
Another example of parish commitment to the grater community is the Tahi Terrace project.
Number 11 Tahi Terrace is a light of hope for people struggling to own a home.
It is also a gauge of the social responsibility that this parish practises as well as preaches. The project started in 1988 in answer to the Diocesan Pastoral Council’s plea for assistance on behalf of the homeless.
The project started in 1988 in answer to the Diocesan Pastoral Council’s plea for assistance on behalf of the homeless. Our parish bought an $80,000 house in the name of the Bishop of Auckland with funds collected by the parishioners plus a mortgage payable over 25 years. The building was fire damaged so parishioners gave their time and energies to make it habitable.
The house is administered on behalf of the Bishop by an independent board known as the Home Ownership Support Team.
The first family with three children arrived in September 1989 and saved enough money through new hoses after taking part in the scheme and a fifth is well on its way.
Each is selected by the Monte Cecilia Housing Trust and must have at least one wage earner and children. The Home Ownership Support Team signs them up on standard tenancy agreements and charges market rentals. A portion of the rent is retained to help pay off the mortgage and the remainder is saved for the participants. Savings must be used as a down payment on a home at the end of the three year tenancy. Contributions from some parishioners and supporters go towards maintence, rates etc. Voluntary labour also helps keep down costs that have escalated over the last eighteen years. The final payment on the mortgage was paid this year and the support team is looking at the possibility of buying a second house.
“Many families cannot afford to pay market rents and save for their own homes at the same time,” Fr David says. “Rising rentals and the sale of rented properties by their owners often force people to move to cheaper areas or double up with relatives – causing health problems and truancy. “But owning one’s own house is an achievable goal under this scheme where participants are given an incentive to save.” This project doesn’t give hand-outs but it does a hand up.
It works in partnership with families who must prove they are good tenants and contributions are readily accepted.
The three years leading up to the jubilee have been busy ones with numerous improvements and alterations being made to our church.
It was with some relief that parishioners said goodbye to the old wooden pews that had long since lost the last traces of any varnish and become a haven for borer.
Those benches have been replaced with comfortable cushioned seats – colour matched to complement the new carpet and the fresh paint job. A wider, much improved staircase now gives safe passage to the loft and a high tech sound system has been installed to carry our priest’s voices to every corner of the building and outside when there is an overflow congregation. The church also boasts a new improved font made by Ross Courtenay in 2007. Ross and his wife Pam were parishioners during the late 1960s and early 1970s and the first five of their six children were baptised at Our Lady of Lourdes. So the project had special significance for him.
The Mt Roskill resident was also commissioned to create the paschal candle stand and the cabinet for the holy oils.
The presbytery has been improved and modernised and a separate office has been added to give its occupants more privacy.
It was officially opened and blessed on Pentecost Sunday, 2007. The much used crypt beneath the church was well utilised during the various renovations and numerous weekday Masses, plus the occasional Sunday service, were held there while the builders and painters toiled away overhead.
Indeed, the crypt has served as a focal point for many social activities within the parish over the last fifty years.
It has been revamped at least twice since the church was built and has seen more than its fair share of dances and theatrical productions.
Older parishioners remember well the night a promising singer from Blockhouse Bay turned up to sing at a fundraiser.
She was Kiri Kanawa, and then aged around eighteen, and no one could have guessed that she would one day be an international famous opera star. Other celebrities who have performing there include well known guitarist and one time Henderson resident Peter Posa. The crypt was also the venue of numerous table tennis competitions and indoor bowls tournaments. Its use became more tightly regulated when Msgr Price was parish priest – by necessity rather than choice. Msgr Price recalls the night a gang of hoodlums hijacked a dance at the venue, hurling beer bottles through the glass windows from the courtyard outside. Security became a prerequisite for any event booked in the crypt thereafter. Numerous parishioners have also celebrated various family milestones there with members of the wider congregation and today the crypt is very much in demand.
THE JUBILEE GROTTO
An important addition to the church is the Jubilee Grotto – a replica of the cave at Lourdes where Our Lady, the patron of our parish, appeared to St Bernadette in the south of France in 1858.
It is built in a recess once occupied by one of two confessionals removed from the church in early 2006 when the sacrament was confected in the open sanctuary – far enough away from people to maintain the secrecy of confession.
The grotto concept was first thought of by those planning ahead to the parish’s fiftieth birthday. They were looking for something that would serve as a permanent reminder of the milestone.
Many parishes have such a monument but few have one inside the church. After much thought and deliberation it was decided to erect a grotto in the area where the confessional used to be.
Architect Susan Lee agreed to plan and execute the project and Pere Wineera of Natural Pools and Rock Co, was contracted to complete the job. The grotto was finished to the acclaim of all and is a work of art beyond the dreams of those who first suggested its development.
The day of its blessing caused much amusement when four firemen entered the church to investigate reports of a possible blaze. Smoke from the burning of incense had triggered an alarm and prompted the unexpected visit. “How long have you been using fiery charcoal? The firemen asked. “Oh – about 2000 years, “ Fr David replied.
The grotto appears to have been built with natural rock. It features running water and subtle lighting that immediately catches the eye. “With this facility we are making our church a place of special devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes,” Fr David says.
ONE CENTRAL CHUCH
Much has changed since the Glen Eden parish was extended to take in some of the smaller outlying areas. A small church building and land donated to the church by the Wales family at Piha in 1964 drew a crowd of up to 130 people during its heyday, especially for Easter and Christmas’s Masses.
But Numbers gradually dwindled through the 1980s and the building deteriorated to a point where church leaders were forced to reassess its future. Fr Waters decided the church’s upkeep was beyond the means of the Glen Eden parish and transferred its maintenance to the diocese in 1992.
The church was designated as a place of pilgrimage for the begging of the millennium and parishioners gathered there for Mass on the feast of the Sacred Heart in 2001. But a decision to close it was made soon after a final Mass was celebrated by Msgr David Price on April 8, 2001. The Wales family acquired the property, and the church was demolished to make way for a residence.
Our Lady of Good Counsel at Laingholm was also decommissioned on August 1, 2004 after thirty-eight years of service and the funds raised through its sale were used to finance improvements at Glen Eden.
The first Mass at Laingholm was celebrated on April 14, 1963 and services were held over the next years in the suburb’s hall with an average attendance of fifty people.
The area was also initially part of the Avondale parish and so it was Fr McGrath purchased a block of land on Lookout Drive in 1965.
He bought a church from Owairaka a year later and oversaw its relocation to the site where it was renovated with help from local voluntaries like Keith McKenzie, who died in 1982 and his wife Grace who passed away in 2007.
Stain glass windows and furnishings were obtained from old churches and the stations of the cross and crucifix were donated by parishioners. A pencil drawing of the Madonna by Anne Myldlowski hung in the church and is now in the parish office at Glen Eden. The church was opened and blessed by Archbishop James Liston on May 22, 1966 and a parish mission was conducted that year. Parishioners were relived to finally have a church of their own so close to home.
Services were previously attended at Avonadele or Blockhouse Bay – all many kilometres awy over a combination of sealed but mostly metalled roads,” says Keith and Grace McKenzie’s daughter Barbara Saunders. “It was a heck of drive every Sunday in our old car.”Msgr David Price took a special interest in this church and offered the Saturday vigil Mass for many years.
Fr McGrath also stayed involved celebrating Christmas Day Mass there long after it became part of the Glen Eden Parish. The Laingholm church gradually becomes redundant as transport options improved and more parishioners attended services at Glen Eden. A final Mass was celebrated there on November 22, 2003.
KNOCK NA GREE
Further changes within the parish occurred early in 2008 with the $2 million sale of the diocesan property Knock Na Gree at Oratia.
The thirteen hectare semi-rural site was established by the diocese in 1939 as an education centre.
It was owned by the Auckland diocese but played an important role in the lives of many Glen Eden Catholics as a focal point for numerous church related activities. Knock na Gree was used for school camps, youth group gatherings, marriage encounter weekends, retreats and various larger Masses.
It was also been a starting point for the annual Our Lady of Lourdes Good Friday march began over two decades ago by parishioners like Patrick (Pady) Somers. Paddy, a former member of the finance committee, led the procession for many years – making sure participants stopped at the 14 stations and ensuring the heavy cross was passed on to new bearers at regular intervals. The procession to the church at Glen Eden takes over an hour and a half. Those unable to make the long trek party in the Church and wait for the group to arrive. The march is a highlight of the busy Easter period and has in more recent times, been piloted by a police escort. It stands out as a very public display of our faith and has never drawn any complaint or ridicule from the public.