Tuesday, 31 July 2018

St Michael's Roman Catholic Church, Ohinemutu

Rotorua's 1st Catholic Mission Station c 1841 

Marist priests, Father Borjon & Brother Justin, arrived at Maketu and commenced their mission there. They also travelled to Ohinemutu via Lake Rotoiti. Father Borjon was well liked by the people there but sadly Father Borjon died at sea in 1843.
Father E. Reignier is sent to Maketu in 1842 but decided to take up residence at Ohinemutu.  The Roman Catholic Church is sold 3 ½ acres on Pukeroa Hill for £10 10s. This was duly paid by Bishop Pompallier. 

A wooden church was built in the Maori style and dedicated to St Joachim. By 1847 he had also established 3 other chapels. One at Kaiteriaria (Rotokakahi – Green Lake), one at Rotomahana and one at Paehinahina (Rotoiti.) 

The Mill Hill Father’s

Fr Becker arrived in 1888 and found there was neither church nor a priest’s house at Ohinemutu. No papers could be found to verify the land previously sold to the church, so after much debate it was decided they could have the one freehold section available at this time, the site of the current day St Michael’s Church. 

Father Becker was based at Matata and had a very large parish and was often away during his time. Toward the end of 1889 Fr. Becker at the request of Bishop Luck left Rotorua for the Hokianga. Fr. Smiers is sent to the Tokaanu-Taupo area.

[St Michael's Church - Ohinemutu],Hammond, Thomas William George Howard, 1868-1967,
compiler,ca. 1897,PH-ALB-357-9-P9-1 With thanks to Auckland Museum.

Father Holierhoek  was in Ohinemutu by 1892. He opened the new church near Taheke which was dedicated to St Joseph.

Father Kreijmborg takes over from Fr. Holierhoek and is in Ohinemutu until 1896 when he moves to Waihi. Fr. Kemp from the Hokianga takes over the parish. 
Mother Mary McKillop, founder of the Sisters of St Joseph’s Convent in Australia, arrives in Rotorua c1902 for treatment of her rheumatism. While staying at the Thirwell she walked to St Michael’s to teach school. In 1903 a school opens behind the convent at Ohinemutu.


In 1904 Father Kreijmborg built a church at Whakarewarewa which was dedicated the ‘Church of the Immaculate Conception” also known as St Mary of the Cross.

By 1906 Father Kreijmborg is back and is busy altering and adding to the St Michael’s Church and Convent.  He also built a church at Owhatiura (St Joseph’s) and then goes on to build one at Mamaku this is finished by October 1906 and dedicated to St Joseph by the Very Rev. Dean Lightheart on the second Sunday in October.  

Father Kreijmborg leaves the district in 1907 to take up a position at Opotiki.  Rev. Dean Lightheart is left in Rotorua as Parish Priest.  Father Kreijmborg returns to open the new Roman Catholic Church ‘Church of the Immaculate Conception’ at Ngongotaha in 1915 as Dean Lightheart is in Tauranga recovering from a recent car accident.

1922-24 A new school is built, as the one at Ohinemutu is now too small, (this is the first St Michael’s) on Ranolf Street and the convent, St Joseph’s,  purchased a house next to the school.  In 1926 a chapel is opened in the convent and called “Chapel of Ease” which locals are welcome to attend services there.

1940s the school expands adding a new classroom.  And in 1950 two wings are added to the main building and in 1954 St Mary’s Church opens with Father McKenna as Priest.

1958 a new school is built and this becomes St Michael's and the other on Ranolf Street becomes St Mary’s School. A convent is built as part of the school buildings.

1960s brings more growth to the region and St Michael’s is now too small. It was decided to build a new one around the old one.  


St Michael's Catholic Church, c2013.
With thanks to Kete Rotorua.

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