Auckland’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral

tag: new zealand, st patrick’s cathedral auckland, auckland, central auckland

The mission land where Auckland’s Catholic church stands was awarded to a French bishop (who became Auckland’s first bishop) Jean-Baptiste François Pompallier to create “a dwelling house, a college, recreation ground for youth, and burial ground, for the use of the Roman Catholic public”.

Pompallier would establish the first territorial area (when a Diocese has not yet been established) for Catholics in New Zealand. Most of the Catholics within the area were Irish which explains why the church was dedicated in honor of their homeland’s patron saint.

Plans to establish a stone church was made around 1848. Stone foundations were laid in the 1880’s. Additions to the church were consequently made afterwards. The church’s organ (still working to this day) came from London. This church however was demolished in 1907 to pave way for expansion. The reconstruction was completed the following year. This is the church that we see today.

In the middle of the church, just right in front of the altar is a glass tile where one could see a portion of the 1884 church. A memento honoring the first church built in the islands.

The church (officially, ‘ The Cathedral of St Patrick and St Joseph)is located in the central district of Auckland. It’s near where we stayed. It’s a charming white gothic church with conspicuous similarities with the late 1800’s churches in Singapore and Malaya. It’s a splitting image of Singapore’s Lourdes church in Ophir Road.

The presbytery (or bahay pari as we call it) was built in 1888 and is an attractive and functional addition to the church complex. The vines that clings to the brick walls are said to be more than a 100 year old (maybe more).

Another interesting part of the church is this shallow marble well right on the side of the altar. The wooden beams accentuates the attractively designed church loft. There’s something that distinguishes Catholic churches planned by English educated architects. You just know when you see one. There’s a lot extant English built church in Singapore and Malaysia that’s worth seeing.

I’ve always been interested in the lives of pioneering Catholic missionaries. I’ve researched some of the Spanish friar missions in the past and this changed the way I see them. Some of the most transformational development in our ancestors way of life was brought by these forgotten, often maligned, men of clothe.

Inside the cathedral, one’s literally standing where the seeds of Catholicism took root in the island. Pomapallier, a French Marist, who pursued to create a Catholic community in Auckland, retired back in his country after three decades of spiritual work in New Zealand. He was buried in France where only his family knew him (having spent all his productive years in the pacific islands). New Zealanders would make pilgrims to Lyon and see his neglected grave. So, sometime in the 1930’s a movement started an effort to get the French Bishop back in New Zealand.

An article in a local New Zealand site dedicated to the memory of  the French Bishop have this beautiful anecdote about his relationship with his beloved Maori people he converted:

He was particularly revered by the Māori people of Hokianga and elsewhere. He had brought Catholicism to them, was sympathetic to their concerns and had an enlightened attitude towards Māori culture. Children were given the name Pomaparia, and his first mission field Hokianga became known as Te Kohanga o te Hāhi Katorika ki Aotearoa, the Cradle of the Faith in Aotearoa. The following dialogue with a kaumatua (elder) illustrates the bishop’s attitude:“If you have love (aroha) for us you will send us a priest”……Kaumatua
“I don’t know about your love(aroha) for me, but I know about my love for you, because I left my country, my land and my family for you”……..Bishop Pompallier.

In 2002, the Bishop’s intricate coffin made by Maori wood artisans was placed under the altar in St Mary’s Church in Motuti.



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