The 1980s and After
THE SISTERS. In 1982 came the most important event in many years, the arrival of the Sisters of St Joseph of Nazareth. Sister Mary Dunn and Sister Marlene came to live in the old presbytery in Puhoi, undertaking to work with the people in both Warkworth and Wellsford – and work they did. They enthused, they encouraged, they supported and loved us. They showed us what was possible.
Sister Marlene was replaced by Sister Marie Crompton and early in 1985 Sister Therese Martin replaced Sister Mary and the sisters moved to Warkworth to be nearer their work.
Even so, the travelling and the heavy workload the undertook without murmur were exhausting, and so it proved for Sister Marie who died suddenly while on Retreat in 1987.
It was with sadness and a sense of shock that we received the news, late in 1989, that the Sisters were leaving us. We’d thought they were here to stay. But other places were calling and others needs were greater than ours, sadly, in November 1989, we said goodbye to the Sisters.
They had been involved with so much – children’s education, prayer groups, visitation, interchurch and community events, liturgy, youth group, Maori pastoral care – name it, they were there. Sister Mary even used to arrive when a pre-Christmas spring-clean of the church was underway – surely beyond the call of duty but typical of the nuns’ gift of service.
The arrival of the 80s saw an ongoing dilemma. While the move to the new site a decade before had resolved some difficulties, the problem of accommodation for CCD classes was still frustrating teachers and children alike. As mentioned elsewhere, various options were tried and found wanting, and it eventually became obvious that the only real solution lay in the provision of a Parish Centre incorporating several classrooms.
In late 1983, a sub-committee of the Parish Council was formed and with Bob Jury as builder-advisor, set about drawing up plans. Bryan Casey was the financial manager and liaison with Bishop Browne.
By August 1984, the Bishop had approved the draft plans, setting a budget limit of $65,000, and in October the final plans were approved, a permit obtained and serious fundraising began. Somewhere along the line, the original idea of adding a hall to the existing church was turned around and it was decided to use the church as a hall and make the addition the new church.
Work continued through the summer of 1984-85 under the leadership of Bob Jury, with his team of professional builders and some voluntary labour. The macrocarpa used in the new building was donated by the Farr and Lambert families.
The complex was finally completed, and as reported in the press, “the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help has received additions and alterations worth $76,000 providing a parish centre for religious education and meetings”. Bishop Browne blessed and opened the new complex in June 1985, 40 years after the opening of the original church. About 200 people attended the opening, and included visiting priests Frs Jim McCormich and Des Angland, Pere Oliver of New Caledonia, and Msgr Brian Arahill of St Patrick’s Cathedral.
The completion of the new building came just in time for RENEW, a programme of study and renewal which began in 1985 and continued for two years. Over the years, many such programmes had come and gone, but RENEW was to prove the most successful by far.
Margaret Pride and Ken Hancock were the primary leaders, and they spent many hours travelling to seminars in Auckland, bringing their new-found knowledge back to St Mary’s and setting up small groups. The whole Parish was invloved and a campaign of advertising and door-knocking brought new and once-known faces to the groups. RENEW lived up to it’s name and was generally considered to have been a true renewing of spiritual and pastoral life. Banners made by the small groups still adorn the walls of the hall.
Liturgy progressed under the leadership of Anne Nightengale, who regularly travelled from Auckland to attend meetings, and brought her understanding and knowledge of Liturgy to our congregation.
Upon the departure of Marie Simmons from the Parish, Mary Partington took on the duties of organist and music director. Twenty years on, in co-operation with Barbara Lambert, she is still filling these rolls.
In November 1986, along with the rest of Catholic New Zealand, we celebrated the visit of Pope John Paul II. Wellsford and Warkworth parishes joined forces and hired a bus to take pilgrims to the Auckland Domain, where we were privileged to participate in Mass celebrated by the Pontiff and, as part of the throng numbering thousands, celebrate our Catholicism. A truly memorable occasion.
The closing months of the 80s saw big changes. We said goodbye to the Sisters and prepared farewells for Father Jim Meates and for the Hancock family. Ken and Maureen and their three daughters were getting ready to leave for Papua New Guinea, where they were to work for two and a half years under the auspices of Catholic Oversea Volunteer Service.
We kenw we would miss them, and for a small cogregation it was a lot of goodbyes to endure at one time.
And to the Nineties
St Mary’s has always been a caring Parish, where stressed or troubled families could expect support and practical help. In 1991, in an effort to formalise this part of Parish life and to ensure that all cases of need would be met, the Parish Council set up a formal group. It was called Emmaus and consisted of groups, small and geographically based, and included all parishioners. It was a good idea that worked for a short time, but soon we were back to the informal system, which depends so much on good communication and reporting.
However, one initiative of Emmaus has continued and has become such an integral part of the Parish’s life that it is hard to remember what things were like without it. This important aspect of our community is the “cup of tea” and gathering-time after Mass, a most successful project. Not only does it provide an opportunity for friends to meet and for children to play together, it has become the time and place where new parishioners are welcomed and visitors greeted. Small items of Parish business are conducted during the “cup of tea” and many formal meetings are avoided by a few people getting together and deciding on some arrangement or plan of action.
In 1995, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish celebrated its 50th Jubliee, five decades of grace and growth since the blessing of that small building in Rodney Street in 1945. A few of the original parishioners or their decendants remain, but mostly it is other, newer names that make up the Parish roll.