When Southlanders held sesquicentennial celebrations over Labour Weekend, 150 years after the building of that first St Mary’s Church in Invercargill, it was an Aucklander who drew the most appreciative chuckle.

Emeritus Bishop Len Boyle, left, and Fr Neil Vaney, SM, appear to be chuckling at something Deputy Prime Minister Bill English (at podium) has just said. (Petrus Lieshout photo)

Southland-born Peter Garrick, proposing a vote of thanks at the close of the successful celebration, said Aucklanders say migrants bring in the faith.
“I agree: Most of the migrants come from Southland,” he said.
The one time Marist Brother drew in his many siblings and their spouses to create a family reunion, spreading over two tables at the jubilee dinner on the Saturday night at the Ascot Park Hotel and conference centre.
Mr Garrick shared his memories of the 1950s and the exuberance and generosity
of the then St Mary’s Basilica parish priest, Fr J. A. McCarthy.
Those memories triggered others, some lovely stories later coming to light — a
challenge for Wendy McArthur, currently researching and writing the history of Southland’s first parish, mother of so many today.
Peter Garrick lived next door to Joan Bennett, and Colin Campbell, today our bishop, just a few blocks away.
In 1960 they all left Invercargill to follow religious vocations studies — Colin to Holy Cross Seminary, Mosgiel, Peter to begin his 20-year journey with the Marist Brothers, Joan to become a Dominican Sister.
The three met up at the sesqui celebrations, Sr Joan, OP, meeting Peter’s young brother Stephen, the godchild she’d held all those years ago as a baptised babe.
Southland’s Catholic 150th celebration started with a memorial Mass, included an ecumenical sung service, a formal dinner with Deputy Prime Minister Bill English, favourite son of the south, and a humorous and insightful guest
Many nuns and brothers and leaders of their orders come from the south and many were back to look at old school photos and reunite with family and old friends.
The southern half of the diocese of Dunedin punches well above its weight, producing the last two bishops — Colin Campbell and his predecessor, Emeritus Bishop Len Boyle, and the diocesan vicar general, Monsignor Paul Mahony
and Holy Cross seminary lecturer Dominican Sister Carmel Walsh, OP. Their presence at the weekend celebrations meant a great deal.
Also warmly welcomed by St Mary’s Basilica parish priest Fr Chris O’Neill was Marist Father Neil Vaney, SM, representing the Society of Mary, whose French Marist missionaries kickstarted the Church in the south a century and a half