by JOHN FONG
At a ceremony on Sunday, March 15, after the morning Mass at St Patrick’s Church in Putaruru, Deacon Joseph Haumaha presented Emeritus Bishop Denis Browne with the history and two large photographic
frames containing the portraits of the 16 Mill Hill priests who served as diocesan priests at
St Patrick’s Church from 1925 to 1998.
Deacon Haumaha spent about 12 months researching the lives of those priests, many of whom had come from the Netherlands.
He told those present: “The Mill Hill priests have been a very dominant influence in my family
right back to the 1940s, when the priests used to call at my parents’ home as part of their mission to the Maori people.”
The priests would visit every month, he said, and his parents would notify all the Catholic Maori living nearby, and they would gather to celebrate Mass in his parents’ home. “The priests would stay the night with my family and move on to another area,” he recalled.
The last Mill Hill priest to serve at St Patrick’s was Fr William Tuerlings, from 1990 to 1998. He told Deacon Haumaha that there would not be any more Mill Hill priests serving in Putaruru. Consequently, Deacon Haumaha decided to preserve their memory.
Fr Tuerlings now lives in Holland in retirement and Deacon Haumaha stays in touch with him. When the church centre was set up in 1998, it was appropriately named “The Mill Hill Centre”.The Mill Hill Fathers, formally known as St Joseph’s Missionary Society, was founded by Cardinal Herbert Vaughan
in 1866 in a villa near Mill Hill, about 16 kilometres north of London. Its purpose was “to train missionaries to propagate the Gospel among unevangelised races beyond Europe”.
In 1886, the Mill Hill Fathers established a Maori mission in Auckland diocese.
It was not until March 20, 1925, that Putaruru got its first first Mill Hill priest, Fr Martin Alink.
There are thought to be three Mill Hill priests now in New Zealand: Frs Michael Ryan (New Zealand superior) in retirement in Auckland; Anthony Timmerman, retired and in Auckland, and Fr Anselm
Aherne, parish priest at St Columba Church in Frankton, Hamilton.
Also at the ceremony were parish priest Fr Vincent Jones, Fr Hemi Hekiera, Phillip White (representing parishioners), and kaumatua Hori Deane from Ngatira Marae (hapu Ngati Ahuru and iwi Ngati Raukawa) and his supporters.
by JOHN FONG