by ROWENA OREJANA
“Seeds planted from life given to the Gospel” saw Thorndon parish in Wellington celebrate 165 years of Catholic presence over Labour Weekend.
The combined celebration brought together Sacred Heart Cathedral parish and school, St Mary’s College, and those who were connected to the former Marist Brothers school.
Parish priest Fr James Lyons said relationships are formed and faith nourished through the school and parish. “People grow, friendships are formed, faith is nourished and our lives find meaning. This is what we celebrate when we reflect on all that has happened and been experienced in this part of Wellington over these 165 years. Seeds planted from lives gifted to the Gospel and nurtured by faithful servants have borne fruit in ministry and service — beautifully symbolised in your presence here today,” he told Massgoers during the homily on October 25.
Fr Lyons said Catholic history in Wellington was not without controversy.
“We began, fighting for our own space, stressing our differences with other Christians. A Roman Catholic Mass in an Anglican cathedral could not have been imagined even at the time of our centenary in 1950. But our faith has grown and matured and a deep sense of gratitude is evident in the gathering in this place and in the atmosphere of this weekend.”
At the gala dinner, Wellington archdiocese archivist Sr M. de Porres, RSM, QSM, highlighted the contributions of the Sisters of Mercy throughout the years.
“A constant presence has been both St Mary’s Convent and the college, whose development have been synonymous with that of the Thorndon parish since the arrival of Bishop Viard on May 1, 1850,” she said.
She said that with Bishop Viard were four young women aged between 12 and 22 who wanted to form a religious congregation — Cecilia McCann, Teresa Walsh, Mary Ann and Sarah McGarvey. Three of them were trained teachers.
“By 8 September 1850, the miniature St Mary’s Convent and the bishop’s residence were completed and the bishop also blessed the foundation stone of St Mary’s Cathedral, now the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart,” Sr de Porres said.
In the same year, an education programme for Maori girls was established.
The Marist Brothers contributed to Catholic education in Wellington, until it was removed in the 1970s because of the construction of the Wellington urban motorway.
Parents and friends of Sacred Heart Cathedral School held a successful wine and cheese evening on October 23. The cathedral also displayed historical photos and memorabilia during that weekend.

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