Ted Whiting did not hesitate to step up to the plate when he heard St Patrick’s church
in Akaroa needed funds for it to be restored to its former glory. After all, he was baptised
there 12 years ago.
“To find out that St Patrick’s needed restoration, needed $240,000 was a devastation.
And knowing that Bishop Pompallier had a Mass there also is quite important to me and my family,” said the year 8 student from Sacred Heart College in Auckland.
As luck would have it, Sacred Heart College director for junior school Margaret Graham had ties with Akaroa parish.
“I came from Napier and so I know many Marist priests and our family are old friends
with Fr (Paul) Shannahan. I was surprised because I didn’t know he was in Akaroa. That was really interesting and so we started emailing,” she said.
Fr Shannahan, St Patrick’s parish priest, and his small parish council had been trying to get the church’s restoration off the ground for the last few years.
“The help just came out of the blue,” he said. “It was a wonderful encouragement for me and our little group that there’d be people willing to support our project.”
The church has only about 50 permanent parishioners. “That is why we are appealing
broadly for support,” the priest said.
The 152-year-old church has a category 1 classification from Heritage New Zealand.
Fr Shanahan reckoned it is probably one of the most photographed churches in the
country as well as a very popular wedding venue.
He added that thousands of people from 75 cruise ships that dock in the area yearround
pass through the church.
“It is not an earthquake damaged church. It just needs restoration due to old age,”
Fr Shannahan explained the building’s floor and sub-flooring is borer infested, the roof is rusty and needs replacement and the bell tower needs structural repair.
The priest said the repairs and restoration are planned for winter next year and would probably take two to three months to complete.
At Sacred Heart, Mrs Graham and Ted organised one week in the third term for the fundraising and raised over $2000 for the parish.
Ten classes put on events which included bake-offs, sausage sizzles and coin art.
“Ted was really the motivating force,” said Mrs Graham. “Without Ted, it wouldn’t
have happened. He came in and explained it clearly and gave leaflets from the Akaroa
church in their restoration.”
She said it was no mean feat for a year 8 student to talk to a college assembly and
explain clearly what is needed.
Ted admitted it wasn’t easy. “Seeing all the heads pop out of their seats, I was very
nervous,” he added.
However, he gave credit for the success of the fundraiser to his fellow students.
“Yes, I organised it. But it wasn’t just me. I think every boy did their bit to help fundraise
and I’m really proud of them,” he said.
Fr Shannahan said those who wish to help can go to their website: http://www. akaroacatholicparish.co.nz/ for details on how to send through donations.