by JOHN FONG
St Michael the Archangel Catholic Church in Ohaupo, near Te Awamutu, was closed and
decommissioned at a Mass on December 22, with Hamilton Bishop Stephen Lowe the celebrant. A social function was held afterwards in the attached Colgan Hall.
Ohaupo was a military post during the Waikato war and was settled by Bohemian militiamen.
The settlement was founded by Captain Martin Krippner in 1865 and a large proportion of the congregation had come from Bohemia and Ireland.
The current church was the third one built by the Ohaupo Catholics and it was consecrated on
August 22, 1982 by Bishop Edward Gaines. Ohaupo had been the centre of a Catholic community since 1876 when the first church, St Finbarr Catholic Church (also known as St
James’ Catholic Church), was opened by Fr John Golden.
A second church — St Michael the Archangel — followed St Finbarr’s and was built on a site nearer the township. It was officially opened on April 2, 1916 by Msgr Mahoney, VG. The St Finbarr building was disposed of and removed.
In 1972, after an earthquake, a structural inspection found that the second church had not been built with reinforcement and it was deemed dangerous and Masses thereafter
were held in the hall.
The church was demolished on April 15, 1982.
A neighbouring section was purchased and a third church was built on the enlarged site.
The present Catholic Cemetery in Ohaupo now rests on the site of the former St Finbarr church and has become the Hamilton Diocesan Cemetery.
On February 17, 1982, the adjacent land was purchased in order to increase the size so that it could become the burial ground for priests of the diocese as well as for local Catholics.
In 1982, the Catholic population of Ohaupo was about 400. Now there would be no more than half-a-dozen. In 2013, the general population of Ohaupo was 519.
Further, as there was a shortage of priests, regular Masses at St Michael’s ceased in the 1990s and instead monthly Masses were celebrated.
Local Catholics thereafter attended nearby churches, for instance in Te Awamutu and Melville.
In the meantime, general maintenance of the building and land added to the costs of upkeep.
Following the closure and decommissioning, the land and building will be offered for sale.
Acknowledgement : The above history of the three churches was kindly provided by Christine
Krippner — and was based on the research by the late Walter Francis Edwards.