The iconic St Patrick’s church on Rue Lavaud in Akaroa is to receive a major restoration.

The 153-year-old category 1 historic church was built in 1864 by Patrick Joseph Cullen and has served the Catholic community all that time and is still in daily use. Literally hundreds of visitors in season accept the roadside invitation to “make a visit, light a candle and say a prayer”.

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St Patrick Church Akaroa

Getting to the stage of a full restoration has been full of delays. Action was imminent in 2012, but the Christchurch earthquake pushed it off the diocesan radar screen as destroyed and damaged churches in the city took priority. But the local parish committee pressed ahead with getting engineering and heritage assessments and their persistence has seen the Christchurch Catholic diocesan management team take over the project and press ahead with getting final resource consent from the Christchurch City Council, which came to fruition in April this year.

Age and the elements have meant much of the church has to be replaced or renewed. Borer has fed on much of the timber, the roof needs to be completely replaced and some earthquake damage to the tower needs to be repaired. The estimated cost is $810,000. This is said to be a tall order for the small number of resident Catholics of Akaroa.

 Akaroa’s parish committee members.
Akaroa’s parish committee members.

The parish has been challenged to raise $260,000 and an all-out effort is being made to achieve that right now. It is under the direction of a professional organisation called “Askright” that the late Bishop Jones had engaged to raise up to $30 million in ten years across the whole diocese to fund the rebuild of many churches and the cathedral. Akaroa parish is part of this enterprise.

A start with fundraising was planned for last September but it was then announced that the new medical hub for Akaroa wanted to get underway with their need to raise more than $2,000,000. So in a spirit of cooperation the parish bowed to that needy cause and rescheduled for a May campaign which is now underway.

The church will be closed from July for perhaps four months, but Sunday 9.30 am Mass will continue in the Trinity Church Hall — thanks to the spontaneous agreement of their leadership. The good will existing among the churches will be furthered by this cooperation and even deepened by the plan to have divine worship at the same time and then share food and fraternity at 10.30 am.

The wider community was invited to a free shared luncheon on Sunday, June 11, at the Akaroa Bowling Club rooms.

Dave Margetts from Heritage NZ spoke about the heritage status of St Patrick’s and the demands made in the resource consent to retain the “footprint” and appearance of the church for future generations.

The church is open every day all day and all are very welcome to visit it any time. Public donations would be greatly appreciated by the members of the committee.

More information can be found at www.akaroacatholicparish.co.nz. Contact Fr Paul Shannahan, SM, at (03) 304-7083

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