St Joseph’s School in Rangiora has ceased using some land as a playing field as the earthly remains of more than 380 people are buried beneath the surface in what was a parish cemetery.

According to a notice on the school’s website, in the 1960s many of the monuments in the cemetery on the corner of George and Percival Streets were in a state of disrepair, “and rightly or wrongly the decision was made at the time to clear the land and record all of the names on one monument”.

Earlier this year, St Joseph’s received a directive from Christchurch diocese administrator Fr Rick Loughnan requesting that no organised sport or games should occur on this section of land.

The land in question is owned by the Church, not the school.

According to the website notice, the St Joseph’s board of trustees “have discussed this matter and decided that it is easiest to consider this land as sacred and refrain from using it as a general rule”.

“How to most appropriately use this field has always been a contentious issue,” the notice stated.

“Many individuals have strong opinions about whether it is appropriate or not for the area to be a sports field . . . .”

“We are fortunate to still have a large field that caters for the needs of our students. We are also taking this as a teaching opportunity. To remember we are made in the image and likeness of God, that our physical bodies are what reveal to us our spiritual soul.”

According to a report on the Stuff website, Fr Denis Nolan of St Peter Chanel parish, Waimakariri, said the decision about the use of the land had not been made lightly and was the culmination of opinion that had “grown like a wave”.

“We’ve got a bit more of an understanding of the whole thing of tapu and sacredness. We’ve come to the conclusion that it needs to be respected as such.”

Fr Nolan reportedly said the field now made a fitting place for events such as All Souls Day or Anzac Day.

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