Whanganui

The Journey – 1880 – The first four founding Sisters, Sr M Hyacinth, Sr M Teresa, Sr M Joseph, Sr M Clare left Perthville, NSW Australia to begin the New Zealand branch of the Sisters of Saint Joseph in Wanganui, in the central North Island.

The first schools – a primary school and a secondary school for boarders were opened that year.

The first four founding Sisters pictured right (from left): Sr M Hyacinth, Sr M Teresa, Sr M Joseph, Sr M Clare (in front).

  • 1883 Three of these Sisters went up the Whanganui River to the Maori settlement of Hiruharama with Suzanne Aubert. Two remained working there for several months, returning to their work in Wanganui in 1884. Later, Suzanne Aubert was to begin the first New Zealand Catholic Sisters – the Daughters of Our Lady of Compassion.
  • 1912 A new convent and large secondary and day school was built on St John’s Hill, Wanganui. It carried on the name of the original school, Sacred Heart Convent. Sisters were now teaching in schools from Taranaki to Hawkes Bay, and south to Otaki.
  • 1920 – 1960 Time of growth and expansion in both numbers and ministry in the schools
  • 1949 Mt St Joseph homestead purchased and set up as training school for Sisters
  • 1962 Sisters were called upon to return to their original spirit and mission by second Vatican Council
  • 1967 Wanganui Josephites joined with Australian branches in Goulburn, Lochinvar, Perthville and Tasmania to form the Australian-New Zealand Federation of the Sisters of St Joseph
  • 1970’s These years saw the beginning of the move away from the traditional work of teaching as more lay teachers came into the schools. This change of focus gave rise to new and changing ventures.
  • 1980 Celebration of Centenary. During this decade of change and upheaval, a new commitment to Women and Families was made. The Mission Option chosen was once again to the “oppressed and powerless” – the same vision of Julian, Mary and the early Sisters.
  • 1982 Sacred Heart Convent demolished. New convent, Nazareth, opened. Mt St Joseph becomes Administration Centre.
  • 1987 Nazareth begins as a Rest Home. Te Kainga Wairua opened. The house run as a partnership between the Sisters and Maori community as a way of beginning to honour the Treaty of Waitangi.
  • 1988 Josophia Craft venture underway – financing needs with sale of craft works of the Sisters. Communities set up in state housing areas in Taupo, Auckland, Wanganui
  • 1995 Kingfisher Farm land purchased in partnership to enable a transformative vision to be developed. In 1999 Kotare Education Centre opened
  • 1998 Quinlan Court opened. The facility provides safe, secure and independent living for elderly persons.
  • 2002 Sacred Heart College closed
  • 2003 Cullinane College (Diocesan) opened – replacing Sacred Heart College and St Augustine’s College. Villa Maria Hostel relocated to Halswell Street, near to Cullinane College. Kingfisher Farm sold – Kotare Centre well-established. The new structures of the Sisters of St Joseph Trust Board, Management Charitable Company, and Nazareth/Quinlan Court Board, are blessed and launched
  • 2004 Sacred Heart College land sold
  • 2006 Villa Maria Hostel closed, Property sold. Mowhanau beach house land title transferred back to Tamareheroto people.
    From the 1980’s there has been increasing growth in diversity of ministries as Sisters responded to the needs of society with their own individual talents. Numbers have continued to drop substantially and the median age has risen. Despite this, sisters’ involvement with the people we live and work among has increased.

Today the Sisters of St Joseph are involved in:

  • Counselling, psychotherapy
  • Chaplaincy to prisons, rest homes, hospitals
  • Spiritual direction
  • Education at various levels, retreats
  • Social justice and human rights advocacy
  • Community and parish involvement