Whanganui

The Journey – 1880 – The first four founding Sisters, Srs M Hyacinth, M Teresa, M Joseph and M Clare left Perthville, NSW Australia for the Wellington Archdiocese in the central North Island of New Zealand, where they were to form a new diocesan Congregation, the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Whanganui.

The Sisters’ first schoolsa primary school and a secondary school for boarderswere opened that year.

The four founding Sisters pictured are (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 French missionary, Suzanne Aubert. Two stayed behind and worked there for several months, returning to their work in Whanganui in 1884. Later, Suzanne Aubert established the Daughters of Our Lady of Compassion, the first Catholic Religious Congregation to be founded in New Zealand.
  • 1912 A new building, comprising a convent and a large boarding and day school, was built on St John’s Hill, Whanganui. It carried on the name of the original school, Sacred Heart Convent. By now Sisters were teaching in schools from Taranaki to Hawkes Bay, and as far south as Otaki.
  • 19201960 This was a time of growth and expansion in both numbers and ministry in the schools.
  • 1949 Mt St Joseph homestead was purchased and set up as a training school for Sisters.
  • 1966 Sisters were called upon to return to their original spirit and mission by the Second Vatican Council.
  • 1967 Whanganui Josephites joined with the diocesan Congregations of the Sisters of St Joseph from Goulburn, Lochinvar and Perthville in NSW and Tasmania to form the Australian-New Zealand Federation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph.
  • 1970’s During these years, as more lay teachers came into the schools, the Sisters gradually moved away from their traditional work of teaching. This change of focus gave rise to new and changing ventures.
  • 1980 Celebration of the Centenary of the Sisters’ arrival in New Zealand.  During this decade of change and upheaval, the Sisters made a new commitment to Women and Families. Once again their Mission Option became that they go out the “oppressed and powerless.”  This was in line with Julian’s dictum, as followed by Mary and the early Sisters, namely that: The religious must do any good that they can and make their charity all-embracing.[1]
  • 1982 Sacred Heart Convent demolished. New convent, Nazareth, opened. Mt St Joseph becomes an Administration Centre.

    Sacred Heart Convent
  • 1987 Nazareth begins operating as a Rest Home. Te Kainga Wairua opened. The house run as a partnership between the Sisters and the Maori community as a way honouring the Treaty of Waitangi.
  • 1988 Josophia Craft venture underway – financing needs with sale of Sisters’craft works. Communities set up in state housing areas in Taupo, Auckland and Whanganui.
  • 1995 Kingfisher Farm land purchased in North Auckland.  This partnership with the Bradford Family was to enable a transformative vision to be developed, and in 1999 Kotare Education Centre opened there.
  • 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 Cullinane College. Kingfisher Farm sold – Kotare Centre well-established. The new structures of the Sisters of Saint Joseph Trust Board, Management Charitable Company, and Nazareth/Quinlan Court Board, 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.
  • 2009  Joined Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart in Auckland for celebration of centenary of Mary MacKillop’s death. Celebrated 60 years of Mt St Joseph.
  • 2010  Joined Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart in Thanksgiving Celebrations for the Canonisation of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop.

    Sacred Heart Convent 1912-1982
  • 2012  Request made to Rome for Fusion with the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart. Final Chapter of the Whanganui Sisters.
  • 2013 Celebration of Fusion in Whanganui.
  • 2018/19  Closure and sale of Nazareth Rest Home and Hospital, Wetlands and Hillside areas.

From the 1980s until 2013 there was increasing growth in diversity of ministries as Sisters responded to the needs of society with their own individual talents.  Numbers continued to drop substantially and the median age rose. Despite this, sisters’ involvement with the people they lived and worked among increased.

During that time the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Whanganui, were involved in:

  • Chaplaincy to prisons, rest homes, hospitals
  • Commitment to Bi-culturalism – including the return to original spelling of Whanganui
  • Community and parish involvement
  • Counselling and psychotherapy
  • Education at various levels
  • Ecology and environmental projects
  • Social justice and human rights advocacy
  • Spiritual direction and Retreat work.

Ministries over the latter years grew from the Sisters’ commitment to

‘KI TONU TE AO ME TE OROKOHANGA TE TANGATA –
FULLNESS OF LIFE FOR THE EARTH AND ITS PEOPLES’

Today the Sisters of Saint 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

Footnotes:
[1] J.E.T. Woods, Rules for the Institute of St Joseph for the Catholic Education of Poor Children, Article 13. In Resource Book 3 from the Archives of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, North Sydney, 2016, Issue no.3, p. 18