For 125 years, before 1971, Catholics in the Pakuranga area were cared for by Our Lady Star of the Sea parish, Howick, and the parish of St Patrick’s Panmure. Both of these parishes were established when the Fencible settlements of Howick, Panmure, Otahuhu and Onehunga were set up in the late 1840s.
The New Zealand wars of 1845-1846 had convinced the Governor of New Zealand, Governor George Grey, that defence was necessary for the town of Auckland. The British government proposed a circle of military settlements. Governor Grey agreed and the first New Zealand Fencibles arrived on Howick beach in August 1847.
The Fencibles (the name a shortening of the word ‘de-fencible’) were soldiers who had served their time in the British army and had been discharged. They were recruited to come to Auckland to establish settlements where they would live with their families, maintain their military skills and in return receive their pension and a small parcel of land.
In all, ten ships brought the Fencibles to Auckland from 1847 to 1849. Nearly 2000 men, women and children came to Auckland through this scheme.
Three companies of soldiers were given land at Onehunga, three at Howick, one at Otahuhu and one at Panmure. These four settlements formed a circle of defence for Auckland in the south. They also provided sturdy workers for farmers in the district.
Because most of the Fencible soldiers were recruited in Ireland, more than half of them were Irish Catholics. The settlers in Panmure and Otahuhu were almost all Catholic families. Howick and Onehunga were 40% Catholic. Within three years, the Catholic population of Auckland more than doubled.
The government was ready to grant land for Churches, Presbyteries and Schools, and even to help with support for priests and teachers.
In 1848 St Patrick’s Parish in Panmure was inaugurated. It became evident in the 1960s that another parish was necessary in the Pakuranga area to meet the needs of a rapidly expanding suburb.
The diocese purchased a farm property on the Pakuranga Highway in 1965 from the local dentist Dr Mangos. In March 1971 Fr Ray Green was appointed as the Parish Priest for Pakuranga. For the first 12 months Fr Green resided in the Panmure presbytery, celebrating Sunday Mass at Edgewater College and daily Masses at the Panmure Convent.
As the Parish identity grew so did awareness of the need for a daily Mass Centre. The “cowshed” on the property behind where the Church now stands was lined, renovated and turned into a warm and welcoming chapel. It became the venue for weekday and Sunday early morning and evening Masses.
Well aware of the rate of growth of the parish, diocesan authorities agreed with the need for a church. Finally after years of planning and fundraising and months of construction our new Church was opened and blessed by Bishop John Mackey on 24 November 1974.
Formal permission was given for a primary school in December 1977. The school was officially opened with a staff of seven on 18 March 1979. At this time the sisters of Our Lady of Missions became associated with our parish and this association continues.
On 31 January 1988 our Parish Centre was opened by Bishop Denis Browne.
In 1990 recommendation were adopted for removal and sale of the two old houses serving as a presbytery and replacement by a new presbytery close to the Parish Centre and Church.
Currently we are now facing necessary extensions to our Church building, extending it from seating 460 to seating 640. A concept of these extensions was presented to the parish in November 2007 and various submissions regarding this concept sought. It shall indeed be an exciting journey to see the shape of our Church to come over the coming years!