Task: A New Parish
In 1941, a newly ordained Father Arthur Lenihan volunteered for the New Zealand Missions when at the seminary in his native Ireland. He arrived in New Zealand and served as a curate under Monsignor Murphy at Balmoral and Rev Father Shore at Otahuhu, before he came to Hillsborough.
The church property in Hillsborough Rd was bought by Father Rodgers of the Three Kings parish as a site for a primary school and Mass Centre in 1946.
Hillsborough at that time was a second class surfaced road, thinly tar-sealed in the centre with no footpaths and it served as a connecting road between Mt Albert Road at the Hillsborough end and Dominion Rd Extension at the other.
Ex service men from WW11 began building homes along the main roads - Ridge, Hillsborough, Richardson and Dominion Rd. This mushroom development and rapid increase in population of the district is what convinced the Bishop about the need for a parish.
In 1957, Archbishop Liston gave Father Arthur Lenihan the task to build a new parish known as Hillsborough –Waikowhai.
Father Lenihan examined the boundaries of what was to become his new parish. From Monte Cecilia and Frederick St in the east along Hillsborough Rd and Ridge Rd to The Avenue in Lynfield along White Swan Rd to Richardson Rd and back through Rogan St, Stamford Park Rd and Carr Rd, back to Hillsborough Rd. The Mt Roskill council upgraded the road by 1957.
That year, Father Lenihan called the first meeting of the parishioners at the Rogan St Hall. Bill Murphy was appointed the first chairman of the parish committee with Ian Birch as the first secretary. The committee ran huge parish fairs which were held at the Three Kings Reserve. The fairs were well advertised with hoardings placed at strategic points along main roads in the area, leaflets distributed weeks prior and newspaper advertisements and so on. The net proceeds were never less than $2000.
Other projects included the weekly raffle, housie held at the Rogan St Hall, Balmoral and Onehunga parish hall. There were talent quests, bottle drives, paper drives, car raffles, concerts, musical evenings. The ladies constructed jumble sales, trading tables, morning teas and many other fund raising activities.
By 1959 the parish had sufficient cash in hand to start building the church. Ken Albert was the Architect who designed and located the buildings on the land. Ken''s beautiful design has been much admired over the years. The simple construction, the beauty of the brick the location of the altar so that the rising sun floods the sanctuary with its golden light, the tasteful stations and the beautiful windows depicting the sacraments and the kaleidoscope of colour soaring over the organ loft. It was Father Lenihan's privilege to choose the name of the parish and he selected the name of St John Vianney as he is the only parish priest to become a Saint.
The Great Day Arrives
The Parish Church of St John Vianney was opened on 18th December, 1960. It was a day of great joy and thanksgiving when Bishop Delargy blessed St John Vianney church, and it was filled to overflowing for the first Mass. The Bishop complimented Father Lenihan and the parishioners on their sterling effort.
The presbytery also designed by Ken Albert was next to be built and was completed in 1964. The hall was designed by Jack Gerbic and opened in March 1966. All the buildings were debt free.
In 1960 there were 280 families in the parish …and as the golden Kowhai trees on our local bush-clad slopes have grown, so has our parish. Today there are over 400 families and growing.
We owe a deep sense of gratitude to the early parishioners of St John Vianney, for their energy, enthusiasm and hard work in supporting Father Linihan in building this beautiful church and parish community, to Father Linihan's enormous vision and dedication in making it a reality, to the priests who served at St John Vianney, for their untiring dedication to our spiritual needs, for the counsel, comfort and prayers for us, and to Archbishop Liston who had the wisdom and foresight to decide to establish our parish.