Task: A New Parish
As Father Arthur Lenihan left the office of Archbishop Liston in 1957 he pondered the task he had been given. To build a new parish to be known as Hillsborough –Waikowhai. He had been given 25 pounds and thanks to the generosity of the Good Shepherd sisters at the well established Mount St Josephs Convent on the hill at Waikowhai, a small but comfortable flat in a brick house in the South eastern corner of the property . The sisters also looked after him, prepared meals, linen etc.
Here was a challenge to the priest who had volunteered for the New Zealand Missions when at the seminary in his native Ireland. A venture into the unknown for a curate who had served under Monsignor Murphy at Balmoral and Rev Father Shore at Otahuhu since he arrived in new Zealand as a young newly ordained priest in 1941.
Father was to celebrate his first Mass for his parishioners in the lovely chapel of the Convent of the Good Shepherd and encouraged by the warmth and infectious enthusiasm of their new parish priest, the early parishioners set about building a parish.
How blessed we have been since that great day. The prayers we offered, the indefatigable work of our founding priest and those who followed him and the efforts of so many generous individuals have brought us 50 years later to a beautiful built up parish full of friendly Christian people who must thank Almighty God for the very many benefits we have received.
As the golden Kowhai trees on our local bush-clad slopes have grown so has our parish. To our priests listed below we owe our gratitude for their untiring dedication to our spiritual needs, for the counsel, comfort and prayers for us. We thank God especially for giving us such pastors. May He protect and reward them all, including the late and great Archbishop Liston who had the wisdom and foresight to decide to establish our parish.
Father Lenihan’s first task was to survey the area and the property that had been assigned to him. The church property in Hillsborough Rd which was to become the site of our new St John Vianney Church, presbytery and hall was bought by Father Rodgers of the Three Kings parish as a site for a primary school and Mass Centre not long after that parish was established in 1946. Father purchased a block of land from the Green estate with a loan which he floated while the Bishop was overseas. Eight sections on the road frontage were left unsold. The rest were sold and netted a profit of 400 pounds for the Bishop on his return, as well as repaying the loan that had been arranged.
Hillsborough was at that time only 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. Ridge Rd was a continuation of Hillsborough Rd and was of similar quality. Both these parish boundaries were little more than one way thoroughfares.
Inland from these roads, houses were springing up . Ex service men from WW11 were building homes with rehabilitation housing loans and naturally sections along the main roads - Ridge, Hillsborough, Richardson and of course Dominion Rd were quickly bought up. It was this mushroom development and rapid increase in population of the district that convinced the Bishop to make this satellite of the Three Parish properties the centre of our St John Vianney parish.
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, Hillsborough Rd. The Mt Roskill council had upgraded the road by 1957 and the church was ideally situated. The parish was able to commence at no cost. Later the remaining 8 sections were sold off and funds used for the building project.
It is an interesting fact that one of these sections was bought back by the Diocese when there was a possibility of a girls’ secondary school being built on the site. This was in 1966. The school never eventuated and the section to the west of the driveway to the church was resold in 1975.
The nerve centre of the early parish was of course Father Lenihans flat. Eileen and Fred Street to whose home the flat was attached were long time residents of the area and it was a great joy to them to have the parish priest there. They and the Leonard family who lived next door shared their family lives with Father in the early days.
Father Lenihan called the first meeting of the parishioners at the Rogan St Hall . Many were known to Father from his days as a curate at Balmoral and priest at Otahuhu and for them it was a special pleasure to have him as their parish priest. Bill Murphy was appointed the first chairman of the parish committee with Ian Birch as the first secretary. The committee thought big enough to run huge parish fairs which were held each year at the Three Kings Reserve. The fairs were well advertised with hoarding 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 which the was really worth something.
Other projects included the weekly raffle, housie held at the Rogan St Hall then Balmoral then Onehunga parish hall, We ran talent quests, bottle drives, paper drives, car raffles, concerts, musical evenings and the ladies constructed jumble sales trading tables morning teas and many other fund raising activities. You name it we did it said Dee Blanchett . The energy and enthusiasm of the group and father himself was enormous and of course the parishioners responded wonderfully.
Another interesting fact is the three buildings, church, presbytery and hall were all erected debt free long before the parish even thought about a pledge scheme. The parish was on a very sound financial footing very early in its establishment.
So many people worked so very hard to achieve this object and they are remembered on especially on the parish feast day 4th August, the feast of St John Vianney.
It was Father Lenihans 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.
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.
All these and much more contribute to a prayerful, peaceful church, lending itself to devotion to God.
The Great Day Arrives
The Parish Church of St John Vianney was opened debt free on 18th December, 1960. It was a day of great joy and thanksgiving when Bishop Delargy blessed the 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 assigned by Jack Gerbic engineer and architect opened in March 1966 both also debt free.
In 1960 there were 280 families in the parish … today there are over 400. The parish has grown and developed. So here and now in 2007 as we look back and give thanks to God on our parish’s Golden Jubilee for all the blessing and joys we also look forward and ask His Guidance, strength and courage to go out and meet the needs in St John Vianney Parish in the years ahead.
We honour St John Vianney especially in this year of our Golden Jubilee and pray that he may always guide us in our endeavours to be real Christians all our lives.