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Church of the Sacred Heart

Church of the Sacred Heart. NZ Tablet

When the first Bishop, Dr. Moran arrived in Dunedin in 1871, to establish a diocese in Otago, he opened the first Catholic church on the Taieri Plain and consecrated it ‘Church of the Sacred Heart’. This was the only Catholic church between Dunedin and Milton and the site chosen was near the Grange, predicting a flourishing settlement at Riccarton. The area was attractive due to the many farms throughout the Taieri and coal mining at Saddle Hill.  The Chapel was opened on the 26th of February 1871 to service the whole of the Taieri but infrequent as the religious ceremonies were due to the fewness of priests, the building stood as a silent reminder of gods presence.  Records show that Bishop Moran officiated at the chapel, the weddings of Jozef Pedowski to Maryanna Walinska (1875) & Jan Switalla to Marta Piernicka (1881).  After the Woolen Mills were established on what was ‘Mosgiel farm’, people preferred to settle around the mill rejecting the small settlement at Riccarton now East Taieri. Bishop Moran could see the small chapel was going to be inadequate for the growing population at Mosgiel and so opened  ‘St. Mary’s’ in Gordon Road, Mosgiel on the 19th of June 1887. The Poles at Allanton were in desperate need of a church of their own and it made sense to relocate the church at Riccarton. The Allanton community held a concert at the Athenaeum Hall to raise the funds for it’s relocation.  It is believed Father James O’Neill supervised the dismantlement and re-erection of the church on the 24th of June 1887.


Sacred Heart after restoration (roughcasting). 1948 Ca. NZ Tablet

The church recently erected at Greytown was opened last Sunday forenoon by the Most Rev. Dr Moran. High mass was celebrated by the Bishop, Father O’Neil being deacon; and Father Lynch, sub deacon. There was a large attendance, the building being found insufficient to accommodate all who had put in an appearance. The greater part of the congregation is composed of Polish Catholics, and during the sermon the Bishop appropriately referred to the struggles which Poland had been made in the past in the cause of their religion.
In his introductory remarks, His Lordship said that he had come to dedicate the church, with all the ceremony they could command under the circumstances. It has been dedicated to Almighty God as the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He congratulated them on the erection of the building, which was alike creditable to them and to their pastor. It supplied a long-felt want, and he trusted it would be the means of great spiritual advancement. The majority of people who would worship in this church belonged to the Polish nation, who held a conspicuous place in history as a nation, which existed no longer – that was, it was no longer known in its political capacity. They were a great Catholic people: full of faith; full of piety; practicing their holy religion, and making for it the very greatest sacrifices that people could make. He then dwelt upon the way in which the Polish people, throughout all their persecution had adhered to the Roman Catholic faith; and said that he had no doubt that a great and good day was in store for Poland; he hoped that it would be so and that it would become once more a great Roman Catholic nation. Europe was indebted to the Polish nation for stemming the Mohammedan invasion which had threatened to over-run it. Something was in store for a people who had been so faithful and so brave and who had made so many sacrifices for God and their church. He trusted that they, representatives of that illustrious nation, would never prove themselves to be unworthy of the history of the race to which they belonged. He trusted that the Poles here would give good examples to their fellow Catholics. He hoped that the children would be gathered together in the church every Sunday, and that some of the devoted men of the congregation would come and teach them the catechism – the great truths of their holy religion. He prayed that Almighty God would bless this church and bless the congregation which would worship it. The musical portion of the ceremony was provided by the Mosgiel Roman Catholic Choir, Madam Ivens presiding at the harmonium. Visitors were present from Tokomairiro, Kuri Bush, Mosgiel and other districts. The collection amounted to the handsome sum of £75.
“The Taieri Advocate”, 17th October 1888.

Altar at Sacred Heart. NZ Tablet

While the setters were aging and the next generation moved further afield, the congregation slowly dwindled and there was subsequent deterioration of the church building.  In 1948, Father M. W. Woods was successful in having the building completely renovated, and the church returned to full use.  In February 1971, special celebrations to mark the Centenary of the Church took place.  The church had its final mass celebrated there in September of 2005 and was soon deconsecrated after.  The church was sold and unfortunately demolished not before some interest was shown to rescue its plight.  It was the oldest Catholic Church between Dunedin & Milton.

A time to reflect – Monica Holmes & Mona Todd outside the historical church at Allanton, after attending the thanksgiving mass of its closure. ODT 12 Sep 2005.



Catholic Baptism & Marriage Records, St. Joseph’s, Catholic Archives, Dunedin

Papers Past | Magazines and Journals | Explore | New Zealand Tablet (natlib.govt.nz)

Pobόg-Jaworowski J. W., History of the Polish Settlers in New Zealand, Warsaw, 1990, pages 24, 25 & 26



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Poles in New Zealand

We would like to hear from Poles or people with any Polish connection, who visited New Zealand and particularly those of you who paid a visit or lived anywhere in Otago or Southland.



“Poles Down South” jest stroną internetową organizacji polonijnej w Nowej Zelandii działającej w rejonie Otago i Southland na Wyspie Południowej. Siedzibą organizacji jest Dunedin.


The Polish Heritage of Otago & Southland Charitable Trust


Chairperson ..... Ewa Rozecka-Pollard
Phone ......+64 3 477 5552
Secretary ..... Anna McCreath Munro
Phone ..... +64 3 464 0053
e-mail .....  info@polesdownsouth.org.nz

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