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St. Mary’s Catholic Church


St. Mary’s Church & School (original church building) in 1905, courtesy of St. Joseph’s Archives, Dunedin


From the time of the Gabriel’s Gully rush until the appointment of Bishop Moran, Milton was visited by a priest from Lawrence.  About 1868 a wooden church was erected, which was replaced by a brick building in 1892; and a substantial brick presbytery was built in 1885. The Dominican nuns were introduced in 1891, and occupied what had been a private residence in the extensive grounds purchased for them, until a new brick convent was opened for them in 1901.


Polish marriages held in the first church.

1880, 9 Oct, Joseph OrlowskiPauline Philippowski

1887, 22 Feb, Martin KlimeckMinnie Barra

1889, 12 Jun, Anicich Antonio – Ellen Plevenski

1891, 25 May, Henry Hand – Barbara Welnoski

1891, 30 Dec, Joseph Halba – Theresa Barra



(From a Correspondent.) Milton, January 24, 1892. The ceremony of blessing and opening the new Roman Catholic schools and church at Milton took place to-day at 11 o’clock. The Most Rev. Dr Moran celebrated pontifical high mass and preached. The deacon and subdeacon were the Very Rev. P. O’Leary and the Rev. Father O’Donnell; master of the ceremonies, the Rev. P. Lynch ; and the assistant at the throne, the “Very Rev. Father Plunkett. There was a very large congregation, composed of persons from Milton, Dunedin, Mosgiel, Oamaru, Balclutha, and Kaitangata. The collection amounted to (pounds) 180, and the Rev. Father O’Neill announced that only a debt of (pounds) IOO remained unpaid. Bishop Moran, in his discourse, denounced the present Godless system of education and the monstrous injustice done to Catholics, who pay for the education of their own children while contributing to the education of other people’s children. A most efficient choir rendered the music of the mass, and seldom, if ever, have the people of Milton heard more excellent music. The Very Rev. F. Plunket preached in the evening to a very large congregation. Mr Hollick, of Milton, was architect and contractor of the building, which was much admired by all. The cost was about (pounds) 1100.”

“St. Mary’s Church — Yesterday being Feast of the Ascension Day services were held in St. Mary’s Church, Milton, as on Sundays. At both morning services touching reference was made by the preacher, Rev. Father O’Neill, to the loss sustained by the diocese by the death of Bishop Moran, a short resume of his life being given. Great sympathy was freely manifested by the congregation at the sad news. We understand that an effort will be made to get the railway authorities to grant special facilities to those desirous of attending the Bishop’s funeral on Wednesday.” Bruce Herald, 24 May 1895, p 2

Polish marriages held in the new church.

1895, 5 Jun, David Dickson Stevenson – Rose Mehalski

1896, 14 Oct, Francis Barra – Pauline Rekowske

1896, 14 Oct, August Francis Rekowske – Mary Ottrey

1906, 10 Oct, Thomas Welnoskie – Annie Bell Dysart

1909, 12 Apr, Martin John Kreft – Ellen (Nellie) Maley


“Wedding Bells. KREFT—MALEY. Quite a large crowd of people—ladies of course predominating assembled at St. Mary’s Church, Milton, at 8.30 on Easter Monday morning, the occasion of the meeting being the marriage of Mr Martin Kreft, youngest son of late John Kreft, Akatore, to Miss Ellen Maley, second daughter of the late Mr P. Maley, Clarksville. Nuptial Mass was celebrated, and the Rev. Father Howard performed the important and pleasant duty of tying the marriage knot, The bride was given away by her eldest brother, Mr Michael Maley. Miss Mary Maley, sister of the bride, acting as bridesmaid, and she was prettily attired for the occasion. The best man was Mr Joseph Kreft. Good wishes flew round like rice as Mr Kreft led his bride, charmingly, dressed in a dark blue costume, from the chapel, and the party and. their numerous friends were soon whirling along in carriages to Clarksville, where Mrs Maley had a sumptuous breakfast prepared. Then a drive to Clarendon, many vehicles being requisitioned, was the next feature, On the return to Milton Mr and Mrs Kreft entrained in the evening express for Dunedin, the locale chosen for the honeymoon. A dance was held at Mrs Maley’s in the evening, a large number of friends being present, The barn was well adapted tor a dance, and Mr J. Boyle as M.C. was the right man to keep things going as merrily as a marriage bell. Mr W. A. Lilburne supplied the music. A number of songs and other entertaining items were rendered, Mr and Mrs J. S. Fleming especially being prominent in promoting universal sociableness, The presents bestowed on the couple were many and valuable, and quite in keeping with the popularity with which they are held locally. With the chorus we join in wishing them “Long life, happiness, and prosperity.” Bruce Herald, 15 April 1909, p 5


St. Mary’s Church in 1905, courtesy of St. Joseph’s Archives, Dunedin


“Welcome to Father Farthing. SOCIAL AT ST. JOSEPH’S. Owing to the state of the Very Rev. Father O’Neill’s health making it imperative for him to leave this part of the Dominion, the Roman Catholic parish of Milton, which extends from Waihola on the north to Chaslands on the south, was for a short period without a pastor. The Rev. Father Farthing, of Auckland (where Father O’Neill was recuperating his health), however, stepped into the breach, and has undertaken the Herculean task of administering to the spiritual wants of the members of this widely circulated flock during the absence of its genial pastor. In order to give Father Farthing an early opportunity of making the acquaintance of his parishioners in Milton, and also to allow members of the congregation to publicly show their appreciation of his kindness in coming to them, and the pleasure they felt at having him as their spiritual minister, it was decided to hold a welcome social. The function was held on Tuesday evening in St. Joseph’s Schoolroom, which was filled by a representative gathering of the congregation. The hall was tastefully decorated. As the guest of the evening entered the building, the pupils of the school stood up and sang the refrain “Welcome.” The Chairman, Mr W. Kirby, in his opening remarks explanatory of the object of the meeting, said that since the regrettable absence through illness of the Very Rev. Father O’Neill the Roman Catholics of the Milton parish were without a pastor, but owing to the kindness of the priests at the Mosgiel College, Mass was celebrated every Sunday in their chapel. They were then very pleased to hear from Father Farthing that he was to be in their midst. It was thought fitting that they should meet him in a social way, and the speaker, on behalf of the congregation, had much pleasure in giving their new pastor a hearty welcome, and asked him to accept this meeting as an assurance on their part that they would be united to him, and would co-operate with him in his spiritual work. Father Farthing may have felt some coldness climatically when he came to Milton, but he (the speaker) would assure him that they would make his stay in Milton as bright and happy as possible. Mr Kirby hoped that any injury to the Father’s health, caused through the climatic difference of the warm north and this southerly part was now recovered from, and that his residence here would benefit his health. In conclusion, he again extended a warm welcome to Father Farthing, and hoped that he would be long spared to continue in his work for the glory of God. —(Applause). Mr J. Moroney offered his greetings to their new priest. The parishioners intended to give Father Farthing all the assistance they could, and he would assure him that he would find that the Catholics of this parish were of first class material. They ought to be very thankful to secure his services for the parish, and the least he could say was that Father O’Neill had sent them “a good Farthing.” Mr R. Grealish, junr., as the son of one of the oldest parishioners, was pleased to be able to say a few words of welcome to Father Farthing, whose stay in Milton, he hoped, would be beneficial to his health. Father Farthing, though personally a stranger, was well-known here and throughout the whole Dominion tor his good work; they had read of him in the Catholic papers, and they were proud to have him in their midst. Although meeting in harmony that evening, it was to be sincerely regretted that it was through the illness of Father O’Neill—a priest who was beloved of all his people. He had a soft heart, which went out to all in sickness and trouble. He hoped that when Father O’Neill returned he would be in good health.—(Applause). The young men of the parish would co-operate with, and do their utmost to assist Father Farthing in his work. Mr Grealish concluded by extending once again a hearty welcome to their new pastor.—(Applause). Mr M. Kreft, president of the local branch of the Hibernian Society, spoke a few words of welcome on behalf of his fellow-members. As a Catholic body they would render all their assistance to Father Farthing in his work in the parish. He felt sure that his presence would have an invigorating effect, and would mean an increase in the membership of the Society, which, he was pleased to report, was in a sound financial position. Mr Jas. Lynch said that when he met Father Farthing nine months ago in Auckland, he little dreamed that he would have the pleasure, as he had that night, of welcoming him to Milton. On behalf of the young men of the parish, he tendered their warm greetings, and hoped that his stay in Milton , would be pleasant. After referring to , Father Farthing’s interest in the Hibernian Society, the speaker concluded by expressing the hope that he would not find the climate too severe, but that he would leave us in robust health. The Rev. Father Farthing, on rising to respond, was greeted with rapturous applause. Three weeks ago, he said he met Father O’Neill in Auckland, who was in distress because there was no priest left in charge of his parish. He thought he would like a change himself, and so he got permission from the Vicar-General to come down to Milton. When he announced his intention to his fellow-priests, they told him he would never return alive from such a cold place. When he came to Milton at first he thought the weather was remarkably cold. His first day’s experience, when he had to drive to Waihola to celebrate Mass, was rather severe, but since then he had not felt it so terribly cold. He had found a warmth in his new parish which he did not expect—-the warmth of the people. It would be another wrench added when he left them. When a young man enters college to prepare for priesthood he severs all loving ties with his family. At college he makes new and warm friends among his fellow-students, and another pang of parting comes when he takes Holy Orders and leaves his college friends. Then in his parish he becomes very fond of his people. Now he had come to Milton, and his heart had already gone out to them. First he was in Australia, then Philippine Islands, Auckland, and now in Milton. He would do all he could to steer them in the course that was true. A good deal of reference had been made by the speakers to his health, but (with a quiet smile), “I can tell you I am not near so delicate as you think.” — (Laughter). With regard to the young men, he hoped they would come forward and assert themselves, not only in the Church, but in politics and every walk of lite. He was sure that if Father O’Neill did not come back to Milton he would be very anxious to stay here. He hoped that Father O’Neill’s health would improve, and that he would come back completely recovered, but all the same he wished he would have a prolonged holiday.— (Laughter and loud applause). The following items were rendered at intervals during the evening, and were all heartily appreciated by the audience: Club drill by boy pupils; chorus, “When through life,” pupils; piano solo, Miss Scanlan; songs” Last rose of summer,” ” Dear little shamrock,” “Ye banks and braes,” “Believe me if all those endearing charms,” Rev. Father Farthing; part song, “Meeting of the waters,” choir; dance, Miss M. Laffey; piano duet, Misess Scanlan and Reid. The items rendered by Father Farthing were recognised as the gems of the evening. He is endowed with a rich tenor voice, which together with a thorough mastery of music, enables him to deliver all his songs to perfection. The refreshments provided by the ladies, went far to contribute to the enjoyment of the evening, which terminated with the singing of a verse of” Auld Lang Syne.”  Bruce Herald, 16 July 1908, p 3

In November of 1908, a presentation was made to Miss E. Scanlan on the eve of her marriage to Mr J. McMurtrie, of Mangatoki, Taranaki.  Since childhood she had been the organist for the Roman Catholic Church at Milton and a farewell and Valedictory presentation was given at the St. Joseph’s Schoolroom in her honour.

“Roman Catholic Church. OPENING OF NEW BUILDINGS. NEW ALTAR AND PULPIT. ‘An interesting and important epoch in the history of Roman Catholicism in Milton parish which extends from Waihola to Owaka, and includes the boroughs of Milton, Kaitangata, and Balclutha—was celebrated yesterday,, when special dedicatory services were held to commemorate the opening of substantial additions to St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, Milton. These additions comprise the erection of a new sanctuary, nuns’ chapel, and vestry, which have been added to the southern portion of the church. The additions are built in brick, and the design harmonises with the general architecture. whilst they add greatly to the general effectiveness of the building for worship. 

A large and ornate white marble altar has been presented to the church by Mrs Scanlan and family, in tribute to the memory of their husband and father, Mr James B, Scanlan, who during his life time was a prominent supporter of the church. The altar bears the modest inscription on a panel at the base: “In sacred memory of James B. Scanlan. R.I. P.”

A new pulpit has also been presented to the church by the congregation in memory of those ex members who have fought the good fight, and made the supreme sacrifice in the Empire’s cause. Their names are: James Hand, John Callanan, Patrick Scanlan, Patrick Stanislaus Curran, James Kane, Thomas Maley, Ernest Cooper.

The dedication of the new buildings and blessing of the altar and pulpit was celebrated at Solemn High Mass yesterday morning. There was a large congregation, which included visitors from various parts of the wide parish. The Very Rev, Father Coffey (Adm. of St. Joseph’s Cathedral, Dunedin) was Master of Ceremonies; the celebrant of High Mass being Rev, Father Collins (of Holy Cross College, Mosgiel). The Very Rev, Father Liston (Rector of Holy Cross College) preached an appropriate dedicatory sermon, and Rev, Father Scanlan (of Holy Cross College) assisted in the service as sub-deacon;

The choir sang ” Gounod’s Mass in C,” whilst ” Ave Maria ” was sung during the offertory. The instrumental accompaniments were played by Miss Coleman (organ), Messrs J. Walsh, Jos. Powley and W. Kirby (violins). Rev. Father Howard (priest in charge of the parish) delivered a brief address, outlining the improvements which had been effected to the church property since he came to the parish ‘about ten years ago. During that period the sum of £I3OO had been spent on additions and renovations, in addition to which a great amount of gratuitous labor had been given in beautifying the church grounds. He sincerely thanked the congregation for their ever-generous liberality in support of the church funds. He also paid a tribute of praise to the excellent workmanship by the contractors, Messrs Arthur Littlejohn and Son, in the erection of the new buildings. The offertory amounted to £7O, including one donation of £10. four of £5, and ranging down to £1 and 10s. This generous response, coupled with outstanding promised donations, practically clears the church property of debt. 

Special services were also conducted in the evening, the preacher being the Very Rev. Father Coffey.” Bruce Herald, 21 October 1918, p 5


Original wooden St Mary’s Catholic Church built around 1868 and was later the school, courtesy of Paul Klemick


Funerals held at St. Mary’s.

“FUNERAL NOTICE. The Friends of the late AUGUST PLEVER (and Family) are respectfully invited to attend his Funeral, which will leave St. Mary’s Church, Milton, TO-DAY (SATURDAY), 22nd inst., at 2 p.m., for the place of interment, Fairfax Cemetery. JOHN K. WILSON, Undertaker, Milton.” Otago Daily Times, 22 September 1923, p 8

“DEATHS. ORLOWSKL-—On May 23, 1925, at Dunedin, Annie Orlowski; in her eighty-second year. R.I.P. —Funeral will leave St. Mary’s Church, Milton, To-morrow (Tuesday), May 26, at 2 p.m., for Fairfax Cemetery.—W. H. Cole, undertaker.” Evening Star, 25 May 1925, p 6

“FUNERAL NOTICE. Friends of the late JOHN ORLOWSKI and Family are respectfully invited to attend his Funeral, which will leave St. Mary’s Church, Milton, TO-MORROW (SATURDAY). 24th inst., at 2 p.m., for the place of interment, Fairfax Cemetery. J. R. WILSON, Undertaker, Milton.” Otago Daily Times, 23 December 1927, p 8

“DEATHS. BARRA. —On June 8, 1932, at his residence, Loudon’s Gully, Tokomalrlro, Francis Joseph, beloved husband of Paulina Barra; aged 73 years. R.I.P. —The Funeral will leave St. Mary’s Church, Milton. On Saturday, 11th inst., at 2 p.m. tor Fairfax Cemetery. Requiem Mass at 9 a.m. Saturday.— ,T. M, Wilson, undertaker, Milton.” Otago Daily Times, 9 June 1932, p 6

“DEATHS. PLEVER.—On September 7, 1934, at Milton, Frances, relict of August. Plever, of Milton; aged 102 years. R.I.P. Requiem Mass at St. Mary’s Church, Milton, at 9 a.m. To-day (Saturday), 8th inst.—Private interment to Fairfax Cemetery from church at 10 a.m. —J. R. Wilson, undertaker, Milton.” Otago Daily Times, 8 September 1934, p 12

“DEATHS. HALBA.—On February 11, 1938 (suddenly), at his residence, Spenser street, Milton, Joseph Valentine, dearly beloved husband of Teresa Halba; aged 74 years. R.l.P.—The Funeral will leave St. Mary’s Church, Milton, on Monday, 14th inst., for the Fairfax Cemetery, following Requiem Mass at 9 a.m.—J. R. Wilson, funeral director, Milton.” Otago Daily Times, 12 February 1938, p 12

“DEATHS. ORLOWSKI —On October 20, 1939, at Milton, Fanny, relict of Augustus Orlowski, Waihola; aged 91 years.- R.l.P. The Funeral will leave St. Mary’s Church, Milton, This Day (Saturday), 21st inst., at 2.30 p.m., for the Waihola Cemetery, passing through Waihola at 3 p.m. Requiem Mass at 9 a.m.—J. R. Wilson, funeral director, Milton.” Otago Daily Times, 21 October 1939, p 10

“DEATHS. HALBA.—On December 1, 1939, at Balclutha, Theresa Augusta, dearly beloved wife of the late Joseph Halba, of Spenser street, Milton. R.l.P.—The Funeral will leave St. Mary’s Church, Milton, This Day (Monday), 4th Inst., for Fairfax Cemetery, following Requiem Mass at 9 a.m.— J.  R. Wilson, funeral director. Milton.” Otago Daily Times, 4 December 1939, p 6

“DEATHS. BARRA.—On November 30, 1942. at Milton, Paulina, dearly beloved wife of the late Francis Joseph Barra, of Loudon’s Gully. Tokomairiro; aged 85 years. R.I.P. Private interment. Requiem Mass at St. Mary’s Church, Milton. To-day (Wednesday), December 2, at 8 a.m.—J. R. Wilson, funeral director, Milton.” Otago Daily Times, 2 December 1942, p 1

“DEATHS. HAND.—On July 15, 1943, at Milton, Barbara, beloved wife of Henry Hand, of Queen street, Milton; aged 72 years. Also, Henry Hand, loved husband of above; aged 88 years. R.l.P.—The Funerals will leave St. Mary’s Church, Milton, on Saturday, 17th inst., at 2 p.m., for Fairfax Cemetery. Requiem Mass at 8 a.m., Saturday.—J. R. Wilson, funeral director, Milton.” Otago Daily Times, 16 Jul 1943, p 1


Catholic Church built in 1892, courtesy of Paul Klemick


Research Sources

Catholic Baptism & Marriage Records, St. Joseph’s, Catholic Archives, Dunedin. Kindly compiled by Pauline Lee

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


Compiled by Paul Klemick (2022)


Chairperson .....  Ewa Rożecka Pollard
Phone ......+64 3 477 5552
Secretary ..... Anna McCreath Munro
Phone ..... +64 3 464 0053

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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.

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