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While the first Catholic church in Tauranga was located in Otumoetai, it fell into disrepair during the time of the New Zealand Wars. A church has stood on the site of St Mary Immaculate Church in central Tauranga since 1871. A number of different church buildings have graced the site:

  • 1871 St Mary’s Church (now at the Historic Village, 17th Ave)
  • 1888: Star of the Sea Church (now at Bethlehem College)
  • 1956: St Mary Immaculate Church (now the sacristy, meeting room, overflow room, etc)
  • 1991: the present St Mary Immaculate Church

The former presbytery at St Mary Immaculate is now the administration centre for St Thomas Aquinas Parish.

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St Joseph’s Church was opened on January 1st, 1900. It was built by Hone Bidois and Werahiko Borrell, and was constructed from timber milled in Whakamarama. The first parish priest was Mill Hill Father Holierhoek, a renowned church builder. He and long-time Parish Priest Father Dolphyn MHM are buried in the cemetery in Pitua Rd.

St Joseph’s Church was refurbished in preparation for the church’s centenary in 2000, and is surely one of the most beautiful churches in the Diocese. St Joseph’s Church is the spiritual home for the Catholic Maori of the local area, and, like Tauranga, has been served by diocesan, Marist and Mill Hill priests.

Mass is celebrated at St Joseph’s each Sunday at 9am (except the first Sunday of the month, when Mass is celebrated at St Therese Chapel, Bethlehem Rd, Bethlehem.)

The presbytery at St Joseph’s (built 1932) is the home of the priests of St Thomas Aquinas Parish, and was refurbished in the early months of 2015.

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The first St Therese Chapel at Bethlehem was built in 1928 when Father Holierhoek was Parish Priest. Later a replacement was built, in the time of Father Dolphyn, blessed and opened by Bishop Delargey in 1972. This church served the people of Ngati Hangarau and the local church community for over 40 years. Tragically, it was burnt to the ground on 6th February, 2014.

The third St Therese Chapel was opened by Bishop Steve on 28th August 2016, to the delight of the local people and the whole parish community. On the day of the opening, kaumatua Karora Smith said that the community was determined to build a new church, because St Therese, and St Joseph’s at Te Puna, were important in keeping the faith of the Maori whanau in the area. “We were naturally devastated when the church was burnt down... I am glad it has been a beautiful day and I am proud our community could put the building up and we all share with the joys and blessings, not only now for our families, but also for the future.”

Mass is celebrated at St Therese every first Sunday, at 9am, and every Wednesday morning at 9.15am.

 

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Father Holierhoek built the first Catholic church on Matakana Island in 1917. While the early priests were rowed to the island in a dinghy, Bishop Henry Cleary flew to Matakana by seaplane in March 1920 to confer the sacrament of Confirmation! (Nowadays the priests are ferried to the island on very fast boats, weather permitting.)

The old church at Matakana fell into disrepair, and was replaced by a beautiful concrete block church in 1977, dedicated by Bishop John Mackey.

Mass is celebrated at St Joseph’s, Matakana Island, on the 4th Sunday of each month at about 11am – depending on the tide!

In January 2015, a large group of parishioners from Te Puna, Tauranga, Mt Maunganui, Katikati and beyond travelled by barge to Matakana to celebrate the foundation of the new Parish of St Thomas Aquinas. 

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