Church History

Our Parish began in 1851 with the arrival of two French Marist Missionaries, Father John Stephen Pezant SM and Fr Lamplia. They established a small chapel and residence in Taupo Quay Wanganui.

Fr Lamplia set to work to evangelise the people of the river and set up several mission stations.

Fr Pezant concentrated on the settlers of Wanganui and the Catholic soldiers of the 57th Regiment, the Rutland Regiment who were based at the Rutland Stockade, the site of the present day cenotaph and War memorial and the 65th Regiment, the York Regiment on the site of the present day Cooks Gardens.

Their parish area was large and first extended from the Rangitikei area south of Wanganui to New Plymouth in Taranaki to the north. In 1853 a block of land was granted to the Catholic Church in Victoria Avenue. This land, next to the present Majestic Square, was the site of the St Mary's Church until 1973.

The present church which opened in 1976 occupies land purchased in the late 1890's and houses the font, stained glass windows, statues, vessels, the organ and a part of the altar rails from the 1877 church. Some wood from the old church has been reshaped into the Stations of the Cross.

Significant Dates

1857: First parish church blessed by Bishop Viard sm.

1877: Second St Mary’s Church blessed in Victoria Avenue by Bishop Redwood sm.

1880: Sisters of St Joseph began work in Wanganui.

1883: Wanganui River Maori mission reopened.

1892: Home of Compassion Sisters founded by Mother Mary Aubert.

1898: Present church property in Campbell St Wanganui purchased and renamed Villa Maria.

1913: Present Presbytery built.

1944: St Augustine’s College begins on the site of the old Villa Maria.

1973: Last mass celebrated in the second St Mary’s Church in Victoria Avenue, Wanganui.

1976: Present Church opens on the site of the old Villa Maria that had also housed St Augustine’s College.

2001: St Mary’s Parish celebrates its 150th Jubilee.

2002: The Society of Mary (Marist) Order withdraws from Wanganui after 150 years and is replaced by the current Diocesan clergy.