Centenary New Zealand Province


May 15, 1976, was a red-letter day in the history of the New Zealand Province. Brothers and friends from New Zealand, Fiji and Samoa gathered in Wellington to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the Brothers to begin their first school in New Zealand. Complementing local celebrations, which had been held earlier, the national celebrations began on the evening of Friday May 14, with a concelebrated Mass of Requiem for the deceased Brothers of the Province, the principal celebrants being the five Bishops of New Zealand, four of whom received their secondary education at Sacred Heart College, Auckland. At a social gathering afterwards, Brothers, former pupils and friends exchanged reminiscences of the great Marist Brothers who had laboured to establish Catholic education in the South Pacific.

On Saturday, 15 May, a brief ceremony was held at the site of the first school in Boulcott Street. Two commemorative plaques were blassed, to be placed, one in a wall of a building soon to be built on the site, the other in the nearby Church of St. Mary of the Angels. After the ceremony the large crowd moved down the street to the church for the Thanksgiving Mass. Cardinal Delargey was the principal celebrant, and was assisted by the other Bishops and over 50 priests. Two features of the Mass were the chanting at the acclamation of a salutation in Maori by pupils of Hato Petera College, and the enthusiastic and full-bodied singing which filled the church. In his homily, Cardinal Delargey said, « New Zealand was blessed from the very beginning by the zeal of the many Brothers who came and served at the side of the first missionary priests. Looking back, it is hard to know that would have become of the New Zealand mission if it were not for their humble, valiant labours.» He also paid tribute to the new generation of Brothers, « steeped in the theology of Vatican II, and worthy successors of the great pioneers. »

The main social function of the weekend was a centennial dinner attended by some 600 men. The list of speakers included the Governor-General, Sir Denis Blundell, the Prime Minister, Mr. Muldoon, the leader of the Opposition, Mr. Rowling, also Sir Thaddeus McCarthy, the French Ambassador, Baron Albert de Schonen, and the Auxiliary Bishop of Wellington, Bishop Snedden. The Brother's involvement in the sporting activities of their pupils and past-pupils was fittingly marked on the Sunday afternoon when a large crowd enjoyed an entertaining Rugby match between a Wellington Provincial team and a team selected from the many Marist Brothers' Old Boys' Clubs throughout the country.

The General Council was represented at the celebrations by Brother Hilary, C. G., who read a message of congratulations from Brother Basilio Rue-da, S. G., who was unavoidably absent. In his message the Superior-General mentioned one of the striking impressions of his visit to the Province in January, 1974: « I warmly commend the Brothers, the secular staff, past students, and the parents, and all those who help as part of the educative community on their spirit of dedication, loyalty, and generosity that are so manifest.»

Other visitors from overseas included: Brother Kieran Geaney representing the Sydney Province, Brother Joseph André from New Caledonia, and Brother Leonard Sonza, Provincial of the Philippines. Two other much-loved Brothers attending were Brother Canisius Smith from Adelaide and a former pupil of the original Wellington school, and Brother Stephen Coll of Auckland, who, on the day the celebrations began, was invested with the insignia of the O. B. E. for his services to education.

Although the Brothers' first school in New Zealand was opened in 1876, it was not their first school in that part of the South Pacific which now forms the New Zealand Province. A school, initially with only twelve pupils, was opened in Apia, Western Samoa, in 1871. When Brothers Albert and Landry arrived on 14 April, 1871, they were disappointed to learn of the death in Samoa shortly before of Brother Abraham, one of the 30-odd Brothers who during the preceding years had come out to the missions of Oceania with the Marist Fathers. The First group of these pioneers, Brothers Marie-Nizier, Joseph-Francis-Xavier and Michael, left Europe on 19 April, 1835, in company with Bishop Pompallier and four priests of the Society of Mary. Brother Marie-Nizier was left on the Island of Futuna with Father Peter Chanel and a few years later it was only his absence on the other side of the island which saved him from the martyrdom which befell his companion. Brother Joseph-Francis-Xavier spent almost the whole of his working life on the tiny island of Wallis, and Brother Michael sailed on to be one of the three missionaries, who landed at Hokianga, New Zealand, on 10 January, 1838.

In the next ten years in particular, many more young Brothers left the security of their familiar surroundings in the south of France to face the hardships of missionary work in a raw young country, where they could not even begin to be of much value until they had mastered two foreign tongues, Maori and English. Hand-picked by Father Champagnat or Brother Francois, they expected to spend their lives catechising the natives. Instead, they found that such was the poverty of the mission that most of their energies were taken up with providing the basic necessities of life or themselves and for the Marist Fathers with whom they worked — growing food, building boats, constructing houses, making clothes, looking after livestock. Some died violently – Brother Deodat was drowned at sea near Wellington, Brother Euloge was killed by a Maori club while tending the wounded on a battlefield; some became so worn out that they returned to France broken in health; a few survived to welcome to Wellington in 1876 the first group of Brothers to come to New Zealand specifically to open a school.

The arrival of the Brothers owed much to personal contacts between the Superiors and various Marist Fathers. Notable among these was Father Forest, who had been chaplain at the Hermitage in the time of Father Champagnat and who repeatedly importuned the Superior-General for Brothers for his school at Napier. Success rewarded his efforts with the arrival of Brothers in Napier in 1878, two years after Bishop Redwood obtained them for Wellington. In the next 15 years, a remarkable number of new schools was founded. Although the Superiors were being subjected to pressure from Bishops throughout the world for Brothers, and despite the drain on personnel represented by the foundation of so many schools — 131 in the period 1871 — 80 alone — yet when the Superior-General, Brother Théophane, visited the Province in 1893, there were schools not only at Wellington and Napier, but also at Auckland, Christchurch, Nelson, Timaru, Greymouth, Apia and Suva; and before the end of the century further openings were made at Wanganui and Invercargill in New Zealand, Moamoa in Samoa, Cawaci and Naililili in Fiji, as well as a second school in Suva. Such favoured-nation treatment on the part of the Superiors was no doubt due in part to the honoured place occupied in the history of the Institute by the South Pacific as the first field of the Brothers' missionary endeavours.

The first 40 years of the present century were mainly a period of consolidation. The First World War, with the restrictions it imposed on travel, accentuated the need that had been felt for some time for the huge Australian Province, stretching from Perth in Western Australia to Pago Pago in American Samoa, to be divided. The division came in 1916, and the New Zealand Province came into being — it included all the establishments in New Zealand, Samoa and Fiji. Up to this time, all the Brothers in New Zealand who had not come from Europe had been trained in Australia. This system was to continue for some years, but the separation of the provinces sharpened the awareness of the Brothers in New Zealand that the time had come for them to set up their own training centres. The first step in this direction came in 1922, with the foundation of the Juniorate at Tuakau. Ten years later a novitiate opened at Claremont, followed a few years later by a scholasticate in Auckland. The period also saw the foundation of new schools at Wellington, Pal-merston North, Gisborne and Hamilton.

Towards the end of the 1939-45 war and immediately after there was a rapid development of secondary schools — at Masterton, Christchurch, Lower Hutt and Suva. The foundation of these new schools and a rapid increase in the rolls of existing schools, the result of the post-war « baby boom», imposed a severe strain on the ability of the Brothers to staff them. In the '50s the number of aspirants to the Institute also increased sharply, and an extensive building programme was necessary at the training centres; in particular a new scholasticate, Marcellin Hall, was built in Auckland. However, the time lag between the increased number of pupils and the increasing number of Brothers coming through the training centres resulted, firstly, in the with drawal of the Brothers from Timaru for five years, and, secondly, in the employment of lay-teachers, hitherto virtually unknown in New Zealand. Nevertheless, new schools continued to be built and staffed. Sacred Heart College in Auck-was re-established on a new site in 1955, Marcellin College opened in Auckland in 1958, St. Joseph's College in Apia in 1960, and St. John's College in Hamilton in 1962.

As a result of some unfortunate misundertasting between the Brothers and the Mission authorities in Fiji between 1950 and 1960, the Brothers withdrew from their schools outside Suva — from Cawaci, Wairiki and Naililili. These withdrawals made possible the opening of another primary school in Suva in 1963, and recently the Brothers have been looking to establish themselves again in country areas — hence the foundation at Napuka in 1974, which was paralleled by the opening in the esame year of a similar junior secondary school at Palauli in Samoa.

The Second Vatican Council has had a marked effect on the development of the Province. The first ever Provincial Chapter in 1969 led to important administrative changes— the setting up of Area Councils in Fiji and Samoa, the establishment of training centers in Fiji, and the provision of committees to help the Provincial Council in the spheres of Religious Life, Education, Formation, the Missions, and Administration. In the years since then an attempt has been made to put into practice the recommendations of Renovationis Causam. A pre-novitiate year at Nae Nae seeks to develop a sense of community and a free, responsible commitment to the Christian life. The novitiate year no longer attempts to produce an ideal type of Brother by a uniform system, but places emphasis on the individual and the freedom he has in responding to God's call in the religious life. As a result of the change in attitudes to formation, the juniorate was closed at the end of 1974.

However, it was not until the second Provincial Chapter of 1972 that the Province really faced up to the need for the deep inner renewal of each Brother; to meet this need an extensive educational programme based on the theme of renewal was begun ,and included seminars, retreats, 'in-service' courses and examination in each community of its goals and aspirations. To some Brothers the last few years have been a period of stress and worry; what is remarkable is that the great majority of Brothers in the Province have welcomed the challenge of renewal and adaptation and have confidently co-operated in chanel-ling the process of change in the direction they believe to be the right one.

The centenary of the Province has coincided with the passing of the Private Schools Conditional Integration Act, which allows for the possibility of putting an end to the division in the New Zealand system occasioned by the « secular» clause in the Education Act of 1877. Just as the newly-arrived Brothers were then challenged to play a leading part in the Church's heroic effort to set up its own system of education, so today they are faced with the challenge of helping to shape a new, truly national education system. What the next 100 years hold is as obscure to us today as the events of the last 100 years were to the pioneers of 1876, but the presence in the two novitiates of 13 young men, with a further 14 doing their- pre-novitiate training, must inspire everyone with the hope that the Province will continue to do great work for God and His Church in the South Pacific.


15 mai 1976: 100ième anniversaire de l'arrivée des Frères venus ouvrir la première école mariste en Nouvelle-Zélande, à Boulcott Street, Wellington.

Mgr Delargey

, tout a récemment nommé cardinal, était le célébrant principal d'une messe d'action de grâces que concélébraient avec lui plus de 50 prêtres, anciens élèves.

Au repas {de 600 couverts) assistaient le gouverneur-général, le premier ministre, le chef de l'opposition, l'ambassadeur de France, l'évêque auxiliaire de Wellington, etc.

Frère Hilary-Mary, C. G. avait reçu la mission de représenter le Conseil Général et de lire le message du R. F. Supérieur Général. D'autres Provinces maristes aussi étaient représentées: Australie, Philippines, Nouvelle-Calédonie.

Pour l'histoire il faut rappeler qu'une trentaine de Frères avaient déjà travaillé avec les Pères depuis 1836 et que, en 1871, une école avait été ouverte à Apia (Samoa). Frère Théophane alla visiter la Nouvelle-Zélande en 1893. Elle devint province en 1916, incluant Samoa et Fidji, et se détacha peu à peu de l'Australie avec, à partir de 1922, la fondation d'un juvénat, puis d'un noviciat, puis d'un scolasticat indépendants.

Après la guerre (1945) c'est le développement des écoles secondaires, et, malgré un grand développement numérique de la Province, la nécessité d'un corps professoral laïc difficile à payer sans aide de l'Etat. Une aide légère est venue récemment avec l'Acte d'Intégration conditionnelle de l'Enseignement Privé.

L'espoir de relève ne manque pas avec 13 novices et 14 postulants.


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