The dual tradition : Irish Catholics and French priests in New Zealand - the West Coast experience, 1865-1910
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
It is now nearly 140 years since the first Roman Catholic missionaries reached New Zealand. The three French clerics who landed at Hokianga on 10 January 1838 offered their first Mass in the presence of a European congregation of forty or fifty, nearly all of who were either English or Irish. This pattern of French priests serving a predominantly English and Irish communities was to be a distinctive mark of New Zealand Catholicism for the next seventy or eighty years. The Franciscan priest, J. J. P. O’Reily, was the first Irish cleric in New Zealand, coming out as private chaplain to the Hon. Henry Petre in February 1843. The first Irish secular priests were Edward Clery and Timothy O’Rourke who arrived in Auckland with Bishop Pompallier in April 1850. They were ordained by the bishop at the end of that year. However, at the same time Pompallier had brought five French and three Belgian priests back with him from Europe. The first Irish Marist, Michael Cummins, was to arrive in 1870 and Bishop Moran began to staff the Dunedin diocese with the Irish secular priests from 1871. It was not until the mid -1880’s that the number of English – speaking priests in New Zealand exceeded those who spoke French as their first tongue. Little systematic study has been given to the impact of this growing Irish element on the French established Church. The primary aim of this thesis is to examine the effect of the Irish clerics on the Catholic Church in New Zealand. How much did they sympathize with and encourage the political aspirations of their predominately Irish flock? Was there to be found among them the same conflict in attitudes to nationalist movements that troubled the Catholic Church in Ireland? How did they encourage Irish nationalism in a largely English colony? And with what effect? A study of these questions soon leads into the second area of concern in the thesis the conflict between these Irish clerics and the earlier established French priests and bishops. Was the clash between the two groups the result of basic differences in outlook on politics and theology, or was it rather just the predictable friction between two different cultures and civilizations? Were there any long-term effects of this clash for the Catholic Church in New Zealand.