Te Ngakau Tapu
WelCom April 2022
WelCom’s Hīkoi Whakapono: A Journey of Faith, this month visits Te Pariha o Te Ngākau Tapu – Sacred Heart Parish, in Porirua. Te Ngākau Tapu is the personal parish for Māori in the Archdiocese of Wellington. It is a non-geographical parish and open to all. The parish church is next to Bishop Viard College, 20 Kenepuru Drive, Porirua. Māori Miha (Mass) is celebrated on Sundays at 10am at Te Ngākau Tapu Church. Mass at 5.15pm is in English with some Te Reo. The parish is rich in Māori history, Katorika Māori and Marist Mission. Parish priest, Monsignor Gerard Burns, has written and edited the following articles, with Tū Hono history, originally from Tuhi Mate, provided by Dempsey and Karen Broad.
This feature was published April 2022, in WelCom Catholic newspaper for Wellington and Palmerston North Dioceses.
The beginnings of Te Roopū o Tūhono
In 1999 Sacred Heart Church was renamed and became Te Ngākau Tapu church and parish
In 1982 a strong Māori Catholic community were already meeting for Miha Māori at different locations in Porirua including Sr Walburga’s Day Care Centre in Cannons Creek, private homes, Sacred Heart Church in Kenepuru Rd, and many more. This community prepared
to support the annual Catholic Hui Aranga to be held the following Easter at Porirua College.
In 1983, after the successful Hui Aranga, a small group decided to formally organise a cultural club based in Porirua to meet the needs of Māori and the wider community. Following lots of kōrero and hui, the first president elected was Mr Harris. A short time later he had to move away and Kahu Ratana was elected president. Those first involved in the group were: Tuhi and Nina Mate, Aggie Tautuhi, Bernie Crawford, Mere Noema, Timikara (Russel) Watson, Evelyn Broad, Gary (Snr) and Ellen Davis, Maurice and Mihi Larkin, Hine Campbell, Haami Whanau, Mānuka Henare (Māori Mission) Jenny Peita, Liz Thomas, Herena Ormsby,
Sr Walburga, Sr Dorothea, Pā Cleary, Br Denis O’Brien, Pā Hemi Hekiera, Pā Paddy Kinsella, Pā Trevor Tindall, Pā Chris Martin.
Bessie Thomson gifted the name Tū Hono (uniting the people) for the Marist Māori Mission house in
Castor Crescent, Porirua East. Because of the close connection between the Māori Catholic community and the Marist Mission, karakia, waiata, and whānaungatanga were often shared at the priests’ place. The Kaumatua felt it fitting to name Tū Hono Culture Club after Tū Hono Whare.
In 1984 Tuhi Mate was elected chairperson of the club. The club was practicing at a number of different venues – the Polynesian Centre, Cannons Creek; Holy Family school, Tairangi school; Bishop Viard College basement, various garages, whare and lawns of club whānau including Tū Hono where the priests resided. This drew a lot of attention, and the Roopū began to grow. From 1986 fundraising began for clubrooms.
In 1987 Sacred Heart Church was relocated adjacent to Bishop Viard College site. In October 1990 Te Whare o Tū Hono clubrooms were also opened on that site by Cardinal Tom Williams.
Te Roopū o Tū Hono consisted of a large group of practicing Catholic and non-Catholic Māori, and non-Māori. There were midgets, juniors and seniors with lots of whānau support. Whānau involved in Hato Pāora Māori Boys and St Joseph’s Māori Girls’ colleges brought with them a large network.
Tuhi and Nina Mate and all involved, wisely provided a safe and nurturing place for the less fortunate to come and replenish their wairua, tinana and hinengaro. Tū Hono Whare was another means for providing a space for them to feel welcomed.
The Roopū would also host various
Members of the parish community with Cardinal John Dew, Pā Gerard Burns and visitors at the parish’s 21st anniversary celebrations.
functions for other groups especially Kaumatua.
On 23rd May 1999, Sacred Heart church was renamed and became Te Ngākau Tapu. The parish was formally established under that name in July 1999. The parish of Te Ngākau Tapu turned 21 in July 2020. A celebration Mass was held with the visit of Cardinal John Dew in the presence of the members of the parish community and visitors. The people rejoiced in the occasion, remembered those gone before them, and entered deeply into the karakia of the Mass and traditional waiata. Cardinal John spoke words of encouragement as everyone gathered in the aftermath of the time of the first Covid-19 lockdown. Despite that time of adversity, the Mass, a hākari and a special 21st cake were organised.
Te Ngākau Tapu church and parish
Te Ngākau Tapu church in Porirua was built in the early 1900s as the church of the Holy Name for the Catholic population of the Porirua area and Tawa Flat. It was later renamed Sacred Heart Church and then the Māori translation, Te Ngākau Tapu.
The Porirua area came under Lower Hutt Catholic parish from 1850 and the original congregation of the church would have been mostly of European descent. From 1922 the area transferred to Johnsonville parish. The church’s original site was on the main road out from Wellington to Porirua – before the current motorway existed – now known as Kenepuru Drive. Not far away was the old Porirua psychiatric hospital.
When new parishes were being formed after WWII, the church came under Porirua East parish. Later it was part of the small Porirua-Elsdon parish partly formed for chaplaincy to Porirua psychiatric hospital. In 1978 the Marist Fathers and Brothers founded a base in Castor Crescent, Porirua East to serve local Māori. A community of Catholic Māori gathered for Miha Māori and then for cultural activities – described in the above story Te Roopū o Tū Hono.
In 1987, the church’s site was bought by the neighbouring petrol station. The church was shifted across the road and onto the hillside adjacent to Bishop Viard College. The archdiocese had acquired the college land in the early 1960s. Later a piece was carved out for the church and then Tū Hono hall which opened in 1990.
In 1999, following the 1995 move of the Marist Fathers and Brothers to Petone, Cardinal Tom Williams started something new. In place of the former Porirua-Elsdon parish he named Te Ngākau Tapu church (TNT) as base of a personal parish for Māori.
Cardinal Tom saw this as giving Māori equal pastoral status to other parishes. The then recently ordained Pā Colin Durning became the founding parish priest and his support for the parish continued long after his ‘retirement’. Around 2006–2008, when there was not a priest available, Plimmerton parish assumed responsibility for TNT until Pā Gerard Burns became parish priest in 2008.
A personal parish is ‘different’ as it is not geographically limited as most parishes are. It caters for particular groupings or needs, such as university students, language groups or rites. Parishioners can come from a wider area than ordinary parish boundaries. Catholic Māori from anywhere in the archdiocese can belong to TNT although, in practice, most regular attendees of the parish live in the northern suburbs.
A particular strength for TNT is the chance for Māori to shape the liturgy weekly with use of te reo, chant, mihimihi, karanga and taonga pūoro. The people of the parish have collaborated with other parishes working on these aspects of their parish life and liturgy. Kuia and kaumatua provide depth of faith and a korowai of aroha for all.
Most of the founding members of the parish were also members of the Tū Hono cultural club – currently in recess – and the parish has always included people who do not identify as Māori but are friends and supporters of the work of the parish. This includes attendees at the Sunday morning Miha in te reo and the people attending the 5.15pm evening Mass.
The first parish priest for the newly established Te Ngākau Tapu parish in 1999 – at the request of the Māori community – was the recently ordained Fr Colin Durning. Then aged 70, he had formerly been a professor of dentistry, then resident dentist at the Porirua psychiatric hospital and was very familiar with the church and the community. Pā Colin passed away in Christchurch in February this year, aged 95. Last November he celebrated 25 years as a priest. An obituary for Pā Colin will be published in WelCom soon.