Final Mass in Waiau Church

by Philippa Stainton - Hurunui Parishioner

17 September 2023

On Sunday 30 July, the Parish of the Good Shepherd, Hurunui, celebrated the end of an era, with its final Mass in the church of Our Lady of the Rosary, Waiau. Parishioners from all six townships (Amberley, Cheviot, Culverden, Hanmer Springs, Hawarden, and Waiau) gathered with our parish priest, Fr Michael Pui, to farewell the quaint country church. With so many churches spread over a large area, and a declining number of parishioners, it is sadly no longer sustainable for Masses in Waiau to continue.

In 1888, Mass was celebrated in the local school room. Towards the end of 1899, Fr Walter Price was appointed Parish Priest of Hawarden, and over the next five years, he would build a new presbytery at Hawarden, enlarge the church there, and build three new churches at Waiau, Cheviot, and Hanmer Springs. There were many generous benefactors in Waiau, including George O'Malley, who worked hard to help raise funds, and was on the building committee. The architects were Messrs Collins & Harman of Christchurch, who were asked to design a church to seat 100 people. The small church, in simple Gothic style, was built at a cost of around 350 pounds, and was opened by Fr Price on Sunday 14 October, 1900. Fr Price preached at this Mass and based his homily on the book of 1 Kings 8:27. Waiau can boast of three vocations to the religious life from our area. Fr Cecil Crocker SM, Sr Stephen RSM (Cecily O'Malley), and Sr Rosalie O'Malley SM. There have been many marvelous priests who served the church here over the years, as well as many boundary changes and integrations into new parishes.

It has not yet been decided what will happen with the church building or the land. We give thanks for all the graces received by many parishioners in the 122 or more years of this little country church.

Waiau Church Final Mass 2023