Historical Milestones

1945 July

First section purchased in Ruahine Street £750.

1948 July

Second section purchased in Ruahine Street £665.


Tender to build School to J.A. Karlsson £4860.

1950 February

School opened.


Parish of St Mary's constituted. Fr. J. J. Kavanagh appointed Parish Priest.


Fr. J. Summers appointed Parish Priest.


Additional two classrooms built.


Tenders let for new church Levesque Construction £36,300. In the same year in the month of May- First peg driven for new Church Foundation Stone Laid by Archbishop McKeefry.

1960 September 18

St Mary's Church Blessed and Opened.


Swimming Pool completed.


St Mary's Scout Hall opened.


Contract for Hall. Keith Hay Ltd $14,590.


Hall opened.


Presbytery erected.

1981 April 26

School integrated. Sisters of Mercy leave School.

1982 April 24

Death of Fr. John Summers. Parish Priest for 31 years.


School upgraded to Integration standards. August 5 - Renovations, carpet, lighting and sanctuary furniture undertaken at an approximate cost of $70,000.

September 14 to 15

Celebration of St Mary's 25th anniversary.

December 22

New Altar and Lectern blessed by Bishop P Cullinane.

1986 April 4

Bishop P Cullinane blesses school additions.

June 23

Pope John Paul visit to Wellington.

1987 October 25

50th anniversary of present Ashhurst Church.


June 26: Death of Rev Fr John McLaughlin

July: Feasibility groups established to investigate Church foyer.

1991 February

Work commences on new foyer. Contractor Colspec, Architect Colin Campbell price $199,000.

1992 February 8

Ordination of Fr Joseph Grayland.


School remodelled - Foyer, staffroom, library.


School remodelling completed and blessed.

Our Parish

St Mary's Parish in Palmerston North has a rich and vibrant history, deeply intertwined with the growth of the Catholic community in the region. Following the end of World War II, the increasing number of Catholics in Palmerston North highlighted the need for a dedicated parish with its own church at its centre. Before this, St Francis at Bunnythorpe and St Columba's at Ashhurst had already been established as part of the St Patrick's Parish.

In July 1945, the first section of land on Ruahine Street was purchased for £750. The acquisition of a second section on Ruahine Street followed in July 1948, costing £665. Recognizing the necessity for educational facilities, a tender was awarded to J.A. Karlsson in 1949 to build a school, with a total cost of £4,860. The doors of St Mary's dual-purpose school swung open in February 1950, providing a space for both learning and Mass celebrations with its unique sliding walls.

In 1951, the Parish of St Mary's was officially constituted, and Fr. J. J. Kavanagh assumed the role of the first Parish Priest. However, it was Fr. J. Summers who took over in 1952, becoming a steadfast guiding presence for the next three decades.

With the community's continuous growth, two additional classrooms were added to the school in 1953. As the need for a dedicated church became apparent, plans were set in motion. In 1959, tenders were issued for the construction of a new church. Levesque Construction was awarded the contract at a cost of £36,300. The foundation stone was laid by Archbishop McKeefry in May of that same year. Finally, on September 18, 1960, St Mary's Church was solemnly blessed and opened, showcasing its innovative semi-circular design and sloping floor, which anticipated the liturgical reforms of Vatican II.

In subsequent years, St Mary's Church underwent renovations to align with the changing liturgical practices. In 1985, significant upgrades were carried out, including the installation of a new altar, lectern, baptismal font, and chair. The choir loft was removed, and improvements were made to the lighting, carpeting, and windows. The church's interior was repainted and re-glazed, ensuring a sacred space that fostered devotion and worship.

The parish's commitment to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment led to further developments. In 1990, the entrance porch was removed, and a new foyer and gathering area were built, providing a space for community engagement and fellowship.

Throughout its history, St Mary's Parish has always held education as a fundamental pillar. St Mary's School, integrated into the state education system in 1981, has undergone various upgrades and remodelling over the years. The school's dedication to excellence led to it meeting integration standards, resulting in a blessed remodelling project that included a foyer, staffroom, and library.

The growth and vitality of St Mary's Parish are also reflected in its community services. The establishment of a swimming pool in 1963 offered a space for recreational activities, fostering a sense of camaraderie and well-being. The opening of the St Mary's Scout Hall in 1966 provided a venue for scouting activities, nurturing the personal development of young members.

The parish's commitment to pastoral care and support has remained steadfast. Over the years, pastoral care services have been extended to cater to the needs of the broader Manawatu community. The availability of these services is outlined in an informative booklet, which also highlights the various ministries within the parish.

St Mary's Parish celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 2001, marking 50 years of spiritual growth and a vibrant faith community. This milestone served as a profound moment to reflect on the remarkable journey of St Mary's Parish. It was a time to honour the generations of parishioners who had contributed to its spiritual growth and to recognize the unwavering faith that had shaped the community.

Throughout its history, St Mary's Parish has not only witnessed physical developments but has also experienced significant transitions in its leadership and community dynamics. The passing of Fr. John Summers, who had dedicated 31 years of service to the parish, on April 24, 1982, marked the end of an era. His tireless efforts and compassionate guidance had left an indelible mark on the hearts of parishioners and the wider community.

As the years unfolded, new milestones and transformative moments continued to shape the parish. The ordination of Fr. Joseph Grayland on February 8, 1992, symbolized the passing of the torch to a new generation of spiritual leaders. Fr. Grayland's presence brought fresh energy and a renewed commitment to serving the faithful within St Mary's Parish.

St Mary's School also underwent continuous remodelling and enhancement to ensure an optimal learning environment for its students. The remodelling efforts were guided by the integration standards set forth by the education system. This commitment to providing a comprehensive and exceptional educational experience demonstrated the parish's dedication to nurturing the minds and spirits of the younger generation.

With each passing year, St Mary's Parish has remained deeply rooted in its faith, fostering a sense of community, belonging, and spiritual nourishment. The milestones and achievements throughout its history reflect the collective efforts, devotion, and unwavering commitment of its parishioners, clergy, and community members.

As St Mary's Parish moves forward into the future, it continues to embrace its rich heritage while adapting to the evolving needs of its congregation. The doors of St Mary's Church and the halls of St Mary's School stand open, inviting both long-standing parishioners and newcomers to become part of this faith-filled community. The journey of St Mary's Parish is an ongoing narrative, one that is shaped by the collective prayers, actions, and aspirations of its members as they navigate the ever-changing tides of time.