St Joseph’s Convent and Church - Manawatu-Wanganui, New Zealand
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Trail Blaisers
S 39° 33.192 E 175° 04.581
60H E 334726 N 5620064
Quick Description: St. Joseph's Convent was built in 1892 as the base for the order of the Sisters of Compassion, which was founded at the site that same year by Sister Mary Joseph Aubert (1835-1926) to care ‘solely for the Maori and the poor’.
Location: North Island, New Zealand
Date Posted: 1/2/2014 6:52:45 AM
Waymark Code: WMJV8F
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member psychrn
Views: 5

Long Description:
Marie Henriette Suzanne Aubert arrived in New Zealand in December 1860. Nine years after arriving at Jerusalem, in 1892, she founded the only Catholic order to be established in New Zealand. Her religious order, the Daughters of Our Lady of Compassion, became known as the Sisters of Compassion.

St Joseph’s Convent was constructed near St Joseph’s Church to house the Sisters of Compassion and to serve as the base for their work. The convent was originally a rectangular building, with gable roof. The building is two-storeyed and distinctive features include the rows of small windows on the first floor, and matai flooring.

The Sisters moved into the new convent building in 1892 along with seven children in their care. From the Convent, the Sisters ran a local day school until 1969, and a home for ‘orphaned’ children from 1892 to 1907. The convent was extended in 1897 to include a children’s wing to accommodate the growing numbers of orphanage children.

During her time at Jerusalem, Mother Aubert became widely known throughout New Zealand as a result of her work with poor and destitute children and for her medicines, which were made at Jerusalem and distributed commercially. She left Jerusalem in 1899 to extend the work of the Sisters of Compassion among the poor of Wellington, but the Maori mission continued. Since 1990, the Sisters have been seeking the lengthy process of canonisation for Mother Aubert.

The convent also operated as a Post Office agency and until 1955 the Sisters kept the local Births, Deaths and Marriages register. Their nursing skills were also called on - before the river road went through in 1934 they were the principal Pakeha medical personnel on the river. Although the school was a convent school it operated within the Native Schools System. Another schoolroom was added to the Convent in the 1940s (making the building roughly T-shaped) and it was used again for boarders in the 1950s and 1960s. The school operated until 1969 when the Native School System ceased and that, coupled with declining rolls, caused the school to close the same year. Generations of local Maori children went through the school; one child was Iriaka Te Rio, who later as Mrs Ratana headed the Ratana movement for some years and was a Member of Parliament for 20 years.

In the 1970s the convent was adapted to accommodate large groups coming for retreats or weekend visits. The Sisters now live in another house behind the convent. In the mid-2000s both the church and convent were renovated following a conservation plan by conservation architect Chris Cochran.

St Joseph’s Convent has outstanding significance due to its fundamental association with Mother Aubert; a woman of national stature revered for her work with Maori and the poor and sick. She founded the only Catholic order to be established in New Zealand, the Sisters of Compassion, while she was at Jerusalem and the convent served as the first home for the new order of Sisters and as the base for their operations. The level of authenticity is high and the historic uses of the building can still be fully understood today.

The convent is still active and they have a fine website which can be found here ( Guests are welcome including groups and retreats. Dormitory-style overnight accommodations are available.
Date location was entrusted to the New Zealand Historic places: 4/19/2012

Type of history commemorated (short description):
St Joseph’s Convent has outstanding historical significance through its close association with Mother Aubert, a woman of national stature revered in her time for her work with Maori and the poor and sick. Mother Aubert founded the only Catholic order to be established in New Zealand, the Sisters of Compassion, while she was at Jerusalem. The convent was constructed in the same year that the Order was founded and was built as its first home and as the base for its missionary activities. At the convent, Mother Aubert directed the missionary activities of the Order and, as she said in 1899, the children’s home ‘was her own and maintained almost entirely at her own expense’.

Website pertaining to the location: [Web Link]

Town, city, or region nearest to the site:

Year placed: 1892

Admission fees if any: 0.00 (listed in local currency)

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