It is a privilege to serve as the Parish Priest of the Chatham Islands (Rekohu). Tomorrow morning Bishop Barry Jones and I will be on the plane heading for the Islands. The occasion is the bishop’s pastoral visitation to both Chatham and Pitt Islands.
A number of people have expressed interest in the Chathams and in what I do when I visit. This update will give a bit of background information. Over the next couple of days as I get the opportunity I will upload moments of the bishop’s visit.
The Chatham Islands is a part of New Zealand, and is a parish of the Catholic Diocese of Christchurch. The main Island is 750km east of mainland New Zealand, and the second inhabited island, Pitt Island (population about 30), is about 20km south-east of Chatham. The population of the two islands together is around 600 people.
Fr. James Foley SM was the first priest to visit the Chathams from early August to early October 1896. He visited instead of Bishop Grimes whose health was not good. The brief visit took its toll on Fr. Foley who managed three accidents in the two months, and on return to Lyttelton spent a couple of months at Mount Magdala convalescing. It was 19 years before another priest visited the Chathams.
Bishop Brodie visited in January 1928 for Confirmation. The Church of St. Teresa at Waitangi was built in 1930.
The flight from Christchurch takes around a couple of hours in an Air Chathams Convair aircraft.
The Church at Waitangi with the presbytery alongide, while beautifully maintained by the locals, bear the brunt of the harsh Chatham’s climate.
The bishop and I hope to make the 20 minute flight across to Pitt on Saturday. The flight is less taxing than the two-hour+ fishing boat journey which is the usual way of crossing Pitt Strait. Michael O’Meeghan in his history of the Christchurch diocese descibes this strait as an “often angry sea”. In the picture below note the first glimpse of Pitt Island.
Closer to Pitt Island, Flower Pot Bay is visible. Note especially the red roof at the centre of the picture. This is the Catholic Church “Our Lady of the Antipodes,” so named because it is the furtherest church from Rome (geographically that is).
Picture below: Inside Our Lady of the Antipodes Church. This church was opened in 1974 by Bishop Brian Ashby and the then Prime Minister Norman Kirk.
Fr. John Noonan built the church with the support and practical help of the people of Pitt. Michael O’Meeghan’s history of the Christchurch Diocese “Held Firm by Faith” notes that “Over two seasons, with trips to Pitt Island, Noonan guided the planning and building, making the concrete blocks himself.” Fr Kevin Burns was Bishop Ashby’s secretary at the time and made the trip to Pitt with the bishop and the Prime Minister.
Norman Kirk was invited to open the Church by Bishop Ashby since he was not only PM but also the MP for Lyttelton which included the Chatham Islands.
at the Pitt airfield ready for the flight back to Chatham. The only building at the field is the toilet.
about to land back on Chatham.
looking to the bay from the Church and presbytery
Historical detail in this blog entry taken from: