St Joseph’s Catholic Church in Riversdale. PHOTO/FILE

KAREN COLTMAN
karen.coltman@age.co.nz

Because of its historical and heritage values, a member of St Joseph’s at Riversdale Beach Charitable Trust is confident that the church will remain a community asset and not sold by the Catholic parish to a private owner.

After consultation over the past year, Cardinal John Dew announced in June that of the five Wairarapa Catholic churches only Featherston’s St Teresa of Avila and Masterton’s St Patrick’s Church would be kept. Martinborough, Greytown, and Carterton churches were set to close and the properties sold.

About St Joseph’s, the letter said, “The ownership of St Joseph’s Catholic church is to be researched and its future discussed with ecumenical partners with a view to selling it”.

But trustee Neil Prichard said a sale was unlikely to happen and Dew’s statement reflected a misunderstanding about the 2017 memorandum of understanding in place between the trust and the Archdiocese.

Another trustee, Brian McGuinness, wrote to Dew to explain the status quo.

In response, Dew said because the parish owned the property it must be part of the property review, but discussions between the trust and the parish needed to take place.

“I would like the parish to discuss the future of the church with the trust and whether it should remain the parish’s ownership, or whether perhaps it would be better owned by the trust,” Dew said.

“In those discussions, it is essential that the parish’s capacity to provide masses at Riversdale is taken into account. I am happy to abide by those discussions, but they need to take place.”

From substantial community donations of labour, materials, and cash, the trust had successfully managed the property and had the building refurbished.

Members researched its history and this year St Joseph gained a Category 2 listing as an historic place from Heritage New Zealand.

Founder of Riversdale Beach community Basil Bodle donated the church to the parish.

It was moved from Tinui in 1981, 100 years after it was built.

“The main point is, whether owned by the parish or the trust in the future, it seems clear that St Joseph’s will remain under the management of the trust and continue to be available for religious purposes to the Riversdale Beach community for the foreseeable future,” Prichard said.

“The stations of the cross and church bell, which automatically rings for one minute at 12 noon every day, are special.”

The bell and stations were designed and made by the Marinelli Bell Foundry, established in 1040 in Agnone, Italy.

St Joseph’s is opened most weekends and public holidays by Marcus Percy.



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