Catholic Parish of Warkworth and Puhoi


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Parish History

Wellsford and Warkworth were, in the early days a part of St Benedict's parish. Later they were incorporated in the Puhoi parish. Father Frank Skinner's walking and hitch-hiking expeditions are well known to all. In 1944 the Wellsford parish was formed with Father Lawrence O'Neill as first Parish Priest. The same year the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help was built, and opened at Wellsford.

The Church of the Holy Name was erected in the township of Warkworth in 1910. In 1956 the Church was extended and renovated.

PUHOI CHURCH

When, in 1863, the original contingent of Bohemians set Out for New Zealand, the first stage of their journey took them 80 kilometres eastwards to Prague, their ancient capital, and seat of the government of modern Czechoslovakia. There, the adults had an audience with Cardinal Schwarzenburg, the Archbishop of Prague, who reminded them that they would soon be called upon to pledge their allegiance to a foreign country and exhorted them to do so whole heartedly and loyally and to become noble citizens of their adopted foundation stone, Church of the Holy Name, Warkworth land. He also reminded them that the church of their Catholic faith had already been well-established in the new country and his earnest prayer and hope for them was that they should remain faithful soldiers of the cross to the last.

These words made a lasting impression on the travellers and thus it was that, on arriving in New Zealand, their thoughts turned in this direction. Seeing the importance of a church in Christian worship it was not surprising that the lack of this building was felt. The earliest provision, namely the setting aside of a room in the government whare which had been built to receive the immigrants.original Church of the Holy Name, Warkworth

The first two years in Puhoi were particularly difficult for people who had been unable to bring much with them in the way of tools and firearms and many times they were on the point of starvation. It was the berries and nikau palms of the bush, and the kindness in the provision of fruit and kumara shown them by chief Te Hemera Tauhia, who had his kainga at the mouth of the Puhoi River, which saved them. On the introduction of the timber and shingle trade, when thousands of shingles were split, bundled and punted to the river mouth to be picked up by boat and shipped to Auckland to roof that emerging city, improvements began to appear in the lives of the settlers. The earliest nikau whares were replaced by slab and paling shanties, patches were cleared for potatoes and wheat, and the first sheep and cattle made their appearance.

Contact with Auckland was maintained by a fifty kilometre trek through the bush. Prosperity received an important boost when the Bohemians won a contract to build a stretch of the Great North Road linking the Wade to Puhoi. During the first ten years the population of the village had been increased by two further groups of migrants from Bohemia and by the birth of children. The education of these children was first in the hands of Mrs and Captain Krippner and then a succession of Non-Bohemian masters and mistresses in two consecutively larger government schools.

The first priest appointed about 1866 to visit was Father D'Arkermann, who understood their dialect. He was to have made biannual visits on his journey north to Whangarei and on his return home to the North Shore, a distance each way of more than 200 kilometres, but it is uncertain how many calls on the village he actually made. SS. Peter & Paul, Puhoi His main business was the solemnisation of marriages and christenings. Otherwise mothers had to carry the little ones to Auckland, whither they also walked to be confirmed.

Father Adelaar, Puhoi's first "resident" priest Father Adelaar "lived" in the new presbytery erected for his use and held services in the government school which were however only bi-monthly since within his parish there were now fifteen districts to visit. It was in 1880 that Father Adelaar suggested that a church should be erected.

The project of building the church was taken up most enthusiastically by a Catholic Bohemian, John Wenzlick. Timber, labour and finance were assembled, each contributing what best he was able. Those who couldn't give money gave labour, or lent their own bullocks and horses for the transport of timber. Thus it was that the church was able to be built for a cost of only 267 pounds l.7d. The new church designed by Wrigley, the architect, was blessed and opened on August 10th, 1881, in the time of Father Breiken. The earliest church ended in a lean-to where today the altar be2ins and had no bell-tower, or frontal windows. It was extended in 1899, in the time of Father Brodie, at a cost of 162 pounds l0.6d and the final debt on the church was paid off in 1902. Puhoi altarpiece

The altarpiece painting depicting Christ with Saints Peter and Paul, on whose feast day the first settlers landed in Puhoi, and after whom the church was named, is thought to be an exact copy of one in a church Littitz and was especially commissioned from a well-known artist in Bohemia. The painting bears these words, J. Herzog, Pilsen, Europe, Bohemia 1885.

Fr. Patrick Collins

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Fr Francis Skinner
Parish Priest of Puhoi - Orewa & Warkworth Parish
1934 - 1970


Fr Francis Skinner - is buried in the St Patrick's Church, Panmure Cemetery
The priests are all in two rows at the bottom end of the cemetery
Priests graves at St Patrick's Church Cemetery    Priests graves at St Patrick's Church Cemetery
Click to enlarge





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