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History of the New Zealand Sector

Block Builder

The District expanded to the Land of the Long White Cloud in 1953, at the request of three N.Z. bishops. The Marist and Christian Brothers had preceded them by 75 years, and so the first foundation of Australian Brothers was in the little town of Blenheim on the north of the South Island. The three pioneers opened their school with 91 primary students on 3 February, and despite a trying time with accommodation, they received a commended inspection report the following year, and fine support from the local community. The Marlborough district was a very congenial place for Brothers.

The second foundation had a bumpier start. Perhaps the Blenheim earthquake later that year was an omen. The diocese had done little to build De La Salle College Mangere or Brothers’ house in south Auckland, in time for a similar opening, as in the south. The three Brothers were put up by local priests, with no official welcome, before the three secondary classes opened with 120 students on 3 June 1953. Seven new parishes, with scant resources, were reluctant to support the Australian Brothers unfamiliar with N.Z education. In 1954 Parent Auxiliaries raised funds for much needed amenities. Stronger relations built with parish priests and better facilities bore fruit in raised exam results. Demographic changes in South Auckland meant that Mangere was increasingly teaching disadvantaged Maori and Polynesian students.

The third delayed N.Z. foundation, in 1959, was a day and boarding school in Taranaki Province, Francis Douglas Memorial College, named after a Columban missionary martyred in the Philippines. Owned by the Institute, the school became a central meeting point for Brothers’ retreats and holidays. Settling the ownership was a protracted negotiation, accompanied with rising debts; finally, in 1971 the legal proprietorship was ceded to the Trust Board of NZ Brothers, under a scheme initiated by local prominent lay people. FDMC’s reputation led to an invitation to apply for accreditation for tertiary entrance.

A strong sense of national identity grew as eight local Brothers took final vows 1967-73. The particularity of New Zealand education was stressed with both secondary schools becoming legally integrated into the national system, albeit keeping their Catholic ‘character’ post 1975. (Boards of governors recruited & paid principals and teachers). NZ Brothers independence and stability was underlined in Br. Patrick Lynch’s Mangere principalship over 15 years, and Br. Peter Bray Principal at New Plymouth and Mangere. New Zealanders also broadened their experience and talents in Australia and further afield, some becoming missionaries.

Br. Patrick had increasing impact on N.Z. Catholic education, becoming by 1994 its Director, influencing public education policy for 21 years, and granted a knighthood. Br. Peter also had impact, and later became vice-chancellor of Bethlehem University, Palestine. Br. Steve Hogan was a Principal at Mangere, Hong Kong and now Oakhill College. Br. David Hawke has had Visitor terms for 15 years.

The “Shared Mission” of many lay colleagues and Brothers is instanced in two other schools also. A vibrant Associated Lasallian school, John Paul College, Rotorua, has grown in the last 17 years under Mr. Patrick Walsh, a previous Vice-Principal at Mangere. Founded in 1987, it has 1270 students – boys and girls. (A community of Brothers worked there in the late 1990’s). An expansion into the Pacific, saw St. Paul VI College, Samoa take up the Lasallian charism in 2019.