The original school/chapel, measuring 39 feet by 19 feet was built in 1878 when the area was part of the Christchurch North parish. In 1888 when the first Bishop of Christchurch arrived, Bishop Grimes, Father Le Menant Des Chesnais included in his report on the diocese that Mass attendance at St Joseph’s was 125. From 1889 Papanui came under the care of the Marist Priests from the new parish of St Mary. The church was first listed on the 1892 parish returns.
In 1924 St Joseph’s was established as a parish in its own right. This was part of a move which also saw the establishment of Riccarton and New Brighton parishes.
The foundation stone of the new brick church had been laid by Bishop Brodie in 1921.
Fr Jim Hanrahan was the first Parish Priest from 1924 to 1939
The St Joseph’s Parish boundaries were marked by roads such as Marshland, Innes, Heaton, Burnside (now Memorial Ave), Russley and North to the Waimakariri.
All or parts of the following parishes were once part of Papanui:
- Bryndwr (established in 1950)
- Mairehau and Somme St (1952)
- Burnside (1958)
- Bishopdale (established in 1966, merged with St Joseph’s in 2004)