St Peter Chanel Waimakariri

Rangiora second church 1886

The Parish of St Peter Chanel, Waimakariri, was established in 2013 and comprises the former parishes of Kaiapoi and Rangiora. 

In the early days Rangiora and adjoining districts fell under the care of the Christchurch Country Mission established at Shands Track, outside Lincoln.

Fr Jean Claude Chervier SM

Fr Jean Claude Chervier SM was the first resident priest at the Country Mission and traveled via Shands Track to minister to those in North Canterbury. The priests in those days were men of the road, traveling by horse and braving all elements of Canterbury weather.

A church was built at Brackenbridge in 1866, and the first church in Rangiora was built in 1870. With only intermittent visits by priests, locals requested of the Wellington Archdiocese (responsible for Canterbury at that time) that a resident priest be appointed. In 1877 Archbishop Redwood established the first Catholic parish in North Canterbury with Rangiora as its headquarters.

On 15 July Fr Nicolas Binsfeld SM was appointed as the first parish priest.  The parish boundary extended from the Waimakairiri in the south, to the Conway river in the north and from the eastern coastline to the Southern Alps.

Fr Nicolas Binsfeld SM

Meanwhile in Oxford, although Mass was held on occasion in the Road Board offices, a new church was dedicated by Archbishop Redwood on 23 November 1879.  St Patrick’s church in Kaiapoi opened 15 January 1882.

Fr Binsfeld was well liked by parishioners and he ensured the new parish was well equipped to accommodate the growing congregation. The original church in Rangiora was earmarked to be a school house and a new church was opened 17 October 1886.  A week later the Hawarden church opened on 24 October 1886.

The establishment of the Christchurch Diocese in 1887, and the appointment of Bishop John J Grimes SM, brought about new changes to the parish structure.  While Rangiora welcomed its second parish priest Fr Daniel O’Connor in 1887, a decision was made to reduce the size of the parish.

In 1888 Hawarden, Brackenbridge, Cheviot, Waiau and Hanmer became a separate parish known as Hawarden.

The Parish flourished over the years. The arrival of the Sisters of St Joseph resulted in the opening of the school house in the old church. The school was later taken over by the Sisters of Our Lady of the Mission in 1898 and St Joseph’s Primary School is still a significant part of the community now run by secular staff.

The Parish has always retained its connections to the past, and to commemorate the first priest to serve the area, the Church Hall, which opened in 1971, was named the Chervier Centre.

Some of the early priests who served in the parish include:

Fr N. Binsfeld1877 – 1887
Fr D. O’Connor1887 – 1896
Fr P. Aubrey1897 – 1899
Fr W. Hyland1899 – 1922
Fr D. Leen1923 – 1947
Fr P.A. Joyce1947 – 1955
Fr R. O’Gorman1955 – 1965
Fr F.E. Kelly1965 – 1969
Fr S. Clenaghan1970 – 1972

(detailed list to come)

Further Reading on the Rangiora Parish:

A Seed is Sown. Rangiora-Oxford Catholic Parish Centennial. Compiled by Chris Hayward 1981  [Catholic Diocese of Christchurch Archives Reference 2017.1.90]

The Church in New Zealand. Memoirs of the Early Days.  J J Wilson 1910   [CDC Archives Reference 2017.1.174]


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St Peter Chanel Waimakariri