Read extracts from the diary of Sister Mary Philomena Dwyer. She travelled by ship from Carlow to Auckland, New Zealand in 1850. Sr Mary’s diary gives us a good idea of what life was like to travel by ship half way across the world to start a new life in a place called New Zealand.

Auckland Founding Story

Bishop Jean Baptiste Pompallier was the first Bishop of New Zealand. A group of Maori women had visited Bishop Pompallier and told him that they needed ‘wahine tapu’ to teach their children and to help care for their families.

So, Bishop Pompallier travelled back to Europe and visited many convents, asking for nuns to travel to New Zealand to work with Maori children and their families.

Bishop Pompallier finally reached Ireland in 1849, and visited St Leo’s Convent and talked to Mother Cecilia. She agreed to travel to New Zealand with a small group of Mercy Sisters to set up a new Mercy community.

So, in 1849, a group of eight brave Mercy Sisters left their home in Ireland to travel by ship to the other side of the world. It took eight months travelling before the Sisters finally arrived in Auckland on 9th April 1850. During the voyage, Bishop Pompallier taught the Sisters how to speak the Maori language.

The day after they arrived, the Sisters began to teach children in a small school next to St Patrick’s Church. The Sisters were also soon visiting sick people in their homes and in hospital, and also visiting prisoners in jail.

In 1851, the Sisters built a new convent in Hobson Street. This new convent was not just the Sisters’ new home; it was also a school for all the children in the area, and also a home for many orphaned children.

The Sisters saw the need to open new Branch Houses and new schools all around Auckland. Over time, they opened the following primary schools: