Sacred Heart School, Petone 1901.

Soon after Bishop Viard arrived in Wellington in 1850, he opened St Mary’s School which was the first Catholic girls’ school in Wellington. The school was very popular, so Bishop Viard soon opened other schools, including a boarding school for orphans.

Bishop Viard asked a small group a young women, who wanted to become nuns, to teach at the schools and care for the orphans. This was a lot of work for these young women, and Bishop Viard knew that they needed more people to help. So he wrote to the Sisters of Mercy in Auckland asking for some Sisters to move to Wellington to help run the schools and care for the orphans. In 1861, Mother Cecilia agreed to help, and three Sisters of Mercy sailed by ship for 10 days from Auckland to Wellington. These Sisters were Sister Bernard Dickson, Sister Augustine Maxwell and Sister Marie Deloncle. The Sisters had little money, and they were kept very busy teaching and caring for many Wellington children.

St Josephs School – Upper Hutt – 1943.

In 1873 the Sisters asked the Sisters of Mercy in Melbourne, Australia, for help as there were not enough Sisters to run all the schools. So Sister Cecilia Benbow and Sister Xavier Butler travelled by ship from Melbourne to join the busy Mercy community in Wellington.

The Sisters knew that families and communities all around Wellington needed their help, so they set up Branch Houses in many areas. This meant the Sisters could live in the same neighbourhoods as the people they were helping.

The Sisters worked very hard visiting sick people in hospital and in their homes, visiting prisoners in jail, caring for orphans, helping Priests to look after people in their Parishes, helping children who were not able to attend a Catholic School to learn about God, and of course teaching in many Catholic schools all around Wellington and Palmerston North.

Many of these schools are still open today, and continue to share their Mercy story:

St Mary’s School, Blenheim
St Teresa’s School, Karori
St Patrick’s School, Kilbirnie

San Antonio School, Eastbourne
Sts Peter and Paul School, Lower Hutt

St Bernadette’s School, Naenae
St Joseph’s School, Upper Hutt
Sacred Heart School, Petone
St Joseph’s School, Picton
St Bernard’s School, Brooklyn
Holy Cross School, Miramar
St Anne’s School, Newtown
St Anthony’s School, Seatoun
Sacred Heart School, Thorndon
St Catherine’s College

Palmerton North
In 1894, a group of Sisters of Mercy from Wellington were invited to take charge of the Catholic school in Palmerston North. Sister Mechtilde, Sister Aloysius, Sister Stanislaus and Sister Cecila Benbow moved to Palmerston North and set up a Branch House. This began many years of work by the Sisters of Mercy with the Manawatu community.

They taught in a number of schools, sharing with the children their deep love for God.

The Mercy schools which still remain open:

St Matthew’s School, Marton
St Mary’s School
Our Lady of Lourdes School
St James’ School
St Peter’s College