Queenstown, Arrowtown and Glenorchy are served by one Priest, currently: Father Cipriano Fernandes who is stationed in Queenstown. Queenstown came into being through farming, Arrowtown through gold and Glenorchy through mining and farming.
Queenstown is situated on the shores of Lake Wakatipu. The Maori translation is – The Breath of the Sleeping Giant. While we are small in actual numbers, our Churches are a haven for countless visitors who come for various reasons.
History of St Josephs Queenstown
St Joseph’s Church Queenstown (Catholic) (1898) is part of a cluster of buildings associated with the Catholic Church situated at the western end of Melbourne Street, Queenstown. Occupying a prominent elevated position above the centre of Queenstown and the Wakatipu lakefront, the church and its distinctive statue of St Joseph has landmark presence in the town.
A Catholic church was first built in Queenstown in 1863 on Church Street. The division of the Queenstown Parish from Invercargill in 1873 required a dedicated presbytery for the church and this was built in 1877. The presbytery was converted to a convent in 1882 to accommodate Dominican nuns brought to Queenstown to teach at the newly opened St Joseph’s School. In 1883 the land on Church Street was sold and Catholic church activities centred on the convent and school.
It was not until 1898 that a new permanent Catholic church was erected in Queenstown. St Joseph’s Church was built from local Arthurs Point schist and rimu sourced and transported largely by members of the congregation. Parishioners also donated many chattels and features of the church. The generosity of the Queenstown Catholic community in the donation of materials and labour for the construction of the church ensured that it was built quickly and opened free of debt.
History of St Patricks Arrowtown
St Patrick’s Catholic Church Arrowtown, built between 1873 and 1902 on a landmark corner site, has been the focus of Catholic worship and education in Arrowtown since its inception. It is a fine example of architect F.W. Burwell’s ecclesiastical architecture and has a significant association with Australasia’s first saint, Mary of the Cross MacKillop.
The history of the Catholic community in Arrowtown dates back to the discovery of gold on the Arrow River in 1862. The first Catholic priests, Father Moreau and Father Martin took it in turns to visit the isolated mining settlements. After Invercargill parish was separated from Queenstown in 1873, the care of the around 650 Catholics was entrusted to Father John Mackay. On 26 July 1873, miner John Healy gave a three-quarter acre section to the Bishop of Dunedin as a site for the church.
Prominent architect F.W. Burwell designed the church in a Gothic style with a narrow spire and a fine rose window. Built of local stone with contrasting cement facings, St Patrick’s is set on a generous corner section above Arrowtown’s main street. Alongside the church sits Mary MacKillop’s cottage, a small stone building that provided a home for the sisters, and later for the priest when he stayed overnight in Arrowtown. In 1880, the church bought the section next to St Patrick’s, complete with stone cottage. The cottage, over the years, served as a home, refectory, classroom and garage. The church served as a classroom for the school during the week.
In 1882, the church was renovated and enlarged. A new sanctuary (16 feet by 15 feet) was added, and a stained glass window at the back of the altar. In February 1883, the Bishop ‘canonically erected’ the Stations of the Cross. By 1886, a strong parish had developed – the buildings reflecting the strength of the community – the parish had spent £2,370 on the church and grounds, priest’s residence and site for a convent. The sacristy was added in 1902.