By: Anneke Smith
Preparations to celebrate the 150th year of St Joseph’s Māori Girls College are in their final stages as the school’s jubilee weekend fast approaches.
Established in 1867, the Māori Catholic boarding school has been a steadfast branch of education in Hawke’s Bay and its history and legacy will be celebrated this weekend.
School board and jubilee committee member Meriana Taufale said it was an exciting time for the school and a significant event for Hawke’s Bay, if not New Zealand.
“The biggest event we have is the jubilee mass on Sunday. I think it signifies the special character of the school being Māori and Catholic. That special character being able to be celebrated is significant.”
Preparations for the jubilee began more than one year ago, when the school asked for expressions of interest in the event to gauge numbers.
Ms Taufale said just under 1000 people had registered including old girls, their whānau and local iwi.
The college (formerly named the Providence) was one of the first schools established by the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions in 1867 and two sisters still remain living on school grounds to maintain the connection with the founding order.
The jubilee celebrations begin with a powhiri at the school at 3pm on Friday and continue throughout the weekend, including an exhibition of archival material, book presentation by historian and author Malcom Mullholand and a banquet dinner.
People were looking forward to the reunion where many memories and laughs would be shared, Ms Taufale said.
“The cohorts and year groups have their Facebook pages and it’s getting back together. Many haven’t seen each other for a long time but after spending so long together boarding it is like a sisterhood more than anything.
“It’s like you haven’t moved away from each other. It will be full of laughter and reminiscing with stories. There are a lot of generations now so there will be past pupils with daughters, granddaughters and great granddaughters that are keeping up their tradition.”
Jubilee committee chair Julie Tangaere said they were looking forward to hosting their guests over the jubilee weekend.
“It’s really going to be a great event. St Joseph’s has been home to so many girls over the years. It will be great to get together to share memories and acknowledge the school.”
The school was originally petitioned by Māori Missioner Reverend E Reignier, who was said to be so committed to the education of Māori children he rode for days on horseback to pick up children to be educated at the Catholic school.
In 1995 ownership of the school was handed over in trust to iwi Mvori with the establishment of a trust board.
Source: Hawke’s Bay Today