Parish History Information referenced from the St Joseph & St Joachim Otahuhu Parish Commemorative Booklet, on the occasion of the 150th Jubilee of the first Mass in 1848.
Booklet Compiled by; Julie Inwood & Raewyn Paea
Establishment of Otahuhu 1848-1998
Otahuhu parish began as one of the Fencible Settlements, an outpost against Maori attacks from the South. It was picked for this strategic location as it straddled the North Island from east coast to west coast-where the North Island is less than a mile wide. Originally a military highway passed through the centre of town, which is now called the Great South Road.
The Fencible soldiers assigned to Otahuhu arrived on the 15th of May 1848, on board the ship “Ann”. They were the personnel of the Royal New Zealand Fencible Corps, an army corps specially conceived by the British government for peculiar needs of a colonial settlement. They were accompanied by their wives and families and received a free passage, a cottage and an acre of land. Soon after their arrival grants of land were given to both the Anglican and Catholic church for the establishment of churches and schools in Otahuhu. This was the Sir George Grey Grant.
Establishment of the First Church
Before Otahuhu had its own parish, the Catholic settlers had been attended by Father Seon who was based at Onehunga.
The first church was built in 1848 by Father Antoine Garin in the style of a Maori whare. The original church was built on the site of the present church by Father Garin with the help of the Catholic men in the Royal NZ Fencible Corps. It ranks as one of the oldest churches in New Zealand. Father Garin was a Grand Missionary who had first been stationed in the Kaipira district by Bishop Pompallier, and was then appointed to look after the districts of Otahuhu, Panmure and Howick.
Early records noted some of the following milestones in the lives of Otahuhu Catholics on October 1, 1848, Martha Quinton, was baptised and the first marriage was celebrated on November 29th 1848, for Robert Kyle and Mary Cobin. Charles Coyle, aged seven months was the first to be buried on 27th February 1851 and Martin McMahon was the first to be confirmed on 27th August 1854.
In 1850, Father Garin left the Otahuhu parish and was succeeded by Father Reynaud and then Father Benson.Until 1850, Otahuhu was administered from Howick. At this stage the parish extended from Ellerslie to Papakura. Ellerslie was later attached to the Panmure parish in 1886 but returned to Otahuhu in 1907 only to be made its own parish in 1908.
Between 1851 and 1863 the parish of Otahuhu was administered from Onehunga. In February of 1851, Father Cleary(who had been ordained by Bishop Pompallier in St. Patricks Cathedral, Auckland, the previous year), was appointed to take charge of Otahuhu and to reside at Onehunga, where he was also curate to Monsignor Paul. Father Cleary was parish priest until 1859 when he left New Zealand, no new appointment was made and Monsignor Paul from Onehunga, continued to visit Otahuhu. From time to time visiting priests took up residence at Otahuhu such as W.J.Benson, L.Reynaud and Father J.M Garavel of Rangiaowhia
Extra regiments were called for in 1861 as defence against an expected invasion of Auckland by the Kingite Maoris from Waikato. The invasion never happened but the 70th, 40th, 65th, 43rd, 24th 2/4th and 2/18th Regiments were noted as being stationed at Otahuhu. The increase in population meant Otahuhu was given full parish status. Catholic families were 90% of the Otahuhu population.