110-year old Wellington church to close

Unaffordable maintenance costs and an old and shrinking congregation have spelt the demise of a 110-year old Wellington church.

St Bernard’s parish church in Brookyn held its last mass on 10 April. It will close altogether in the coming months.

St Bernard’s parish priest Fr Doug Shepherd says earthquake strengthening work was needed on the body of the church.

Other than that, it was in good condition for its age, he says.

“The church is 110 years old and needed extensive repairs as time went by.

“What really needed work was the presbytery. The presbytery needed insulation and piping as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars of other small maintenance that was too much to maintain.”

Although St Bernard’s was merged several years ago with other Catholic churches to become part of the Catholic Parish of Wellington South, it was sacrificed to save other church buildings in the parish, said the parish priest.

Shepherd acknowledged the church would have to close at some stage.

The congregations were getting too low – not just in Brooklyn itself, but throughout Wellington.

Net donations were falling and more churches were having to merge or close.

The pandemic exacerbated the problem, Shepherd notes.

He says elderly people, who were St Bernard’s main congregation, had not been regularly attending church due to the pandemic.

“The congregation is not what it was.

“We had to look at our assets, the cost of maintaining the church was too high for the low numbers attending. We had to look at the future.”

Shepherd says whether the 110-year old Wellington church would be sold or kept as a heritage site is a decision for the Wellington South leadership team to make.

In the meantime, all the holy artefacts will be removed and the church will be decommissioned by the bishop.

Although the church has closed, masses in the hilltop Brooklyn suburb will continue.

St Bernard’s community will keep gathering in the assembly hall at St Bernard’s School, which is just over the road from the church.


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