Lovely church in Picton faces demolition

St Joseph's Catholic church

Picton’s much-loved St Joseph’s Catholic Church is facing demolition. After 158 years, tenders to level the church building are being sought.

Its long history of Sunday masses ended on January 13, 2019 and its doors were closed for good after a parish property review later that year.

The soon-to-be-razed Catholic church building was the second church built on the site . The first had its first Mass in 1865.

The current building has been deemed an earthquake risk after being given a new building standard (NBS) rating of just 10 percent.

Options were considered by the region’s Catholic parish, Star of the Sea Marlborough. The parish eventually decided the cost of making the building safe to use again wasn’t viable.

“Today, with fewer priests, rising costs and parishioners more likely to drive to Mass, parishes have been asked to reorganise how they engage with their communities,” said Greg Stretch, Star of the Sea Steering Committee chair.

A decision was made to demolish the building in May this year. Stretch said the committee is currently seeking quotes to get the job done.

“It was a tough decision to make, but in the end when you look at what the NBS rating was, we needed to make sure we’re looking after our clergy as well as our parishioners,” he said.

Parishioners don’t have to go far to their new church, though.

A wall between two classrooms was knocked down next door at St Joseph’s School, which closed in 2017. This enabled the parish to convert the building into the Picton community’s new place of worship.

“The decision was made that when we had the old school available, to actually refurbish that, which would basically better meet our needs,” Stretch said.

“If we could have saved it [the old St Joseph’s Catholic Church], we would’ve,” parishioner Carolyn Strongman said.

She said they took everything they could from inside the old church to their new home. The parish hopes the central stained-glass window could be salvaged before the building was levelled.

“It’s going to be very sad, we’re all very, very sad that it is coming down,” she said.

The refurbished church attracted about 30 regulars on a Sunday and was “chocka” at Easter and Christmas. Despite some Picton locals thinking closing the old church meant St Joseph’s was gone for good, the greater Catholic Church’s wishes won out, Strongman said.

“The fact the beautiful little building will remain in place and become an asset to the wider Renwick community now is some comfort though,” she said.

Marlborough has just one Catholic priest. The parish stretches from Picton to Kaikōura. These facts came into consideration when closing St Joseph’s was mooted.

“There’s only so many places that they can say mass over a weekend, so that was all part of the review,” Stretch said.

“There’s still services in Blenheim, Picton, Seddon and Kaikōura every weekend, so we’re still trying to make sure that we’re meeting the needs of our parishioners.”


Additional reading

News category: New Zealand, Palmerston.

Tags: , ,