by KATHY WATSON
CHRISTCHURCH — Maria McSweeney has been playing the organ at church for 72 years.
At the age of 12 she took up the duties of organist at Sacred Heart Parish in Reefton, on the South Island’s West Coast. This was followed by Balclutha (St Mary of the Cross), Sockburn in Christchurch (Our Lady of Victories), Riccarton in Christchurch (St Teresa’s) and, finally, Akaroa (St Patrick’s), on the peninsula out of Christchurch.
Her seven decades of efforts were acknowledged after Sunday Mass at Akaroa on February 5.
Fr Vince Curtain commended her for her dedication and willingness to play at other local events, including weddings, funerals, and accompanying the Akaroa choir.
Pip Foley, representing the parish council, spoke of Mrs McSweeney’s determination to continue playing one-handed following a stroke 20 years ago. Where others might have retired, she just took it as another challenge.
The parish has bestowed on Mrs McSweeney the title “Emeritus Organist”.
She will continue to play as required, but will enjoy semi-retirement from regular services.