by MICHAEL OTTO
TAURANGA — In the 50 years since 1963, there have been many changes in Church and the world, but one thing has stayed constant — the Greerton Rosary Group.
The half century of prayer from the group, which has met in private homes on Tuesday afternoons, come rain or shine, was honoured at a Mass in St Mary Immaculate Church, Tauranga, on June 16.
Writing in the parish newsletter about the group, parish priest Msgr Frank Eggleton said the only thing that has changed in 50 years is the meeting time shifting from 2pm to 1.30pm.
“The moral is — don’t meddle with something when it is working well,” Msgr Eggleton wrote.
At the regular morning tea after that Mass, a special cake was cut by two of the longest standing members — Dora Walthew and Eva Burbery.
Meetings include the Prayer of St Francis, the Apostles Creed, five decades of the Rosary, the Hail Holy Queen, the Memorare, a Prayer for the Wounds of Christ, St Joseph’s Prayer (for non-practising Catholics in the parish) and a Prayer invoking St Michael.
This is followed by an afternoon tea and a chat.
The group was founded by Greerton identity Mary O’Neill, who came to New Zealand from Scotland after her husband died, to join her daughter Rose Gartshore.
Mrs Gartshore, who is a member of the group today, recalls that her mother had a great love for the Rosary and would pray it regularly with her nine sisters in Scotland.
“When she came here, she was fortunate there were some Catholic neighbours across the road and next door. That’s where she started, with four or five.”
“The Church was a big part of her life, really, especially the Rosary.”
When asked how her mother, who died in 1992, would feel if she knew the group was still going after 50 years, Mrs Gartshore smiled. “She would be very proud, really she would.”
One of Mrs O’Neill’s early supporters was Eva Burbery, 88, in whose house the group still meets, as well as in other houses.
“This lady cornered me on the train,” Mrs Burbery said with a laugh.
“She said, ‘Someone said you are a Catholic — you must come to my Rosary group’, that’s where it all started,” she said.
“That’s how she just grabbed you and you were there and that was it.”
Mr Burbery said she has made many friends in the group.
“We all belong to the same thing, we all believe the same thing and think we are all the better for it. It is something good we belong to.”
Derrick Bishop and Bernie Leary are the two men in the group today. Mr Bishop said there was the odd time when the group didn’t meet because of school holidays. But that was many years ago, he said.
Mr Bishop didn’t know why such a big thing was being made about the group and its anniversary.
“It is just everyday people and they sort of look out for one another.”
The group’s newest member, Els Noom, joined only a few weeks ago after going to an introduction for new parishioners event at St Mary’s.
“I love praying the Rosary,” she said.