by JEFF DILLON
Easter Sunday became a chance to have a double celebration for members of the Polish community in Dunedin, with Mass celebrating the Resurrection of Christ being coupled with a significant birthday for an historic church.
A Mass is celebrated in the Mary Queen of Peace church in Broad Bay down the Otago Peninsula every third Sunday and that coincided with Easter Sunday this year on April 21.
The church at Broad Bay is no ordinary building, since it began life as the Church of St Hyacinth at Waihola to the south of Dunedin. About 40 Polish families arrived in the Allanton/Waihola area from the mid-1870s to work on building the railway line south from Dunedin. By the 1890s, they decided to build their own church and it was officially opened on April 16, 1899.
By 1948, most Polish families had dispersed from the area and, with a limited congregation remaining, the diocese decided to remove the church and transport it to Broad Bay to serve that area’s general congregation. It was also decided to rename it.
When the Polish Heritage of Otago and Southland Charitable Trust was formed following the Otago 150th celebrations in 1998, the significance of the church’s origins was then rediscovered and efforts were made to promote its heritage. The building and a few other related items are the main tangible links with those early Polish settlers who came to New Zealand from the Kociewie region in North Poland.
So with the 120th birthday happening a few days before the Easter Sunday Mass, it was a chance to celebrate both events in appropriate Polish fashion.
Bishop Michael Dooley celebrated the Mass and it was a special occasion for him too, as he was about to complete
his first year as the Bishop of Dunedin on April 26.
Also attending the celebrations was the honorary Polish consul to the South Island, Winsome Dormer, from Christchurch.
In his homily, Bishop Dooley reportedly spoke about the people who had built the church and how important it had been to them. The church building was a uniting element in their lives.
After Mass, a morning tea was served with Swieconka, which is a Polish tradition where baskets of Easter foods are blessed along with Polish Easter cakes.
Blessings from the bishop were also bestowed on local parishioners Sam and Christine Neil, who were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.