Otara school celebrates opening of new buildings

Bishop Stephen Lowe blesses students with holy water.

Long-awaited new school buildings at St John the Evangelist Catholic School in Otara, south Auckland, were officially opened and blessed on November 4. 

“It has taken a long time to get to this day, but we are so happy,” tumuaki/principal Monica van Tiel told students, staff, parents and visitors at a ceremony held in the school grounds. 

For many years, parents and the community had asked for classrooms to be relocated away from high voltage electricity cables running above part of the school. But this was complex because of the number of other buildings and the users thereof on the site. It is understood that the old school buildings had reached the end of their working life.  

Bishop Lowe blesses a memorial plaque and Bibles

Ms van Tiel praised the patience of the school community, and noted the “many sacrifices made by many to bring us to this place where we are today”. 

“. . . I would like to acknowledge all of those who have made sacrifices over the years to allow our buildings to become the wonderful reality that they are – our past and present whanau, students, Kaiako, parish, marae, our kohunga reo, and the Catholic diocese,” she said. 

“These new buildings have been situated in such a beautiful way that the parish, daycare, marae, kura and kohanga reo are placed to awhi (support) one another, and we are truly grateful for the opportunity to establish and grow our community in whanautanga and manaakitanga.” 

Ms van Tiel also praised the students for their being quick to adapt to change. 

“Most schools would have six months to prepare for their opening. However, you have all worked so hard to pull it all together in only six short weeks, while, at the same time, unpacking and settling into your new learning spaces and starting your new programme of work.  

“You have overcome so many challenges, and you have done it all with a smile on your face and joy in your hearts.” 

Former student at St John’s and board of trustees “presiding member” Anne Marie Tauiliili-Lia, recalled her first day at the school in 1977. 

“Forty-five years later, I am standing here in absolute awe of our new school buildings, that we prayed and waited for, for a very long time,” Ms Tauiliili-Lia said. 

She noted that Catholic education on the site had started with four Franciscan nuns and 100 students, with classes taking place in the then-parish hall in 1966. 

The school was officially opened and blessed in 1967. It is a “wonderful, long-awaited milestone today”, she added. 

Ms Tauiliili-Lia told the students, “This is your school. Love it, treasure it, be kind to one another, and continue to encourage and inspire each other to live out our motto, that I lived when I was quite a young child – ‘Little children, love one another’.” 

Before blessing a memorial plaque and Bibles to be used in the school, Auckland Bishop Stephen Lowe told the students “We want you in this school to really love to learn, and then when you leave school to go out there and be amazing people of love in the world, people that follow Jesus and do the best at whatever you do”.  

“Be amazing young people – that is why we have built this brand new school for you.” 

The new buildings were paid for from “Policy One” funding from the Ministry of Education, NZ Catholic understands. Panmure-Otahuhu MP Jenny Salesa attended the opening. 


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Michael Otto

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