Parish that looked after itself turns 50

Maria Assumpta’s multicultural group performs in front of Bishop Dunn at the jubilee celebrations.


Celebrations marking the golden jubilee of Maria Assumpta Parish at Beach Haven, on Auckland’s North Shore, highlighted several defining characteristics of the parish. 

First, it was described as one of the liveliest parishes in Auckland diocese and one of the most welcoming (to refugees, migrants, visitors). 

Second, Maria Assumpta has frequently been left to look after itself, served by clergy from neighbouring parishes, or with parish priests who were often away because of sickness or other responsibilities. 

Third, in spite of this — or because of it? — this parish with strong lay leadership has produced many parishioners who have worked for the Church at diocesan or national level, or who have served on Church organisations.  

Though one of the smallest parishes in the diocese, it has had members working at the diocesan centre ever since it opened in 1989 — sometimes up to five at a time (including the present writer). And Maria Assumpta has had a representative on the diocesan pastoral council since it began 36 years ago. 

The jubilee Mass on October 23 was concelebrated by Fr John Dunn, Fr Michael Endemann (both former parish priests), Fr Aleki Piula (current parish priest) and Emeritus Bishop Patrick Dunn (who had also briefly acted as parish priest). 

Reflecting Maria Assumpta’s multicultural character, the altar cloth displayed the maps of 30 nationalities, and the Prayers of the Faithful were prayed in Te Reo Maori, Tongan, Tagalog, Zulu, Swahili and Portuguese. 

In his homily, Bishop Dunn said there had been a community of faith in Beach Haven even before the Auckland Harbour Bridge was built (in 1959). It was he who described Maria Assumpta as “one of the most lively parishes in the diocese”. 

Fr Dunn said that his time at Maria Assumpta was one of the happiest in his life; Fr Endemann said it was where he was unobtrusively taught how to be a parish priest. 

A 60-page parish history published for the jubilee tells a story of lay leadership even before the parish existed. 

The first Masses for Catholics in Beach Haven, in the early 1900s, were in a fruit shed, then in a cabaret, where confessions were heard with a sack hanging between priest and penitent. 

The church was opened in 1967 and the parish established in 1972. 

With no parish school, faith education in the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) became the apostolate involving the most people.  

One evening each week from 1968, teams of drivers took children to classes at a local school, where trained parishioners taught them the faith. More than 150 adults and more than 1000 children were involved over the 22 years of the programme. 

When the CCD ended, it was succeeded by a weekly Bible Club for up to 60 children after school. The parish also developed lively youth groups over the years. 

Another defining characteristic of Maria Assumpta is a Mass in Te Reo Maori every fifth Sunday of the month, a tradition established in 1994. There are also monthly Samoan, Tongan and Filipino Masses. 

The Maria Assumpta parish history ($10) can be ordered from [email protected] 

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