Looking back on 90 years of faith and awe at St Michael’s, Remuera

2 St Michaels

When Auckland diocese vicar-general Msgr Bernard Kiely first walked into St Michael’s church in Remuera as an 11-year-old, he thought he had walked into the Vatican.

“I just couldn’t believe it was such a beautiful place,” Msgr Kiely said in a homily at a Mass at St Michael’s on October 15, which was part of the 90th anniversary celebrations of the opening of the church.

Msgr Bernard Keily preaches at Remuera.

The young Bernard Kiely and his family were parishioners at Epsom when he first visited St Michael’s. He stepped into the church while taking a break from Catholic tennis competitions elsewhere on the site.

“I was here on my own, and I remember wandering around the aisles, just in awe, and having a real sense of beauty, sense that God is here. I guess the purpose of such a beautiful place is to remind us that there is more to life than meets the eye,” he said.

The Kiely family later became parishioners at St Michael’s.

“Mum and Dad were parishioners here for over 30 years. Msgr Arahill had them involved in ministry of course. I celebrated my first Mass here – in the 60th year of this  church in December of 1992,” Msgr Kiely said in his homily.

He also noted that the paintings on either side of the nave – the only “decorative” items present at the opening of the church in 1933 – had been donated in memory of his great Aunt, Nancy Martin.

“So I have always felt a long family connection.”

Msgr Kiely was one of several concelebrants at the Mass. The principal celebrant was the Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Novatus Rugambwa, and among the concelebrants were Bishop Patrick Dunn and Bishop Colin Campbell.

Msgr Kiely told the congregation that he loves “celebrating the sacraments here, particularly funerals, because you can see the wonder and awe on the faces of people who have not been here before . . . and as many of you are now doing during my homily, you are gazing about the place”.

“All part of the mystique and genius of this beautiful place, that leads us out of ourselves, reminding us that there is more.”

Priests, people and religious of the parish over its nine decades were remembered by Msgr Kiely.

“Bishop Lenihan, from whom the name of this parish draws its origins – he was George Michael, so we are St Michael’s after him. Bishop Liston was here for the opening. Other bishops came, Bishops Dunn and Browne had connections here.”

Msgr Kiely noted especially that the “Browne family are worth mentioning, because of the six children, two became religious sisters and three became priests”.

The great monsignors of St Michael’s were also noted – Msgrs Bradley, Downey, McCarthy, Purcell and Arahill. “It is like a litany of saints, of great churchmen in our diocese.”

Msgr Kiely thanked current parish priest Fr Tony Dunn for “calling us together with the Church to celebrate this church”.

Also remembered for their parish involvement were the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, St Mary of the Cross MacKillop, the Society of the Sacred Heart, the Sisters of St Joseph of Cluny and the Sisters of Mercy.

Msg Kiely said that St Michael’s “and the people who pray here give us a sense that God is with us”.

“One of the wonderful things I love about our churches is that we tend to keep them open, and this is a wonderful place to come and sit and be still, and acknowledge the presence and grandeur of God.”

But in being in God’s presence, people are “challenged to be living stones, so that our faith is not just static. So that this is not just a venue”.

In giving a welcome at the start of the Mass, parish council chair Anne Stevenson paid tribute to the vision and courage of those who founded and built the church in the midst of the Great Depression, notably Msgr Bradley.

“We are also indebted to those generations of parishioners who have preserved and enhanced the church right up until this moment, 90 years later,” she said.

“For most of us, the church is a part of our lives, a place of peace, of prayer, and of homage to God.”

Artwork by pupils at St Michael’s School in Remuera was on the walls for the anniversary Mass. After the liturgy, an Italian-themed lunch was served in the hall.



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Michael Otto