Canterbury / Waitaha Foundation

The Sisters of Mercy in this story actually first arrived in New Zealand in 1878. They had travelled all the way from Ireland to Hokitika, on the West Coast. Read about why these Sisters of Mercy first came to Hokitika, and about their amazing journey in Southern Founding Story.

In 1890, the Sisters in Hokitika were invited to set up a community in Lyttelton. There were many new families arriving in Lyttelton from England and Ireland to start a new life, and Sisters were needed to work in the community.

St Joseph’s School, Lyttelton

So, three Sisters travelled by boat from Greymouth to Lyttelton. They settled into a new convent, which they called St Joseph’s Community. Soon after they had arrived, the Sisters took charge of teaching the children at St Joseph’s School. They also began to run a small secondary schools for girls from their convent, named St Mary’s High School.

A Catholic school was being built in Christchurch, and the Sisters of Mercy were asked to come to Christchurch to teach at this new school. Some Sisters left the community in Greymouth in 1894, travelled by boat to Lyttelton, and then travelled over by train to reach Christchurch. Soon after the Sisters had arrived in Christchurch, they opened a new convent called named St Mary’s Community, and took charge of teaching the children at St Mary’s Parish School.

Villa Maria

Villa Maria

In 1918 the Sisters of Hokitika, Greymoth, Lyttelton and Christchurch decided to join their communities together. The bought a house in Christchurch to be their Mother House, and called it ‘Villa Maria’.

Over the years, the Sisters were kept very busy teaching at many schools throughout Christchurch.

The Sisters were also busy helping in their communities – visiting sick people in their homes, visiting men and women in jail, teaching music, helping Priests to look after people in their Parishes and helping children who were not able to attend a Catholic School to learn about God.

Rosary House

Sisters of Mercy were also invited to set up new communities and to teach in schools in Akaroa, Darfield, Rakaia, Geraldine , and Our Lady of the Snows School in Methven.

In 1951 the Sisters set up Rosary House Girls’ Hostel. This was a place for young women to live while they were studying to be teachers or studying at University.

This Sisters of Mercy have spent over 120 years helping families in Christchurch and Canterbury.