Before the sermon, three young children from Star of the Sea Catholic Church, read aloud all the surnames of the Fencibles who arrived between 1847-1850

Father Kevin Murphy, from Star of the Sea Catholic Church, Howick read out the attached sermon.

Sermon for 175th Howick Jubilee 12 Nov 2022

What a disaster! What a beginning ? Sometimes called ,’Grey’s Folly ‘ That is what the Auckland people and early settlers, thought of Howick!

Abandon the Settlement as soon as possible’ ! was a headline in the NZ Journal in 1851.. Another headline said ,Howick is a perfect failure!’..even the Administrators of Government and Governor Grey broke their promises of support towards the Fencibles and their families after they had travelled all the way out from Britain and Ireland.

Here is a short piece from the NZ journal of 1851, .

“Howick is not a desirable place to live…Our informant assured us that many families are reduced to utter starvation and the people of Auckland may be expected to see many of these Fencible Families reduced to begging on our streets. , What was Governor Grey thinking, by not honouring his promises to these Fencible families. WE say “ Abandon the settlement at once, lest the misery and ruin of these poor Fencible families end up getting worse with even deaths thru starvation and worse!”

We are here today, to thank our God and the early settlers and Fencibles for not giving up and for having the Courage and Faith and trust in each other, along with the support and practical help of the Local Maori , under the leadership of Chief Tara Te Irirangi and Chief Wiremu Te Ara of Ngai Tai and their people.

From the wonderful welcome they were given as they arrived at Howick beach, to being carried from their boats onto the beach, to being given food, in the first couple of years, when their crops failed and to being given practical assistance in building their Raupo mud huts, because the cottages they had been promised weren’t even built . The early Fencible families were saved from starvation and from giving up, from this practical life giving support from local Iwi and a few early settlers.

From this beginning, a friendship and partnership was formed and mutual respect and an early sense of Community was to grow. The first Catholic Parish Priest of Howick, Fr , Antoine Marie Garin , sm and the Rev Vicesimus Lush, the first resident Vicar of All Saints Anglican Church were both fluent Maori speakers which impressed the local Maori and helped build up the respect of both communities and grow that early community spirit that has become part of the Howick Legacy, that we all enjoy today!

Fr Garin was a tall and imposing man and his size and mana and respect that he showed towards the local Maori, made a great impression so that the Northland Mangakahia Maori chief requested that he become the “ARIKA” (pakeha elder of his tribe). He was working with the Maori in Northland with Bishop Pompallier when he arrived in NZ in June 1841. Thanks to his big heart and his love and respect for the local Maori people, his reputation from his work up north, the Ngai Tai people and Chief Te Ara became very involved in the support and growth of the early Howick village. Fr Garin was also an accomplished musician and composed the beautiful Maori hymn, Tenei Matou. As well as translating prayer books and parts of the New Testament into Maori.

In 1848, Fr Garin needed funds for building a chapel and classroom. He was amazed at the generosity and faith of 107 Fencible families and 19 Maori headed by Chief Te Ara who came forward with donations. Fr Garin was so moved by this early example of community support towards this community project that he had their names published, in the 1st Feb edition of the New Zealander 1848. Chief Te Ara also provided timber and men to build the first classroom and chapel, making Our Lady Star of the Sea, school, the first school in Howick in July 1848, teaching Fencible , settlers , and local Maori families.

The beginning of the community support that continues to this day!
The Gospel passage from Matthew we have just heard, reminds us not to worry about the future! The words from the Gospel,” What are we to eat and what are we to drink and how are we to be clothed…” would have been all too real to the Fencible families camping on Howick beach and living in tents and Mud Raupo huts! Set your hearts on his kingdom first and all these other things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow…”

Because of their Faith , God became present to them through the Friendship and Food and shelter offered to them from the local Maori and the support of early settlers already living in the surrounding district. So we thank our God today, for the Faith of our Fencible families, who didn’t give up, who showed Fortitude and Forbearance, for sharing their Courage and Community spirit, for sharing their Trust and Tenacity, their Patience and Perseverance for their Love and Life with each other, so that this Settlement of Folly and Failure, ( in some peoples eyes) would flourish into the Little village with Heart and a Community spirit that gives us Hope and encouragement today.

Is that Community spirit still alive today? Let me give you 2 examples.. It is 1957, over 100 yrs later.

There is a Howick Christmas parade: Picton St is closed off and the judging of the 19 community floats that made up part of the parade., has just taken place! Ist place is taken by Our Lady Star of the Sea, Catholic church with a live enactment of the Nativity of Jesus, with Shepherds holding real lambs and dogs and goats and a sleeping 6 week old baby…. 2nd place was the Anglican float with a stable scene with baby Jesus.. (they didn’t have real lambs or a real baby but Very Cool angels said the Judge!) I can verify the story as I was one of the shepherd boys holding my pet lamb and keeping him quiet with a baby’s bottle filled with milk, ( Unfortunately he wasn’t toilet trained!)

The other floats were 17 different community groups involved in spreading that wonderful Howick Community spirit that went back to the early community of Howick in 1847.

Lesley Gandy , an old Howick identity , said in 1950, “ Living in Howick was a delight because everyone knew everyone. We shared our joys and sorrows.”

Dame Augusta Wallace, who grew up in Howick said. “ the whole community cared for all its members to make sure no one suffered or was neglected , especially in the war years. “
A former Mayor, Morrin Cooper, said, “the Howick Community has a big heart. “

Jean Batten, the NZ Woman pilot who made history by being the first person to fly solo from England to Australia in Sept 1936, was a pupil at Our Lady Star of the sea, School in 1919 and wrote, ,”that the Howick village had a community heart that was there for all to enjoy and everyone cared for their neighbour.”

The community Spirit of the Fencible families lives on!

In 1972, Howick ran a very successful summer Festival, and the highlight was to be a Wheelbarrow race with Teams OF THREE, and COMMUNITY GROUPS WERE ENCOURGED TO PUT IN AN ENTRY AS THE FUNDS WERE TO BE TOWARDS A NEW Community hall . Picton St was closed off and the course was from outside the Catholic Church, beside the old Fire Station, down to All saints Anglican church, and return to the finish line, uphill by the fire station.

Over 35 teams lined up, Rotary and Lions and other service groups, Scouts and Girl Guides, Sailing club, Athletic clubs, Rugby club and many churches had teams, Even the Howick Little theatre and Howick operatic society were there as well as many school teams! WhAT community Spirit!
The Starters gun went and they were off . downhill with many teams taking others out in their excitement. At the half way, beside the hotel, those in the barrow had to change, and someone else get in, the Athletic club had a narrow lead over the SAILING CLUB AND the tennis club.

At the next changeover, over half the teams had been crashed out and heading back up the hill, the Athletic club were in front when they were in a crash with the Fire brigade team and amongst all the crashes, on the outside came the Howick Operatic Society (their barrow designed like a bed and with their team in Pyjamas, adverting their musical, “The pyjama Game) who crossed the line winning the Cup and 1st prize! When asked by the Athletic club, how did you do it? Cant believe you won!

The answer came back…we were the only team that had a prayer time at the start and our secret weapon was Faith Power!! I can verify the answer.. I was a member of the winning team!

Ecumenism and community spirit in action. The Team were Catholic, Anglican and Presbyterian!

These Fencible families have given us all a wonderful Legacy of Hope, a Community spirit and shared their courage with us so we can celebrate with them today, in thanksgiving their Living out of the words of Jesus that we have heard in our Gospel .

This Quote from Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador , on creating a community of Faith for Families to grow and support one another without fear and judgement, may inspire us to continue on today in our Howick Community with a caring and compassionate heart, for the future…..

“This is what we are about..We plant seeds that one day will grow. .we water seeds already planted knowing that they hold future promise.

We cannot do everything and there is a sense of freedom in realising that…this enables us to do something and to do it well. It may be incomplete but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest. We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker….we are workers, not the Master builder, ministers not Messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own. “

I invite some senior students from Our Lady Star of the School, who represent all our young people in our Howick community to come forward now and to share with us names of those early Fencible families, whom we give thanks for and honour today.

Lord give us the courage and commitment of our Fencible families, the Faith and Fortitude of those who didn’t give up after difficulties, and set backs. Help us to bring alive the words of Jesus in our lives and in our families and communities, through our example and witness.

We give thanks to you for our Fencible families, for their sacrifice and sharing of their lives with us. May your Peace and Wisdom, your Joy and Hope : your Aroha and Love remain in our words and actions as we create a future of Hope and Compassion in our Howick Community .

We make this prayer with the Wisdom of God our Father, the love of Jesus our brother and with the courage and hope of the Holy Spirit.. Amen

Names of Families , Fencibles  who founded Howick Village 1847.

Gill Cherry Rowe Mellon Hutchinson Roberts Syms Hubet Massey Wilson Page Dillon Thompson

Oliver Heath Brady Harris Lord Kelsey White Frost Nicholas Woods

Evers Flynn Winepress Lynch McCarthy Casey Mckenna Goonan Bryan

Foley Driscoll Kane Egan Mahar Coffee Keenan Dwyer Maclean Norton

Curley Thompson Brennan Jones Donnelly Knox O’Leary Kavanagh Tottenham

Paton O’Dowd Farrow Cross Grimes Delaney Walsh Conlon Collins

Hare Glynn Doyle Dunn Butler Sherry Brophy Barry Fitzpatrick Spiller

Kerr Robertson Leaning Murphy Gavin Moran Crawford Findlay Pilling

Monagan Smyth Mackay Cadigan Heath Morse Gerraghty Bailey

Hattaway Mcmillan Matthews McCauley McInroy Andrew Gray Wynn Childerhouse Trimmer

Smith Macdonald Cervantes Andrew Durant Hynes