Story: Catholic Church

Catholicism and Māori: Opanaki church, Northland, around 1885 (2nd of 3)

Catholicism and Māori: Opanaki church, Northland, around 1885

The heavily bearded Father James McDonald (known to Māori as Maketanara) stands beneath the cross of this small raupō chapel at Opanaki (later renamed Kaihū), in Northland. Father McDonald arrived in New Zealand from Ireland with his brother William in the 1850s. By the 1880s, when this photo was taken, he held responsibility for all Māori Catholics in the northern North Island. He made huge journeys on horseback to remote communities like Opanaki to say Mass, baptise babies, hear confessions and insist that his parishioners repair their local chapel.

Using this item

Alexander Turnbull Library, G. M. Preston Collection
Reference: PA1-o-423-06-1

Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

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How to cite this page:

Rory Sweetman, 'Catholic Church - First Catholic missionaries', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 9 December 2023)

Story by Rory Sweetman, published 5 May 2011, reviewed & revised 17 Jul 2018