REDWOOD, Francis Mary
Roman Catholic Archbishop of Wellington, Metropolitan of New Zealand.
A new biography of Redwood, Francis William appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.
Redwood was born on 8 April 1839 on the Tixall estate in Staffordshire. In 1842 he came to New Zealand where his father bought land from the New Zealand Company at Waimea West in the Nelson district. He was educated at Father Garin's school in Nelson and in 1854 left New Zealand to study in France and Ireland for the Marist priesthood. He gained his licentiate of theology at Dublin and was ordained at Maynooth in 1865. In 1874 Redwood was appointed to the Bishopric of Wellington and was consecrated by Cardinal Manning at St. Ann's, Spitalfields, London, on 17 March of that year. He was created archbishop by a papal brief dated 13 May 1887. When consecrated second Bishop of Wellington, Redwood was the youngest Roman Catholic bishop in the world, and was destined to become the oldest.
At the time when roads were bad or non-existent in his archdiocese, Bishop Redwood attached great importance to personal visitations. He established numerous churches, hospitals, and orphanages, was a founder of St. Patrick's College in Wellington (opened 1885), and lived to open the new St. Patrick's College at Silverstream, in the Hutt Valley. During his episcopate, Redwood introduced many new orders into New Zealand, notable among these being the Sisters of Mercy, the Marist Brothers, the Little Company of Mary, the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, the Sisters of St. Brigid, the Sisters of the Mission, and the Sisters of St. Joseph. He also encouraged the foundation of a New Zealand order, the Sisters of Compassion. Redwood founded the Marist Fathers' Seminary in Hawke's Bay and lent his support to the foundation of Holy Cross, Mosgiel. An eloquent speaker, the Archbishop frequently preached at great ecclesiastical gatherings in Australasia. For 26 years (1877–1903), he served on the Senate of the University of New Zealand where he played an active part in its proceedings. He also became the first life member of the Early Settlers' and Historical Society, Wellington.
At the Diocesan Synod, in 1878, Redwood framed the practical Canon Law for the New Zealand Church. His Statutes provided a pattern later followed by the Auckland and Dunedin dioceses. He convened and presided over the first Provincial (Ecclesiastical) Council of Wellington (1899), and played a prominent role in the first Plenary Council of Sydney (1885). Archbishop Redwood died at Wellington on 3 January 1935.
For more than 60 years Redwood was a wellknown personality in the Dominion and in the City of Wellington. His Nelson family background, his overseas education, and his gifts as a preacher and lecturer combined to make him the builder, in New Zealand, of a catholicity typical of the country yet remaining in touch with its European heritage. Though not an original thinker himself, Redwood was a splendid populariser of religious teaching and of its latest developments. His energies were guided by the wider claims of his own church rather than by the administrative details of his archdiocese; but in spite of this, the needs of the wider community were not neglected as his interest in the foundation of hospitals and orphanages shows. A man of true simplicity, without pride or arrogance, he will be remembered as a great churchman, patriot, and humanitarian. It is a matter for regret to the historian that Archbishop Redwood did not leave any personal papers and letters.
by Francis Michael McKay, S.M., M.A., St. Patrick's College, Wellington.
- Reminiscences of Early Days in New Zealand, Redwood, F. (1922)
- The Church in New Zealand, Wilson J. J. (2 vols., 1910)
- History of the Catholic Church in Australasia, Moran, P. F. (n.d.)
- Statuta Diocesis Wellingtoniensis (1878).