Cathedral Centenary

66_thumb.jpgThe year of 2005 was the 100th anniversary of the opening and consecration of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament. While the actual anniversary day was February 12th, 2005, there were a number of liturgical and educative events at the Cathedral over the course of the year. The Cathedral is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Canterbury, Westland and the Chatham Islands, taking its name from the bishop's chair, in Latin cathedra. Because it is the principal church of the Bishop, all parishes and parishioners are in relationship with the Cathedral of the Diocese.

The Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament.


Located in Barbadoes Street, architect F.W. Petre's magnificent concrete, Oamaru stone-clad building is regarded as one of the finest examples of church architecture in Australasia. It replaced the original chapel and church of the Blessed Sacrament that was opened in 1864.

Today the Cathedral stands as an enduring witness to the Catholic faith and courage and generosity of the first Bishop of the Christchurch Diocese, the Most Reverend J. Grimes SM and his people.

The Cathedral is often referred to as the Basilica— because its style is based on that of the old Roman basilicas whose secular origins and purpose were transformed by the early Church into places of Christian liturgy. While faithful to the plan of the basilica, F.W. Petre was able to introduce many original architectural elements.

The Dedication of the Cathedral took place on 12th February, 1905.

In this Centennial Year of the Cathedral, numerous observances over the course of the year have seen large numbers of people involved in Centennial events.

  • A prayer card in the languages of Cathedral worshippers was prepared and distributed.
  • A set of faith sharing leaflets, entitled 'Living Stones' was preMay_29th___people.jpgpared and made available to parishes for group use. They featured specially photographed elements of the Cathedral and related sections from Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Letter, 'Novo Millennio Ineunte.'
  • A history of the Cathedral was commissioned and published for the occasion. Called 'A Suitable Temple', it was written by Michael Hanrahan, whose forebears were original contributors when the Cathedral was built. Its publication was funded by the Diocese.
  • Specially made banners were introduced into the Cathedral for the Centennial year. Purchased and made by parishioners, the liturgical colours with Eucharistic and Māori motifs capture something the Cathedral's identity. 
  • One hundred years to the day, Bishop John Cunneen, assisted by many of his priests and a great gathering of Catholics, concelebrated the Mass for the anniversary of the Dedication at 11.00am on Saturday 12 February.
  • On the same day, at 2.00pm, a Liturgy of the Word to which the Heads of Churches had been invited was celebrated. During this, Bishop Cunneen dedicated the newly-installed Stations of theDSCF0078.JPG Cross. These had been carved from Cararra marble by Llewellyn Summers at the commission of the Cathedral Trust. While the introduction of these new Stations of the Cross led to some protests, the visitor's book in the Cathedral shows that many people appreciate them.
  • One week later, on Sunday 20th February, a parish group from Holy Family parish, Burwood came to the 9.00am Sunday Mass which was celebrated by its parish priest, Msgr. G. O'Connor. This was the first of many spiritual pilgrimages made over the course of the year by parish and ethnic groups from eveby part of the Diocese and meant for some their first ever visit to the Cathedral. Click on the link below to see a list of the parishes and groups that made a pilgrimage to the Cathedral this year. /diocese/Pilgrimages list for Centennial Year.docPilgrimages list for Centennial Year.doc [36.00 KB]
  • The end of the month of May saw a highly successful Centennial Ball held in the Christchurch Convention Centre and attended by 500 or so meSolemn Mass. 026_1.jpgmbers of the Diocesan family.
  • The next day, May 29th, was the titular feast of the Cathedral and Archbishop Dew of Welington, Metropolitan for New Zealand, came to concelebrate Mass and to preach. Members of the Māori community offered him a powhiri on his first visit as Metropolitan to a suffragan See of the Province.
  • June 12 saw the Cathedral resounding with the enthusiasm and skill of the young musicians taking part in a Catholic secondary schools' festival of music.
  • Special resources were developed by the Catholic Education Office for use in the primary and secondary schools and colleges of the Diocese and some schools came to visit the Cathedral.
  • On October 7th, the Forty Hours devotion was held to honour the dedication of the Cathedral to the Blessed Sacrament. Impressive numbers of people came from the parishes around Christchurch by day and by night to participate.
  • In November, a chain of events rounded off the programme. A Requiem Mass for the Deceased Benefactors of the Cathedral which the CBS Choir and Orchestra accompanied with Faure's Requiem was celebrated on November 3rd. On November 10th, an historical readings event was held. Ann Fahey and assorted readers presented a powerful and dramatic'An Hour with Bishop Grimes,' reading extracts from letters and diary entries bearing on the coming of the first bishop and the planning and construction of the Cathedral. A Flower Festival involved many parishes of the Diocese and the annual Christ the King procession at the Cathedral was seen at the Cathedral once again, returning after an absence of many years. The floral arrangements filled the Cathedral with their fragrances, and with people as well, delighting in the beauty and creativity of the arrangements. The Christ the King procession saw the Cathedral packed with worshippers who wended their way around the playing field of Catholic Cathedral College, reciting the rosary and singing hymns. A greatly enjoyed Centennial Dinner had been held at Riccarton Park on the Friday evening of a another big weekend for the Cathedral. A capacity crowd filled the venue and rejoiced in the occasion, marked by four excellent speeches.
  • The CWL closing Mass of the year came to the Cathedral in honour of the Centennial on November 22nd.
  • The Cathedral parish made a Holy Hour on November 27th. On the previous day, an Archive Awareness workshop was held for parishes and instituDSC_0565.JPGtions, a project triggered by the research done on the history of the Cathedral. On December 4th, the Korean Catholic Community came for a Korean Mass, and later in the day, Christ the King Parish, Burnside made the final pilgrimage of the year. On December 7th, there was a primary schools' concert is scheduled.
  • The last event of the year was the awarding of Papal Honours for distinguished contributions to the Cathedral, its parish, and the wider Diocese. Archbishop Balvo, Papal Nuncio, joined Bishop John for this presentation on Sunday December 11th.


Cathedral Parish
PO Box 10-069
Phone 03 377 5610
Fax 03 377 5650