The foundation stone was laid on 1st February 1880.
New Zealand Tablet, 13 February 1880, Page 17
CONVENT OF THE SACRED HEART, TIMARU.
The building when completed will form the largest and most imposing structure in South Canterbury. It will be of two lofty storeys, the height from the ground line to the ridge of the roof being 49ft. 6in. The main facade, presented to the east, is 121 ft. long and the lateral facades of the two wings are each 134 ft. long. The style may be described as Italian-Gothic or Anglo-Italian, and the material to be used, blue stone with white stone dressings, will lend itself readily to the production of a good effect. The front facade is rendered handsome and symmetrical by the gables of the wings being run out six feet beyond the general line of the front, and by a Gothic portico over the main entrance. Above the portico is a balcony on which a window opens, and this is surmounted by a handsome pediment, in the tympanum of which the disposed the symbolic Sacred Hearts, surrounded by a floral wreath. The lateral facades, each 134 ft. long, are alike in appearance, and are each relieved by two projecting gables at one-third from the angles of building. The windows are square, with pediments, except in the gable walls of the lateral facades, where they are of different forms in order to give still further variety to these elevations. The pediment over the main entrance and the various gables are surmounted by crosses, and the ridge of the roof is crowned by an ornamental cast iron cresting. Entering the building a flight of steps under the portico leads into a vestibule 10ft. wide and 25ft. long. On each side of the vestibule is a reception room 25ft. by 16ft., and two smaller ones 23ft by 14ft. At the south end of the main front is a temporary chapel 34 feet long and 25 feet wide, and at the opposite end a large reception room 31 feet by 25 feet. Passing from this room along the northern wing we find in succession the pupils' refectory, 36ft. by 25ft. ; the nuns' dining room, 25ft. by 15ft. ; a storeroom or pantry, 25ft. by 1 2ft., and a kitchen, 25ft. by loft. In the southern wing are four rooms intended for the use of the ladies of the convent. At the end of each wing is a large staircase leading to the upper floor, and behind these are mezzanina floors, on which are situated ten bathrooms and other conveniences. In the centre of the main front chamber floor is an infirmary, the window of which opens upon the balcony of the portico. Southward of this is a pupils' dormitory, 50ft. by 25ft., well lighted, and supplied with two fireplaces. Adjoining the infirmary on the other side is a nuns' dormitory, 25ft. by 16ft., next to which come two class-rooms, 31ft. by 25ft., then a school-room 56ft. by 25ft., and at the end of the wing another classroom 25ft. by 24ft. In the southern wing are apartments for the ladies of the convent. All the rooms on each floor open into corridors, 8ft. wide, running all round the inner side of the quadrangle formed by the building. The rooms on the ground floor are all 16ft. high, and on the chamber floor 14ft. high from floor to ceiling. The cost of the portion of the building described, and which is to be carried out at once, will be about £5000. The cost of the completed structure will be about £10,000. Three hundred and fifty pounds were placed upon the stone at the collection made at its laying. Mr. M. de H. Duval is the architect.
New Zealand Tablet, 20 February 1880, Page 15
Tenders are called for, in stone or brick, for the building of the convent at Timaru. At Dunedin plans and specifications may be seen in the office of Mr. F. W. Petre, Liverpool street, where forms of tender may also be obtained. Tenders are to be forwarded to Mr. M. de H. Duval, architect, Timaru, on or before 4 p.m. on the 26th inst. Further particulars will be found in another column.
New Zealand Tablet, 17 September 1880, Page 17
CONVENT OF THE SACRED HEART, TIMARU.
The architect of the building is Mr. Duval, the contract for the same being let to Mr. N. Murphy for the sum of £6300 ; Messrs. Gow and Griffin, of Dunedin and Timaru, being the plasterers, and the plumbing and gas-fitting work, Mr. Maloney, and Mr. Knight the painting, &c. The joiners work is especially commendable, its equal is not to be found in Timaru, and to one and all concerned in the whole work we must give praise for the faithful manner in which the design is carried out. The altar of this chapel is specially designed by Mr. Duval, and like all ornamentation throughout the building, is of the Gothic Order.
New Zealand Tablet, 12 July 1895, Page 13
Convent of the Sacred Heart has again sustained a severe loss, in the death of the Rev. Madam Mair, Lady Superior of the Convent. The deceased lady was one of the first nuns sent by the Society of the Ladies of the Sacred Heart to found the Convent in Timaru in the year 1880. Madam Mair, who went in the early part of last year to the convent in Melbourne for the benefit of her health, returned last February apparently restored. The deceased lady had returned last February to replace Madam Gartlan, whose duties during indifferent health rendered quiet and rest from work necessary. Madam Mair has since been Lady Superior, and has manifested rare business ability in administering the temporal affairs of the Convent. Up to the date of her illness which occurred a fortnight previous to her death it was considered that her health was completely restored. But God willed it otherwise. The deceased lady rapidly succumbed though constantly attended by her medical attended, Dr Hogg (who was unceasing in his attendance), and finally breathed her last on Friday, 28th June, the octave of the patronal feast of the congregation of the Sacred Heart. His Lordship showed how the life and death of the Rev Mother Mair had been the loving and generous fulfilment of the sacred words. Helen Mair was born in the province of Ontario, Upper Canada, in the year 1844 from parent's rich of the goods of this world but richer still of the goods of faith. They took care to give to their children a good Christtian education, and confided their eldest daughter Helen to a Convent of Loretto Nuna. Soon deprived by death of both her father and mother, she devoted her self to her youngest brothers and sisters and became a mother to them, thus beginning at an early age the noble mission to which she was afterwards to consecrate her life. The call of Almighty God found her quite prepared, and in 1870 she bade farewell to all that was dear to her. "They will be done 0 Lord," she answered, and she parted from her family to enter the novitiate of the Ladies of the Sacred Heart. The separation from her brother Charles was particularly painful to her as she was especially attached to him by a singular communion of religions aspirations. Mr Charles A. Mair remained true to that holy affection of his sister, and proved worthy of it. The last news received from him by the dying Madama Mair was that the Supreme Pontiff, Leo XIII, had just publicly recognised the eminent merits and services of Mr Charles Mair, now a prominent citizen in Chicago, and had created him a member of the Pope's Household, appointing him to the dignity of Chamberlain of the Cape and Sword. After the usual probation Madame Mair was admitted to the religions profession, and then employed in her favourite work the education of youth in her native land. But the call of God was heard again, and bade her leave her native country and come to New Zealand. Try will be done, Oh Lord," was again her answer, and she came here to Timaru, in 1880, to be one of the founders of this beautiful Convent of the Sacred Heart. .. She gave directions as to the place of her grave and the way she wished her funeral to be conducted. The funeral was exceedingly simple. His Lordship the Bishop, Fathers Le Menant des Chesnais and Fauvel (Temuka), Regnault (Waimate), Hurlin, and Tubman (Timaru) chanting the funeral chants, the children of the Convent and Children of Mary attending in white veils. The coffin was borne to the grave, the pallbearers being Messrs Howley, Harney, O'Sullivan, and Delaney, followed by a ladies of the Sacred Heart bearing lighted candles. The Hibernian Society, in regalia, formed a cordon round the grave under the direction of Mr Sheeby, and the sorrowful ceremony concluded by Lordship Dr Grimes.— RIP
New Zealand Tablet, 5 July 1895, Page 17
The New York Times March 7, 1880, Wednesday
DEATH OF MADAME BOUDREAU; STRICKEN DOWN WHILE ON A MISSION TO NEW-ZEALAND.
Word has been received at the House of the Catholic Order of Ladies of the Sacred Heart, at Manhattanville, announcing the death of Mme. Susanna Boudreau, at Timaru, New-Zealand, Feb. 12. Mme. Boudreau was, with one exception, the most widely-known member of her order in this country. She was born in a wealthily French family in New Orleans, 56 years ago... . After she was promoted to be the Superior Vicar of the southern Vicariate of the order. In this capacity she for New Zealand in December last, for the purpose of foundering a house of the order in Timaru. On Thursday last a newspaper was received from Timaru containing an account of the arrival and reception there of Mme. Boudreau. On the same day a letter came from the mother house in Paris announcing the receipt of a telegram saying that after a short illness, Mme. Boudreau had died a few days subsequent to her arrival in Timaru.
New Zealand Tablet, 30 April 1880, Page 9
On the 13th of February, a cable message reached Paris from Timaru, New Zealaud, announcing that on the same day, Reverend Mother Susanna Boudreau had died, after a short illness. Born in Louisiana, 1823, Madam Boudreau was, in 1843, sent to New York for the foundation of a House of the Society in that city. She remained there until January, 1873, when she returned to Louisiana as Vicar. She was called from thence in 1870 to exercise the same charge in the Western Vicariate. Madame Boudreau started last December, to make a Foundation, of the Sacred Heart at Timaru. She arrived there January 22nd, and on the 1st of February, the corner-stone of the New Convent was laid. On the 13th, God, satisfied with her devoted zeal, called Madam Boudreau to her eternal recompense." Catholic Review.
Earlier Catholic Secondary Schools starting with the arrival of the Sacre Cour sisters in 1880. The Sisters from America built the Convent and taught until 1934. The Mercy Sisters arrived in 1935 and opened Sacred Heart College in 1936. The name was changed to Mercy College in 1969. St Patrick’s High School was started by the Marist Fathers in 1937. In 1981 Mercy and St Patrick’s combined to become Roncalli College, a co-ed Catholic secondary School.
The Parish School for girls was opened on 3rd November 1877.
A building for the boys was opened a few months later.
No. 544 Sacred Heart Convent. Tanner Bros. Postcard
Five additions including a chapel. The eastern frontage of the Convent part of the original convent that was built in 1880.
A further wing, including the chapel was built in 1904 and the complex was completed in 1915 with the addition of a third wing.
The building was demolished in 1983 and is now the site of Roncalli College.
Churches of the Past & Present - Catholic Diocese of Christchurch
Timaru Herald January, 1894. Death:
SHARMAN, On January 22nd, at the Convent, Timaru, Rachael M. Sharman, Religious of the Sacred Heart, R.I.P.
New Zealand Tablet,
26 August 1898, Page 6
MISS MAGGIE DONOVAN. It is our painful duty to record the death of a bright, promising young lady Miss Maggie Donovan, the daughter of Mr. Michael Donovan of Timaru. Miss Donovan aspired to a religious life, and with the object of consecrating herself to God she had entered the Timaru Convent. She had to relinquish all hopes of attaining her high ambition however, as ill health compelled her to leave the convent and return to her parents' residence. Despite unremitting care and medical skill Miss Donovan gradually became worse, and eventually she resigned her soul to God. She was attended throughout her illness by theRev. Father Tubman and her death which took place at the early age of 20 years was a pious and most edifying one. R.I.P.
A plaque was placed in the grounds of the Bascilica "In recognition of 137 years dedicated service of the priests and brothers of the Society of Mary to the parish of Sacred Hearts and the people of South Canterbury. 1869-2006."
"...our founding PP in 1869, Jean-Baptiste Chataigner, roaming South Canterbury on foot with Mass kit and swag; Dean John Tubman's 30 years here, 22 as Parish Priest, the building of the beautiful Basilica of the Sacred Heart, 1910-1911, was a highlight of his tenure; genial 'Jock' McHardy's ten years,1942-5l, war and post-war times. More recently, parishioners remember Jack Healy's strong singing voice, practical sermons, and no-nonsense counsel, his building of the new presbytery in 1978. Jesse Kingan and Tom O'Connor dealt heroically with Vatican 2 changes in the Basilica layout. Mick Tomasi (1988-94) is still fondly remembered as a wise, compassionate PP with a great sense of humour. " Earl Crotty sm, PP 8 Dec. 2006
Timaru Herald, 16 March 1886, Page 2
Mr C.C. McCarthy has been appointed Head Master to the Timaru Catholic Boys' School. The Committee are to be congratulated upon their choice, as their new teacher is a gentleman possessed of considerable teaching experience, he having once filled the position of Master of St. Patrick's School, Greymouth, and Master of the Heathcote Valley Public School.
Timaru Herald, 9 July 1901, Page 3 REV.
News has been received the Rev. Father Jean Baptiste Chataignier, the Marist Father who some years ago was parish priest at; Timaru, died last month at his native place in France, at the ripe old age of 80. Father Chataignier was the pioneer priest in Canterbury, and .he learned what roughing it means by personal experience. A tramp from Nelson to the Bluff, looking after his people, and carrying his swag, in those early days, would alone have secured him that experience. He lived some years in Christchurch, and then removed to Timaru, where he secured the site of the present church and Convent, and built the church and dwelling. He also built the original Catholic church at Temuka and the one at Waimate. Fourteen or fifteen years ago he was transferred .to Wellington, arid then to England, where he was, appointed to a post in the Catholic College at Paignton, in Devonshire, and also parish priest; there. Thence he was transferred to, Washington, U.S.A., and as a skilful organiser he was sent to Utah to found a church in the Mormon capital. He then returned to Paignton and resumed his as "parish priest.' His eyesight failed him and he removed to his native place to spend of his days and there passed away though he wished all along to die in New Zealand, where he had spent so many of his best years and had done so much good work: He was a member of one of the old noble families'of France, and he was also one of Nature's noblemen, as everyone who knew him can testify