St Mary’s College is the oldest existing secondary school for girls in Auckland and one of the oldest existing schools in New Zealand.
It was established by a group of pioneering Sisters of Mercy who arrived from Ireland on 9 April 1850.
Bishop Pompallier was instrumental in bringing the sisters at the behest of the local Maori women and many Irish migrants to Auckland. The local Maori women asked him to bring ‘wahine tapu’ or sacred women to teach their girls, which the Sisters of Mercy have honoured ever since. They have always embraced children, who had the need of a Catholic education, from a diverse range of cultures.
The Sisters began their teaching of students the day after their arrival in a building on the site of the present St Patrick’s Cathedral in Wynyard Street, Auckland. They quickly outgrew this building and in 1859 were gifted the land called Mount St Mary’s where the convent and school still stand today.
The school has had many changes to its structure during the years, which included infant classes and the attendance of boys until 1948. There are a number of families that can trace their connection to the school back six generations or more.
St Mary’s has always had a high quality of teaching staff from the first sisters to arrive in 1850 to the present day. Mother Cecilia Maher from the beginning was determined that students would have a good general education as well as the Catholic teachings.
St Mary’s College Timeline
|1850||Sisters of Mercy arrive from Ireland and begin teaching immediately|
|1852||School and orphanage moved to Hobson Street (site where Farmers Department Store was based)|
|1863||Convent, school and orphanage move to New Street, Ponsonby|
|1864||New classrooms were completed that ran parallel to New Street|
|1877||The school was known as St Mary's High School|
|1917||Name officially changed to St Mary's College, and Science Department established|
|1929||New Spanish-style boarding school, classrooms and hall built|
|1935||Establishment of the Old Girls' Association|
|1939||Tennis Courts completed|
|1949||Music School established in Stella Maris House|
|1950||Centenary of school establishment|
|1951||New prefabs for the primary classes|
|1955||Wooden classrooms to house commercial classes|
|1956||Upgrade of sports facilities, provision of tennis courts and opening of swimming pool|
|1962||Mother Bernard Towers Block (BT Block) for Science constructed|
|1963||First full-time lay teacher appointed, Miss Lorraine Brooks|
|1967||The St Mary's College PTFA were formed|
|1975||125th Anniversary of school establishment|
|1978||Mother Benedict Block opened|
|1982||Integration into the State Education System completed|
|1987||Cecilia Maher Hall was built and sports grounds upgraded|
|1989||Sister Mary Neven was the only Sister on the academic staff|
|1995||The remaining part of the old Spanish-style block remodelled|
|2000||150th Jubilee celebration|
|2004||Catherine McAuley Block Phase 1 blessed and opened by Bishop Pat Dunn|
|2005||New Staffroom, Technology Block and Veronica Delany Library completed|
|2005||Coolock House closed as a boarding house and renovated to become Mercy Hospice|
|2007||Phase 2 of the Catherine McAuley Block completed|
|2007||The maximum roll of 800 was reached|
|2008||Student Cafeteria opened and swimming pool and tennis courts refurbished|
|2011||Sister Loreto Block officially opened|
|2014||Paule Keane Gymnasium opened|
|2015||Celebration of 150 years of St Mary's College on the New Street site|
|2016||Ground broken for the Mother Bernard Towers Science Centre|
|2017||Mother Bernard Towers Science Centre opened (October)|
|2018||Work completed on the Sr. Marcienne Kirk English Centre (November)|
|2019||Sister Marcienne Kirk English Centre opened (February)|
|2019||Principal Sarah Dwan begins at St Mary's College (October)|
|2019||Junior Student Playground construction and opening (December)|
|2020||Covid-enforced nationwide lockdowns - schools closed|
|2021||Work begins on Mother Benedict Block redevelopment|
Today, the school has a diverse student body that reflects the city in which we live. The principles of the Sisters of Mercy are still the guiding light by which the school moves forward.