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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

Aotearoa NZ Maher CeciliaCatherine McAuley 3

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
1900 Golden Jubilee
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.