Faculty of Religious Education

Nga Taonga – Living the Treasure

Our Faculty focus is: "To make Jesus Christ, Hehu Karaiti, known and loved".

"If you want to teach young people, first you must love them. You must love them all equally."  Saint Marcellin Champagnat

"Me ka whakaako tamariki koe, arohaina ratou. Kia kotahi te aroha mo ratou"  Na Saint Marcellin Champagnat







Catholicism in New Zealand

In January 1838 three French missionaries sailed up the Hokianga Harbour and began the institutional history of Catholicism in Aotearoa New Zealand (Sweetman, 2012).

Their leader was Bishop Jean Baptiste François Pompallier, who  was the first bishop Māori had met who they soon named the Catholic faith ‘Pikopo’ (from the word ‘episcopal’, meaning ‘of a bishop’).

Māori and Catholicism

Part of the attraction of Catholicism for some Māori tribes was the opportunity to distinguish themselves from their rivals who had become Anglicans or Methodists (Sweetman, 2012). Bishop Pompallier was unusually sensitive in urging his priests to build Catholic belief around existing Māori tikanga (customs) and to avoid seeing Māori ideas as anti-Christian simply because they were non-European (Sweetman, 2012).

In early 1840 Pompallier distributed the first printed books from the mission. A year later a printing press was imported from Europe along with a lay printer. It produced a large quantity of prayers, hymns and sections of the New Testament in Māori (Sweetman, 2012).

Bishop Pompallier and the Treaty of Waitangi

In 1840 New Zealand became a British colony.  Bishop Pompallier was present when the Treaty of Waitangi was first signed (Sweetman, 2002). He extracted a promise from Governor William Hobson that all religions would be given equal treatment and that the new administration would respect religious freedom (Sweetman, 2012).

The Maori people have maintained their identity in this land.  The people coming from Europe, and more recently from Asia, have not come to a desert. They have come to a land already marked by a rich and ancient heritage, and they are called to respect and foster that heritage as a unique and essential element of the identity of this country. The Maori people in turn are challenged to welcome new settlers and to learn to live in harmony with those who have come here from far away to make here a new home for themselves. All of you are invited to share in this land in peace and in mutual respect. You do this by recognizing the common bond of being members of one human family, created in the image of God and called to see one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. In this way, each culture is given the chance to contribute its talents and resources for the good of all.”

Pope John Paul II, Christchurch, 1986 (CCANZ, n.d)

A Brief Overview of the History of Catholic Education in Aotearoa New Zealand

Catholic education’s formal history in New Zealand started with the opening of the first school in Auckland in 1841, thirty-six years before the State Education system was established by the passing of the New Zealand Education Act.

The enactment of the Private Schools Conditional Integration Act (PSCI Act) in 1975 reinvigorated the Catholic education system which was facing the possibility of a financial collapse having been refused State-aid for the previous hundred years.

Under the new legislation Catholic schools are required to develop and maintain the Special Character of the school. The role of the Religious Education faculty and its presentation of the New Zealand Catholic Bishop’s Conference’s Understanding Faith Curriculum stands as a major component in maintaining and developing the College’s special character based upon its Marist Charisms. 

Through its Marist Charisms and supported by the Religious Education faculty, the special character of the College affirms that St John’s is:

“A Roman Catholic school in which the whole community, through the general school programme and in its religious instruction and observances exercises the right to live and teach the values of Jesus Christ. These values are expressed in the Scriptures, practices, worship and doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church, as determined from time to time by the Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese. (NCRS, 2010, p. 12)

It is an expectation of the Catholic Church in New Zealand that the special character of the school will permeate every aspect of school life as it provides the framework within which the whole school curriculum is to be delivered. 

Through highly qualified and enthusiastic NCRS certified teachers the Faculty encourages all teachers to share their faith journey with their students and to accompany them on their pilgrimage towards adulthood. The faculty has as its aim the critical communication of human culture and the total formation of the individual from a holistic point of view while providing for the fulfilment of all the facets of its students’ personal potential. Through religious education the faculty endeavours to extend the most able students and to supports all those who require it.

Our Bishop

Bishop Stephen Lowe ordained and installed as Bishop of Hamilton on 13 February 2015.

More information on the diocese and our bishop can be found at http://proudtobecatholic.org.nz/bishop-steve-lowe/





Courses for Adults and those interested in the Catholic faith

Theological courses are presented at St John's College by the Catholic Institute of Aotearoa New Zealand.

For more information contact Cynthia Piper, 0800 217 411 or search out their website.


Thinking of becoming part of the Catholic Church?

Are you interested in becoming Catholic or learning more about the Catholic faith? 

The Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Grey Street runs programmes for adults (RCIA) and for school age children (RCIC).

The College also presents its own Catechetical programme with assistance from the Cathedral parish and the St John’s College Chaplain with the support of Bishop.

If you would like to know more please contact the Director of Religious Studies (DRS) at St John’s College, Mrs Sonja Maree ph (07) 856 7091 or Andrea Savage at the Cathedral ph (07) 856 6486.


Latest Papal Tweets

Tweets by @Pontifex

The Mystery of the Faith as Expressed in the Creed (NCRS, 2010).

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, Our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit,
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church,
The communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body, and life ever-lasting.


Psalm 78:1-4

He Makiri na Ahapa. Kia anga mai te taringa, e toku iwi, ki taku ture: tahuri mai o koutou taringa ki nga kupu a toku mangai. Ka puaki te kupu whakarite i toku mangai, ka korerotia e ahau nga mea ngaro onamata: I rongo nei, i matau nei tatou, i korero ai hoki o tatou matua ki a tatou.  E kore e huna e matou i a ratou tamariki: me whakaatu ki to muri whakatupuranga nga whakamoemiti ki a Ihowa, me tona kaha, me ana mahi whakamiharo i mea ai ia.

My people, listen to my teaching, pay attention to what I say. I will speak to you in poetry, unfold the mysteries of the past. What we have heard and know, what our ancestors have told us we shall not conceal from their descendants, but will tell to a generation still to come: The promises of Yahweh, his power, the wonderful deeds he has done. 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favour of his will, for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved. In him we have redemption by his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accord with the riches of his grace that he lavished upon us. In all wisdom and insight, he has made known to us the mystery of his will in accord with his favour that he set forth in him as a plan for the fullness of times, to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth.

Ephesians 1:3-10










Catholic Church in Aotearoa New Zealand. (n.d.). Catholic Maori.  Retrieved from http://www.catholic.org.nz/nzcbc/dsp-default.cfm?loadref=22

National Centre for Religious Studies. (2015). Understanding faith: Religious education curriculum for Catholic secondary schools years 9-13 Aotearoa New Zealand (Revised ed.). Wellington, New Zealand: Author.

New Zealand Catholic Education Office. (2010).  The Philosophy of Catholic schools.  Author: Wellington.

New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference. (2014). The Catholic education of school-age children. Retrieved fromhttp://www.catholic.org.nz/news/fx-view-article.cfm?ctype=BSART&loadref=51&id=322.

Sweetman, R. (2012). 'Catholic Church - First Catholic missionaries', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 13-Jul-12.  Retrieved from http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/catholic-church/page-1.