As early as 1926, fundraising activities were held with the aim of establishing a church in the Hauraki Plains area. Turua was considered the centre of the Hauraki Plains at that time so a Church was initially built there to serve the people. The Church of St Patrick’s of Turua was built for the sum of £820 and was blessed and opened on June 15th 1930 by Bishop Liston.
However, the depression and the Second World War prevented any further expansion.
From 1937 Mass was offered by Father Lyons in each district Hall, School or home in Ngatea, Turua, Kerepehi, Waitakaruru, Pipiroa or Mangatarata, usually once a month.
In 1945 Bishop Liston of the Auckland Diocese appointed Father Flynn as the first priest for the Hauraki Plains. He lived at Thames and travelled to the Plains each day saying Mass and visiting parishioners. Father was constantly negotiating to buy land and to build a Church and presbytery in Ngatea. In 1951 land was donated by the Leonard family for a Church in Ngatea and a presbytery was built there as well in 1953. The Parish Church of St Paschal Baylon, Ngatea and the presbytery were blessed and opened on Sunday April 4th, 1954 in the presence of some 400 parishioners and friends.
“The Church is distinctive in style with many modern features of design and colouring that make it both devotional and attractive.” – quoted in Zealandia
The Hall was built in 1965.
In 1992 Ngatea was incorporated into the Thames, Coromandel, Plains grouping.
The parish is also greatly indebted to the help and guidance provided by the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart between 1995 – 2016. Ministering was done by Sister Helen Winter, Sister Mary Gaines and Sister Tina Kapeli.
Since 2018 we have been blessed to have Franciscan Capuchian priests minister in the Thames region.
1937- 45 Father Edward Lyons
Was a brilliant man - very intellectual and a talented journalist. He got on well with everyone, and had a great love of Thames. The bell and the stain glass windows were his projects. Father Lyons was also a very keen shooter of pheasants.
1945 - 52 Father William Flyn
Our first parish priest. A very gentle and giving person. He ran the church from Thames and gave out prayer books to the community. Father Flyn was a big supporter of the children's Catholic camp in Helensville which was run by the nuns in the summer school holidays. He drove a two seater sedan and enjoyed a game of bridge.
1952 - 63 Father Lawrence O'Neil
He was the first parish priest to live on the Plains. He lived in a little public works hut that was nailed on to the side of the church in Turua. He had a very forthright personality with a "do it now" philosophy. His first masses were said in halls. He had a passion for cards and movies - especially Irish and American movies which he regularly went with Tom to see.
1962 Father Jim Shannahan
He was very musical and sporty - loved his golf and cricket, which he always played in shorts. Father Jim was very warm and outgoing and made a great impression on the youth and children to whom he had a never ending supply of chocolate fish.
1963 - 1970 Father John Caulfield
A private and quiet intellectual man, who initiated the CCD programme and had up to a hundred children attending. His sermons were inspiring. He was a stickler for punctuality and mass always started right on time. Father Caulfield was very astute financially and the hall was his project. A top golfer with the worst clubs and that was his parting gift from St Paschal's - a new set of golf clubs!
1964 Father Denzil Meuli
A very dynamic character and a modern "St Paul". Father Meuli was a real evangeliser and searched out all Catholics for a visit. He would come around to parishioners for meals in his legendary mini cooper that he enjoyed driving. A lover of fine cigars, Father Meuli now says mass in Latin daily.
1970 - 85 Father Peter Battersby
Was St Paschal's longest serving priest - 15 years! He was the first priest to enter from the back of the church. He was a very good singer, and in his very first mass he told off the congregation for not singing loudly enough and promptly re-entered again. He was a real hoarder - he came in with two truck loads of furniture.... and his relatives left with three. He also carried around an incredible stockpile of keys. Father Battersby was a real community man with a huge knowledge of Catholic matters. Doreen, his housekeeper, was a huge help to him. Yet another priest who loved his cards, Father Battersby started mass services off in Kaiaua and came from a background as padre for the three services during war time.
1986 - 88 Father Bruce Munday
A remarkable preacher with very short sharp sermons. Though suffering from ill health he still found the time to visit all his parishioners. Father Munday was a keen sportsman and a representative state cricketer in Australia. He was the editor for the Zealandia and was the priest who asked Robert to become parish chairman. A very independent person, Father Munday enjoyed a game of poker and a bet on the horses. After one sizable win, he paid for all the Irish nuns in Herne Bay to make a phone call back to Ireland.
1989 - 91 Father Bruce Boland
A very outgoing person who had a great fondness for books and history. A very snappy dresser who started the priests annual golf tournament. Father Bruce located a long lost family friend of Ciaran's whom he has kept in contact with since. He went on to work in the church archives.
1992 - 93 Father Chris Hamblin
A very friendly person who faced the very difficult and challenging task of being the priest for the whole of the Coromandel. He was very big on canon law. Originally a broker in London in oil, he was once mentioned by the commentator in an All Blacks - South Africa test match in South Africa who said "Father Hamblin my good friend from New Zealand".
1993 - 95 Father Jack Agnew
A very compassionate man with a good vision for the church. Instrumental in establishing the finance committee and pushed for St Paschal's to stand on its own two feet. Father Jack came from Australia and has since returned there.
1993 - 98 Sister Helen Winter
Sister Helen was the youngest in a family of six girls. Her first appointment when returning from Sydney was at Mangakino. She spent 17 years as a junior school teacher. Sister Helen had a real strength with the children and the children's programme. She visited the people throughout the parish and did a lot of healing.
1997 - 98 Father Jim Ross
A very down to earth kindly man with a warm personality. A great hospital visitor - people would often ask for him. Father Jim has now returned to Fiji.
1996 - 99 Father Joe Parkinson
A Dominican priest who came down from Auckland. He loved the drive down to Ngatea and spent a lot of time at the Hick's place. When you got to know him he was quite a character. Father Joe always felt it was a great privilege for him to be at St Paschal's. He was a bursar at St Benedict's and in charge of prison visiting.
1999 - 2011 Sister Mary Gaines
Our indispensable Sister Mary came to St Paschal's in 1999. Her training and teacher training were completed in Sydney. Her final teaching stint was as Principal of the Catholic primary school in Dargaville. Sister Mary has brought those teaching skills of punctuality, preparation and organisation to St Paschal's and when dealing with a predominantly male church council, these skills are not only appreciated but essential! Sister is well known for her devotion and tireless work with the sick, elderly and children's programme, as well as her outstanding garden.
1999 - 2002 Brother Geoff
"I'll be living in the community, and by the way, does anyone know who has a puller for a waratah standard?"... was Brother Geoff's opening address to St Paschal's parish. Originally a farm manager for the Marist fathers, Brother Geoff had a passion for the outdoors, being a member of search and rescue and visiting the Antarctic.
1999 - 2004 Father Peter Head
"Head by name and head by nature", Father Peter was the leader of the Marist team in the Coromandel. A very efficient person who made everyone feel very welcome. A talented representative rugby referee, who's refereeing was of a far higher standard than his golf. It was no coincidence that in the years Father Peter played golf for St Paschal's, St Francis were always winners of the golf trophy!!
1999 - 2002 Father Brian O'Connell
A very quiet, gentle and engaging nature. Father Brian had a background in law. A faithful Canterbury Crusaders supporter, who enjoyed music and was a talented golfer. Father Brian went on to be editor of the Marist Messenger in Wellington.
1999 - 2000 Father Bruce Goodman
A member of the Marist team, with a great sense of humour, which he used to good effect, in his enjoyable sermons. Father Bruce had a great love of music and the theatre, writing many musicals for all ages.
2003 Father Michael Young
Another member of the Marist team, Father Michael had a [passion for theology and history. Well remembered for the Christmas mass where the sun poured directly through the hall windows on to poor Father Michael, causing an initiative to request hall curtains from the council. The unofficial record holder for St Paschal's shortest Sunday masses, Father Michael , now works with the churches history and archives in Auckland.
2005 Father Andrew Matthew
Originally a second hand dealer, Father Andrew had a real love of the Eucharist and church traditions.
2005 - 2006 Bishop Gerry Loft
Bishop Gerry came to St Paschal's from years of service in the Solomon Islands, where he was priest, doctor, teacher, advisor as well as many other roles to the people there. The Bishop will be remembered for his truly inspirational sermons.
2006 - 2007 Father Ronello Resco and Father Reno Alima
In 2006 Fr Ronello Resco and Fr Reno Alima were appointed to our region after Bishop Gerry Loft was moved back up to Auckland. Both were Filipino priests. This was great for our Filipino community which was starting to grow with many moving here for farming jobs. Fr Renello was not here long but had a beautiful voice and sung many parts of the liturgy. He would travel back to Auckland to take part in concerts often to raise money.
Fr Reno was a young priest who was always smiling. He would always start the Mass or his sermon with a joke because he believed the Mass was a celebration and we should be happy and smiling as he took part. He always came down from the altar to stand at the front and between the isles and often encouraged us to partake by asking questions to which there were never any wrong answers. He loved the youth and was excited to attend the World Youth Day in Sydney. He always enjoyed spending time with families and introduced House Masses.
Fr Reno embraced the Filipino communities often travelling to the Cathedral in Hamilton to celebrate special Masses in his native language. He left us in February 2008 and eventually joined the Hamilton Diocese before returning to the Philippines. He will always be fondly remembered for his warmth and smiles.
2008 - 2014 Father Robert Steele
Father Robert came from a large family, and was a late vocation,coming from the hospitality industry. Robert's first placement after ordination was here in the parishes of the Coromandel Peninsula and Hauraki Plains. He was here for six years and enjoyed driving around the Peninsula's five parishes each weekend. He was especially fond of St. Paschal's church with its faithful farming families. He has wonderful memories of working with dear Sr. Mary Gaines.
2011 Father Sherwin Lapaan
Father Sherwin joined us as a Deacon in his final stages of becoming a priest. A few parishioners joined the Thames Parish by going up to Auckland by bus for his ordination at St Patrick's Cathedral.
2011 - 2015 Sister Tina Kapeli
Sister Tina arrived in our Parish on 2nd September 2011, 4 months after Sister Mary passed away. Sister started on a one year trial to see if we all got along together. We did, so at the end of that year we signed up a further 3 year contract with the St Joseph's order. Sister Tina enjoyed her time with us and was easy to work with. While with us she also spent time away with the Sister of St Joseph helping run projects for the order. On the 21st February 2016 Sister celebrated her 70th birthday with us and also 150 years of the sisters in our area. We farewelled sister at our Christmas Mass in 2016 for her next ministry to an aboriginal ministry in the Kimberley's with the order in Australia.
2014 - 2016 Father James Mulligan
Father James grew up in Auckland living with his father having lost his mother when young. While he was with us he went on a trip to Ireland with his father and spoke of his travel at one of our Catholic Women's League meetings. He was very sympathetic and understanding with families having a bereavement.
2014 Father Gerry Mascarina
Father Gerry covered while Father James was on sabbatical in Ireland.
2016 Father Tony Delsink
Father Tony was born in occupied Holland and grew up in South Africa. A father of two, he spent many years working for Barclays Bank but after his wife died, he pursued Theological Studies and was ordained as a deacon on 1992 and then was ordained as a priest in 1997.
He retired from the bank in 1999 and moved to the UK for a 2-year assignment with the Diocese of Plymouth where he held many roles. He spent time in Cornwall and in 2008 moved to Swanage.
After visiting his daughter in New Zealand, he decided to move here permanently to be closer to her and her family. He became a “locum” priest helping where needed which brought him to The Coromandel Peninsula and Hauraki Plains in 2016 as the Parish Priest, based in Thames.
In 2017, as a retired priest, he moved to Whitianga to cover both Whitianga and Tairua Parishes as part of the Coromandel/Hauraki Plain Regional area.
As a married priest, Fr Tony is unique in that he has been a husband and still is a father and grandfather. He believes his life experiences have given him a fantastic grounding for the work he does with the Catholic Church. It all serves him well as having empathy and being responsive to his parishioners
2017 Father Oliver Aro ( MSP) Mission Society of the Philippines
Before he became a priest he was a marine engineer. He also studied psychology and was a crocodile hunter.
As a priest he first served in Papua New Guinea where his transport was a motor canoe. He was the Superior for the Catholic Mission of Tokelau before arriving in New Zealand.
He served in our Parish in 2017 and was a man of deep spiritual prayer and was always willing to listen to the need of the community. His motto is "always to live the life of Christ as he was there before me."
2018 Father Albert Suprapto
Father Albert grew up in Indonesia and came to New Zealand to especially have some pastoral experience and to learn English. He was a keen learner and a good companion for Father Vally - he loved being with people. He was good at Martial Arts, like Sienji Kempo. His generosity and genuine service to the community was an attraction for parishioners, especially Ngatea. He is a Capuchian priest and came to assist Father Vally in the Hauraki Plains/Coromandel area for one year. In the absence of Father Vally he took care of our Parish very well.
2021 - 2022 Sister Tina Kapeli
Sister Tina returns to us in her retirement. and sadly after a fall needed extra care at the Sisters of St Joseph, Mission Bay.
2018 - 2022 Father Valerian D'Souza
Father Vally, born in India, was one of two Capuchian priests that came to serve the Hauraki Plains and Coromandel. Young and enthusiastic he used his many talents in carving, carpentry, painting etc to leave a lasting memory by carving “Jesus on the Easter cross” and paintings on the walls either side of the altar. He liked being busy so was always available for Parish working bees. In his spare time he became a volunteer fire fighter for Thames and he also drove a motorbike to Mass on Sundays. We will never forget how he livestreamed his daily Masses during Covid.
2022 - present Father Marchellino Park
He began as a Parish Administrator in 2022 and then in February 2023 he became our Parish Priest.