North Otago vs the nuns

Plan by the Dominican sisters to take the altar from Teschemakers chapel have met strong opposition from North Otago.

Supporters of protecting the chapel and keeping its contents are planning to meet on site to stop the first stage of its removal which is scheduled to begin tomorrow.

The altar came from Italy and was donated by the Hart family in 1926.

The sisters own the contents of the chapel but not the building which is on is on a 10 hectare site. The land and a 28 bedroom house were given to the nuns by Peter MCarthy in 1911. He dontated a further 40 hectares in 1918. The McCarthy family maintained a close relationship with, and gave a lot of support to, the sisters who lived there until the property was sold in 2000.

Dr Hirotomo Ochi who bought Teschemakers in 2000 had planned to redevelop the property into an international health science education centre. It was undergoing extensive refurbishment when he died.

The directors of the business which now own the property have abandoned those plans and put the property on the market.

Naylor Love has been contracted by the sisters  Holy Name Parish which has the legal rights to the contents and where the chapel will go, to begin the removal of the marble altar and other fittings from the chapel tomorrow morning.

Many people and heritage bodies in North Otago made submissions to the Dominican Sisters’ Leadership team in Christchurch and the Holy Name parish in Dunedin to retain the chapel with all its fittings and fixtures –  most particularly the altar – based on their heritage value.

It was thought the altar wouldn’t be removed until the end of August and a public meeting was called for next Friday in the hope those concerned about the chapel and its contents could come up with a plan to protect the chapel and keep the contents in it.

Now that dismantling has been scheduled to start on tomorrow, the public are being invited to gather at the chapel from 6am. The organisers hope to prevent the first stages of the removal of the altar and buy time for other legal measures to be explored.

The ODT has an interview with Suzy Scott, nee McCarthy, Peter’s granddaughter here and other stories here and here.

5 Responses to North Otago vs the nuns

  1. Andrei says:

    I don’t know all the ins and outs but a church isn’t a building but it’s its congregation.

    And if the people of North Otago really valued their “heritage” the Church, altar and all would have a flourishing congregation and all would be well.

    An empty Church with a fancy altar is worth exactly nothing.

  2. homepaddock says:

    The chapel is used though it’s not a church with a congregation as you’ve defined it.

    One of the concerns of the nuns is that if the property is sold and the chapel, which they don’t own, with it, they may lose control of the contents which they do own.

  3. Andrei says:

    As you know I put up a post on this.

    There are some fairly deeply held religious sensibilities at play here.

    The Altar is not just some elaborate piece of furniture but something sacred.

    A few years ago a chapel in Russia was desecrated by a profane act and in response it was to burned to the ground on the Bishops orders. An action everybody deemed entirely appropriate. And one that makes total sense to me.

    I feel sad when I see Churches converted to secular use

  4. homepaddock says:

    I read your post: http://nzconservative.blogspot.com/2010/08/heritage-isnt-building-its-faith.html and agree with your general points.

    The nuns were rightly concerned that if the property was sold they’d have no control over what happened to the chapel, but those wanting to keep it are doing their best to come up with a Plan B which would keep it safe and sacred.

    The chapel is still used as a church.

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