Mere Kanea was the only child of Mita Taupopoki and his wife, Herena Ngawairama. Taupopoki was a very high-ranking, influential Tuhourangi and Ngāti Wahiao leader. A Catholic, Mita Taupopoki received his education from Father Francois Boibieux, whose mission station was located at Waipa just south of Rotorua. Mita Taupopoki was responsible for the erection of the Catholic Church in Whakarewarewa in 1901. In 1928, Taupopoki led a delegation of Māori Catholic leaders to the Eucharistic Congress in Sydney. Mere Kanea and her husband Iharaira had over 16 children – sadly, all but one died in their infancy or early teens. Kanea & Iharaira’s only surviving child was a son Kihi, who, in his early teens, married Pinenga Paora – Te Amohau of Ngati Whakaue. Pinenga gave birth to their son, Robert Mita Taupopoki, on 26 April 1938. Sadly, Kihi died before his son Robert Mita Taupopoki was born. Although the survival of Mere Kanea’s line was preserved with the birth of her mokopuna, Robert Mita Taupopoki, she suffered her losses greatly. Following her father’s lead, Mere Kanea found solace & healing amongst those of the Catholic faith; her gratitude for that support was shown in several ways, none more evident than that of gifting whenua to the church. Her generosity and love for the church saw her recognized for eternity by the church by naming a house after her at McKillop College and, thereafter, John Paul College.
John Paul College was honored to be given permission from the descendants of Mere Kanea to have her image painted and hung with the rest of our school icons in our gymnasium. Zara O’Neill was a Year 13, a School Prefect, and our Art Captain in 2022 when she accepted the honor of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to paint Mere Kanea. On the 30th of August, JPC, the whānau of Mere Kanea, and iwi representatives welcomed Zara and her respective whānau into the ERC so she could present her final art piece to the school. It was a very emotional event and a proud moment for all involved. The beautiful taonga that Zara painted was blessed by kaumatua. It now hangs in the ERC, where it will forever remain, protecting the students and staff of JPC with the rest of our school icons. We would like to personally thank Helen Becket for allowing us this wonderful opportunity and trusting us to have Mere Kanea watch over us all at JPC.
Saint John Baptiste de La Salle was born in 1651 and opened his first school in the town of his birth, Rheims, in north-eastern France, in 1679. He was deeply moved by how “the children of the artisans and the poor” were abandoned and left to fend for themselves. He became aware that unless something were to be done, many of these children would be lost to their religion and society. He gathered around him like-minded men, who became known as the Brothers of the Christian Schools (we know them as De La Salle Brothers). Over a period of thirty years, De La Salle opened schools in several French cities and towns and worked with numerous teachers and students from different socioeconomic levels. By the time of his death in 1719, he had founded various educational institutions: primary schools, teacher training centers, boarding schools, and homes for delinquents. Today, students in more than 80 countries worldwide receive their education in Lasallian schools, which serve the needs of students from differing economic backgrounds and where curriculum and methodology are decided according to the social and cultural conditions of the country where the schools are located.
McKenna House is named as a tribute to Father Daniel McKenna, a Mill Hill Missionary. Daniel McKenna was born in the city of Limerick, Ireland, on 6th December 1911. He was educated in Ireland and was interested in becoming a priest from an early age. He was ordained on 9th July 1939. Father McKenna was missioned to New Zealand and became Parish Priest of St Michaels in December 1951. On the creation of St Mary’s Parish in 1954, he became its first parish priest, a post he held for almost 30 years. Father McKenna was instrumental in building the Catholic primary schools in Rotorua and establishing MacKillop College and Edmund Rice College. Father Mckenna died on 14th January 1983 and is laid to rest in the Sala Street cemetery.
Mary MacKillop was born in Melbourne, the eldest of eight children. Inspired and encouraged by the missionary priest, Father Julian Tenison Woods, who shared her concerns for the children of the poor in pioneering Australia, Mary set out to provide for the spiritual and educational needs of the children and the destitute, especially in the outlying areas of that vast continent. An Australian herself, she was keenly aware of the difficulties that would lie in the path of her endeavors. Mary gathered a group of women around her, the first Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, and slowly, the work gathered momentum. In 1883, the first Sisters came to New Zealand. Mary MacKillop died on 8th August 1909 in Sydney. She was beatified in 1995 and canonized on the 18th October 2011. Her saint’s name is St Mary of the Cross.
Edmund Ignatius Rice was born in Callan, Ireland, on 1st June 1762. In 1779, he traveled to Waterford and began working for his uncle, who supplied food and other commodities to ships and the British Army of Occupation. In 1785, he married Mary Elliot. 1788 saw the Rices expecting the birth of their first child. However, tragedy struck. Mary Rice died in January 1789, and her baby was born slightly handicapped. His business brought Edmund to the docksides of Waterford. Here, he saw crowds of unruly boys fighting and begging, with no school to go to. A friend suggested he should do something for these poor boys, and after seeking advice, Edmund sold his business and, in 1882, opened his first school in a converted stable in New Street, Waterford. Slowly, companions came to help Edmund in his work, and the Congregation of the Christian Brothers began. As more men came to join Edmund and the first Brothers, the schools spread throughout Ireland and to distant shores. Edmund Ignatius Rice died on 29th August 1844. Today, Christian Brothers work on all five continents.