"Mary, Mother of All"

The Statue of Mary (Our Lady of Lourdes), September 8, 1901 was placed on the hillside at Pukekaraka Catholic Maori Mission Station at Otaki, New Zealand.  In the local language of the Maori People she was called "Hine Nui O Te Ao Katoa" - "Mary Great Mother of the Whole World."  She is wearing a Maori  Chieftainess Cloak of Honour.


On a hill in the small New Zealand town of Otaki sits the Shrine of Mary, known as Pukekaraka "the hill where the Karaka trees grow"; the Karaka tree is sacred to the Maori. Otaki, established in 1844, is one of the first mission stations of the Fathers and Brothers of the Society of Mary (Marists).  The missionaries came to New Zealand in 1838, from France, and they brought the Catholic faith to the Polynesian people, called the Maori. The first church was dedicated to Mary, Our Lady of Victories. A grotto was built in 1904.  It was then enlarged and moved to a different hill in 1905. The Grotto, named "The Grotto of Lourdes" is a reflection of the French Marists devotion to Mary.

The Wall of Reconciliation and Peace was built in 1910, and stands in front of the Grotto  It was built to signify reconciliation between the local Maori, and the end of the war between the Mua-Upoko and Raukawa tribes.  Because this was a sacred place, no weapons were to be taken inside in the Grotto. In 1999, a cairn of stones was placed in front of the Wall of Reconciliation and Peace to signify the desire for the unity of all Christians. Representatives from other churches and congregations brought stones from their localities and placed them in this stack. This was done to unite the Maori people not only to their immediate neighbors but to their European neighbors as well.

The Catholic Community of Pukekaraka is one of the oldest places of Catholic worship in New Zealand, with the Mary shrine being the most important in the country. The Hui Aranga, (Annual Easter Gatherings of Catholic Maori) had its origin at Otaki. Miracles have been reported; a man named Ngakuru Pene Hare of Pangaru of North Auckland, was suffering from a terminal disease, and was cured. He went to Otaki, and prayed the Rosary with flower petals because he did not have a Rosary. He is still alive and in good health forty years later; he met with Father James Durning and told him his story.

Over five hundred people from many Christian Churches gather at this shrine to join in prayer for peace and thanksgiving. They all brought rocks to build this cairn to signify their unity in peace.

Inauguration  of the
"Wall of Reconciliation and Peace."
It was built in 1910 by the Maori
  people of the Mua-Upoko tribe
 as a sign of peace after
 local wars had ended.


On the left, Fr. S. O'Connell S.M., Provincial of the Society of Mary in New Zealand and Fr. P. Kinsella, S.M., Parish Priest of Otaki are standing next to the Statue of Mary in the Grotto at Pukekaraka Catholic Mission Station, Otaki.   The Papal Flag adorns the base of the statue showing the close link between the local Maori people and The Holy Father in Roma, (Circa 1993).


This information was provided by Brother Gerard Hogg, S.M. Archivist of the Society of Mary-Marist Archives, Otaki, New Zealand. He sent to the Marian Library the history of The Shrine of Mary at Otaki with photos dating back to 1901. 


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