Mission Sisters House 78 Upland Road

Upland Rd

78 Upland Road Remuera was known as the House of Studies for the Mission Sisters.

The Sisters of our Lady of the Missions (Religieuses de Notre Dame des Missions RNDM) followed the inspiration of Euphrasie Barbier, Mother Mary of the Heart of Jesus, founder of the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions. The first four sisters came to New Zealand from France in 1865 and were known in New Zealand as the Mission Sisters. The Mission Sisters’ houses were established so that the Sisters could teach in the local parish-owned primary schools. [1]

In 1963, the Mission Sisters purchased an old house on one and a half acres at 78 Upland Rd Remuera that could serve as a formation house for Temporary Professed Sisters. Sister Mary Vianney (Nancy Lawless) was appointed Juniorate Mistress. Within two years a second block was added to accommodate 18 young women. [2] The two New Zealand provinces of the Sisters (St Mary’s Province, North province, and Sacred Hearts’ Province, South Province) were established in 1920 and in 1967 the Provincialate of the St Mary’s province which had been established in Hamilton, relocated to Upland Rd, Remuera. The House of Studies served as a Juniorate hostel where young girls of high school age, known as Juvenists, who were considering entry into religious life, received their secondary school education.

Upland Rd 78

The 1964 House of Studies had a very distinctive design by James Hackshaw. The centrepiece of the complex, built as a convent, was a high-ceilinged private chapel. Contrasting with geometrically complex churches fashionable at the time, the high white walls, parquet floor and wooden ceiling defined an austere, simple space. The sanctuary was adorned with a tabernacle and candlesticks by Paul Dibble, and the clerestory windows around each side of the chapel were painted by Colin McCahon – the project (which included a painted Stations of the Cross) was McCahon’s largest public commission and reignited an interest in biblical symbolism that fuelled his work for years to come. [3] The windows and painting were removed when the chapel was deconsecrated in 1989. The windows were subsequently gifted to Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki which holds a total of 22 panes from the clerestory, including the 13 panels of the east window and other panels from the west and north windows.

In 1979, the Temporary Professed Sisters no longer lived in Remuera but instead lived in the community and were appointed to specific fulltime apostolates. The Cashmere Novitiate in Christchurch for prospective novices was transferred to Remuera in 1987 and then the Remuera Novitiate transferred from Upland Rd to Panmure on Panmure’s opening on 14 March 1989. The Upland Rd House of Studies was closed and sold.

The property was sold in 1990 and the complex later became a language school for foreign students and a school of music and fine arts. The building has since been converted into a private residence, the McCahon windows removed, and the chapel converted into a swimming pool. [4]

The Colin McCahon windows were restored and are the subject of a 2019 exhibition at the Auckland Art Gallery – you can read what Colin McCahon wrote about his paintings here –  The manner of my painting is contemporary; the Church is both contemporary and ancient. These panels are based on ancient symbols of faith: I trust that my interpretation of these very living symbols will not offend, but may, in due time, help renew the link, now almost broken, between the Artist and the Church.