St Mary’s church in Tikitiki was consecrated on 16 February 1926. Up to 5000 were present for the opening, and Ta Apirana gathered together many from throughout Te Ao Maori, including Sir Maui Pomare, Te Rangi HIroa (Sir Peter Buck) and rangatira from throughout the motu. Prime Minister Gordon Coates and Governor-General Sir Charles Fergusson were also present.
The Right Reverend William Walmsley Sedgwick, Bishop of Waiapu, conducted the consecration ceremony. The hymns were chosen from among those most popular with Māori soldiers during the war.
Also present were returned Māori servicemen from World War One, and Prime Minister Coates in his speech noted ‘remember that when the Empire was in trouble New Zealanders offered their services as men, Maori and Pakeha, and as Maori and Pakeha they fell side by side.’
Read about the spirituality that underpins St Marys
One of the features of the Church is the main stained-glass window at the front. In it Jesus Christ is pictured with two soldiers, Lieutenant Henare Kohere and his cousin Captain Pekama Kaa, representing those who fell in the war.
Lieutenant Henare Kohere (on right) was 36-year-old when on 15 September 1916, the first day of the New Zealand attack on the Somme, 12 Pioneers were killed and 40 wounded. One of those mortally wounded was Kohere, who told those attending him, 'Ka nui te kino' (Things are very bad). He gave instructions that his cousin, Lieutenant Pekama Kaa, should take control of his Ngati Porou platoon. He died the next day and was buried at Heilly.
Pekama Kaa (left) was 23 years old when he was promoted to Captain. Only seven days after his promotion the trench he and his men were in had been hit by a shell and Pekama died of his wounds while his men were being evacuated. Pekama died on 14th August 1917 and is buried at Kandahar Farm Cemetery in Belgium.
The Church is both a celebration of Ngati Porou spirituality and a commemoration of the sacrifice of the young men sent to war to uphold the mana of the iwi. And it ensures that we will always remember them.