St Mary's College, Wellington

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St Mary's College
Guildford Terrace,
New Zealand
Coordinates 41°16′32″S 174°46′33″E / 41.2756°S 174.7758°E / -41.2756; 174.7758Coordinates: 41°16′32″S 174°46′33″E / 41.2756°S 174.7758°E / -41.2756; 174.7758
Type Integrated secondary (year 9-13) single sex, girls
Motto Misericordia et Sapientia (Mercy and Wisdom)
Established 1850; 168 years ago
Ministry of Education Institution no. 286
Principal Catherine Ryan
School roll 618[1] (February 2018)
Socio-economic decile 9Q[2]

St Mary's College Wellington is situated in the suburb of Thorndon in Wellington, New Zealand. The school is a state-integrated all-girls Catholic secondary school for years 9-13.


The school, which is one of the oldest existing schools in New Zealand, was founded in 1850 by Philippe Viard, first Bishop of Wellington and staffed by a small group of religious sisters, the "Sisters of Mary", established by Viard. Part of the land on which the school is situated was donated by Lord Petre, the 11th Baron Petre (1793-1850), who was a director of the New Zealand Company and whose family seat Thorndon Hall in Essex was an important centre of Catholic Recusancy from the time of Queen Elizabeth I. Another part of the site was given by Sir George Grey, Governor of New Zealand out of public funds. In 1861 the school was taken over by the Sisters of Mercy who first arrived in Wellington in that year. To begin with, the school was co-educational (boys and girls) and had a boarding facility attached. Nowadays the boarding facility is gone, and it is a single sex girls' school.


While most traces of the original buildings on the site have disappeared, the school has some buildings dating from the early twentieth century, including the "Gabriel Block" which is now used as the school hall. The other two main blocks are "Carlow" and "McAuley". McAuley is named after Sister Catherine McAuley, who used her inherited fortune to found the Sisters of Mercy in Dublin, Ireland. As most other New Zealand Schools do, students in years 11-13 sit NCEA (National Certificate of Educational Achievement) examinations. The school remains in the ownership of the Sisters of Mercy and describes itself as a "Mercy School".


  • Number of Teachers: 48
  • International Students: 11
  • Ethnic make up of students: New Zealand European/Pākehā, 54%; Samoan, 11%; South East Asian, 9%; Māori, 7%; Other Pacific, 5%; Chinese, 3%; Indian, 3%; Other Asian, 3%; Other ethnic groups, 5%.[3][4]

See also[edit]

Notable alumnae[edit]

  • Patricia Frances Grace DCNZM, QSO, (born in Wellington, New Zealand in 1937) is a notable Māori writer of novels, short stories, and children's books. Her first published work, Waiariki (1975) was the first collection of short stories by a Māori woman writer. She has been described as "A key figure in contemporary world literature and in Maori literature in English"[5]
  • Beverley Wakem CBE, Chief Ombudsman of New Zealand (2008-) (first woman in the role); Ombudsman (2005-); former Chief Executive of Radio New Zealand Limited (1984–1991).[6]
  • Joy Watson, award-winning New Zealand author.
  • Fran Wilde, former Member of Parliament and Mayor of Wellington.[7]


  1. ^ "Directory of Schools - as at 14 March 2018". New Zealand Ministry of Education. Retrieved 20 March 2018. 
  2. ^ "Decile Change 2014 to 2015 for State & State Integrated Schools". Ministry of Education. Retrieved 12 February 2015. 
  3. ^ St Mary's College website
  4. ^ Education Review Office
  5. ^ Roger Robinson, "Patricia Grace", The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature, (edited by Roger Robinson and Nelson Wattie), Oxford University Press, Auckland, 1998, pp. 214-216.
  6. ^ Office of the Ombudsmen, Current Ombudsmen: [1] (accessed 21 March 2009).
  7. ^ Who's Who in the New Zealand Parliament 1990. Wellington: Parliamentary Service. 1990. p. 71. 


  • Lillian G. Keys, Philip Viard, Bishop of Wellington, Pegasus Press, Christchurch, 1968.
  • Ernest Richard Simmons, Brief history of the Catholic Church in New Zealand, Catholic Publications Centre, Auckland, 1978.
  • Michael King, God's farthest outpost : a history of Catholics in New Zealand, Viking, Auckland 1997.
  • Mary de Porres Flannigan R.S.M., Mercy comes to Wellington : a history of St. Mary’s College, St. Mary’s College Board of Trustees, Wellington, 2000.
  • Michael O'Meeghan S.M., Steadfast in hope : the story of the Catholic Archdiocese of Wellington 1850-2000, Dunmore press, Palmerston North, 2003.