The Church Of St John The Baptist in Alexandra will celebrate its 60th jubilee on Sunday.
It will be a special day for Fr Merv McGettigan, who was ordained at the church in his hometown on July 29, 1958, days after it opened.
Fr McGettigan, who now lives in Mosgiel, recalled there were overcast skies for the opening 60 years ago, “.a pretty grey day, as far as I can remember”.
“I was brought up there. I started school at St Gerard’s.
“It was our family place – Fruitlands was where my grandparents and great-grandparents lived.”
Fr McGettigan’s journey to the Catholic priesthood began early.
“I think that was the only thing that I really wanted to do .. I went away to what we called the Holy Name Seminary.. at the age of 13.”
Fr McGettigan did his secondary schooling at the seminary, in Christchurch, for five years, then moved to Holy Cross College, the major seminary then based in Mosgiel, for six years.
Fr McGettigan was 25 when he was ordained in 1958, and after being assistant priest at various churches was given his first parish at Omakau.
“I was there by myself at Omakau, would you believe it. It is a wonderful place.”
The place had changed since he was there, he said.
“When I was there, there were banks, a post office, the telephone exchange, hotels galore in the parish – it’s quite changed now.”
The journey to Alexandra for the 60th celebrations had produced mixed feelings.
“My ordination was there, we’ve had family baptisms there, we’ve had family funerals there. It is a special place for the family.
“I feel sad and joyful, because it’s got memories, and a lot of the people that I knew as I grew up have died, have gone to God.”
The 60th jubilee of the church opening will be celebrated this Sunday at 9am Mass with Fr McGettigan. Morning tea will be provided after Mass at the District Club, Centennial Ave.