A background in accountancy made Father Maurice White a natural choice to be a “collector” in the early days of raising funds for St Peter’s College.
Collectors, chosen from the ranks of priests and brothers, not only collected at parish churches after mass, but also covered large districts, raising money from door to door. The Rosminians spearheaded this role until the school actually opened and then handed it over to the diocese and ultimately Plan Giving. The money paid off existing mortgages, reduced loans and paid interest.
Fr. Maurice originally intended to be a chemist, but not having studied Latin at school, this career was closed to him. Educated by the Marist Brothers in Invercargill, he passed his school certificate and initially joined government service in the law courts. By 1948 he had joined the accountancy branch of the Forest Service and began studying part-time to qualify as an accountant. It was during this time that thoughts of going into the priesthood also crystallised. 1962 saw him qualify as an accountant, while still at Mosgiel, embarking on his training for the priesthood.
Ironically part of his training as a late vocation student, involved the study of Latin destined to become so much a part of his new life. Three years studying philosophy at the seminary in Christchurch were followed by four years of theology at Mosgiel.
There followed several years as an assistant priest in Ranfurly, Winton and Oamaru and this was followed by a six month spell as army chaplain at Burnham at a time when New Zealand forces were involved in the Vietman War. The ability to make a difference for these stressed servicemen and their families made this a rewarding time for Fr. Maurice, but it was to be followed by a very different assignment.
The bishop directed him to Gore, to live with the Rosminian brothers and “collect” for St Peter’s College. Based at the school, he travelled to parishes all over the district and would preach for the local priest on Sunday and then go house to house around the roll of parishoners, persuading them to support this new Catholic co-educational school. Days were long, but hospitality received made up for this. Money was collected by an envelope system, directly asking for a cash donation or through farmers donating lambs. This was in the days when you were lucky to get $5 dollars for a lamb, but the numbers added up. The donated lambs were killed in the name of the college and a killing sheet was sent in to identify the donor.
The priests involved covered many miles and were generally met with great hospitality, sometimes more so in Southland than Otago. Families from places like Wanaka had traditionally sent their sons to St Kevin’s at Oamaru, which was closer geographically to them. They didn’t have the same incentive to change to Gore.
The collecting process meant that Fr. Maurice developed good associations with Catholics all over the district, but after the initial year of just raising and collating donations, he wanted a return to pastoral work. As the priest in Roxburgh was retiring, he was directed to move there and took on a parish role as well. All through the early years of St Peter’s, from 1970-1977, Fr. Maurice helped to bring in support with his fund raising. He felt that St Peter’s was a good school, forward thinking in its inclusion of girls and he was happy to promote it to parents across the region. Always part of a team, which included Fathers Hurdidge, Hill, Tedesco and Buckner, he also served on the school’s Board of Trustees. He witnessed the change from Rosminian to first lay principal and the advent of the chapel, having accompanied Fr. Hill to the Bishop’s sickbed to ask for permission to build it.
Eventually collecting gave way to Planned Giving and a team of fund raisers from Australia set up a new envelope scheme for parishioners.
Fr. Maurice continued ministering as a priest in Tapanui, then Wyndham. He then became Te Anau’s first parish priest, before moving on to Tuatapere, Riverton, Green Island, Balclutha and Ranfurly and then semi- retiring to Winton in 2007. Looking back he hopes that he always strived to do his very best for all the people in each of his parishes, taking a very ecumenical approach to the task.
Constantly travelling around the south of New Zealand, didn’t deter him from exploring the wider world, including Israel, Ireland and the USA and he has also acted as a chaplain on four cruises.
Looking back, the irony of the part that Latin has played in his life, is not lost on him.Return to Founders' Stories