The Capuchin Fraternity of Aotearoa New Zealand was founded in 1958 at the invitation of the late Cardinal McKeefry. Two friars, Br. Matthias Murphy OFM Cap. and Br. Agathangelus Herlihy OFM Cap. Came to New Zealand and took up residence in Wellington. Br. Matthias was appointed chaplain to Victoria University, and Br. Agathangelus appointed Parish Priest of Northland-Kelburn Parish. The Capuchin Friars celebrated the 50 Jubilee of its New Zealand foundation in August 2005.
However, there had been an earlier Capuchin presence in the person of Father Jeremiah O’Reily OFM. Cap. the first resident Catholic priest in Wellington who arrived on 31 January 1843, and died in July 21 1888. He is buried in Mount Street Cemetery in Wellington. In 1993 the Wellington Archdiocese celebrated the 150th anniversary of the coming of Fr. Jeremiah O’Reily to Wellington as the first resident priest, and also commemorated the first Catholic Church built in Wellington in 1843 by Fr. Jeremiah O’Reily.
Many friars from Ireland, The Philippines, Indonesia and India provinces have ministered in New Zealand over that time. Many of the friars returned to their respective provinces to continue their ministries there. Three Irish friars died while ministering in New Zealand and are buried here; two terminally ill Irish friars returned to Ireland where they died and are buried.
Among its many ministries, the Capuchins presently have pastoral care of three parishes, Holy Trinity Parish- Kilbirnie, Miramar and Seatoun, Wellington; Holy Cross Parish, Henderson, Auckland, and Our Lady of Lourdes, Glen Eden, Auckland.
The Capuchin Friars are the youngest branch of the first Order of St. Francis, going back to 1525, when some Friars Minor in the Marches wanted to live a stricter life of prayer and poverty to be closer to the original intentions of St. Francis. Thanks to the support of the Papal Court the new branch received early recognition and grew fast, first in Italy, and since 1574 all over Europe.
Simplicity, closeness to the people, a fraternal spirit in our houses and our apostolate are visible signs that mark our lifestyle, with emphasis on penance and prayer as expressed in the life of the first Capuchins.
There are several Capuchin Secular Franciscan Order fraternities throughout New Zealand. The Secular Franciscan Order for lay people is an independent organisation encompassing the whole Franciscan spectrum. Franciscans, Conventuals, Capuchins and the friars provide spiritual assistance to these fraternities.
Besides the Capuchin Order for Religious men, there exist many contemplative monasteries of Capuchin nuns and a multitude of religious congregations for women with the Capuchin spirit, often founded with the assistance of a Capuchin friar.
All these groups of professed religious and secular Franciscans form the Franciscan Family.