Our Story

Villa Maria College has served the Catholic community in Christchurch for over 100 years.

The College was established by the Sisters of Mercy as a Catholic school for girls in 1918, and in 1981 Villa Maria became an Integrated School providing education with a Special Character. It is the vision of Catherine McAuley, founder of the Sisters of Mercy, that is implemented, tested and challenged in all our education at Villa Maria.

It is this Mercy character that makes Villa Maria special, and we seek to live the Gospel values and infuse a Catholic culture with our Mercy charism, throughout all aspects of College life.

Today, about 20,000 Sisters of Mercy carry on an extensive medical and social apostolate in the tradition of Catherine McAuley whose creed of service was that “the poor need help today, not next week”.

Having lost her father as a small child, Catherine became orphaned at 18 with the death of her mother. By this time the family had little money so Catherine and her two siblings moved to live with relatives. Unfortunately, her relatives also struggled financially, and so Catherine went to live with wealthy friends of her relatives, the Callahans. Catherine spent her time learning about her religion, praying, and serving the needy.

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When Mr. Callahan died, he left his entire fortune to Catherine.

It was now 1827 and Catherine did not like what she saw happening to the poor in Dublin. There were so many women with no place to live and so many children who were not receiving proper education. Catherine took the money she had inherited and used it to build a house – an extraordinary house.

Catherine built the house right in the middle of a wealthy neighbourhood. She chose this place intentionally; she wanted the poor to be noticed by the rich so that once the young women had been trained in sewing, cooking, and cleaning they might be given jobs by the rich families in the area. In addition to her classes during the day, Catherine also made the house available to many homeless girls in need of safe lodging.

This house still stands and many people from all over the world go to visit the house built by such a remarkable woman. Catherine McAuley was an idealist in her concept of the power of women for the betterment of society. She was a woman of prayer, penance, and humility, with an unbounded confidence in God.

Today, about 20,000 Sisters of Mercy carry on an extensive medical and social apostolate in the tradition of Catherine McAuley whose creed of service was that “the poor need help today, not next week”.

The school continued to grow due to housing developments in the area and additional building was undertaken to keep pace with the growth. This included accommodation for boarders which was maintained until a decision by the Sisters saw the boarding school phased out in 1979 and Villa Maria reverting to a day school.

In 1981 the College was integrated into the New Zealand state school system. In 1992 the last Sister of Mercy Principal resigned and the first lay Principal was appointed.

In 1995 the Sisters gifted the Villa Maria convent buildings to the College for use as classrooms.

In 2018, Villa Maria College, together with the Sisters of Mercy, and past and present students and staff, celebrated the College’s 100th Birthday.

Sisters of Mercy New Zealand Web Site

Sisters of Mercy International Web Site

Our House system encourages camaraderie and a sense of belonging.

They can work through the challenges of adolescence safely and they thrive and excel with strong female and male role models to inspire them. The family atmosphere at Villa Maria College is no accident. Students are encouraged to look after each other and give back to the life of the College. All students are placed in one of our six Houses, designed to encourage camaraderie and a sense of belonging between students across all year levels.

Each House is led by a Head of House who oversees the pastoral care of the students. The entire staff work in a caring fashion to help students through their teenage years. It is this deliberate focus on the whole person that makes Villa Maria a safe and secure place of learning.

The staff at Villa Maria are committed to creating life-long learners and nurture each girl and her academic needs.

We are extremely proud of our academic success. NZQA data shows that Villa Maria students consistently perform well above the national average for all New Zealand schools.

Striving for excellence is part of the College culture, and girls are guided and supported to set goals and achieve their potential. Our smaller class sizes are a significant advantage, and our teachers are specialists in their field and passionate about educating girls.