In 1836, Pope Gregory XVI formed the Vicariate Apostolic of Western Oceania. He assigned French Marist priests to spread Catholicism in New Zealand among native Māori people and arriving European settlers. Fathers Jean-Baptiste Comte and Jean Pezant were the first to welcome early German and French immigrants to Akaroa in 1840. The following year, the missionaries built a small church and then a larger one a few years later. In 1860, Melbourne-based Bishop Philippe Viard sent two Marist priests to Christchurch. In turn, Father Chataigner commissioned architects Benjamin Mountfort and Maxwell Bury to design St. Patrick’s Catholic Church. Builder John Patrick Cullen used indigenous totara trees to construct the simple tower and façade with fretwork ornamentation. The parish church – part of the Catholic Diocese of Christchurch – was consecrated in 1865.