Friday, February 14, 2014

Australian Wildlife

Welcome to Holy Rosary Convent, Australia

If you look carefully to your right, you shouldn't miss our backyard friends who often come at the time of Compline to graze on grass, have a little nap or stand upright with a placid stare, listening to us chant the Divine Office. Known throughout Australia as the Kangaroo, this marsupial comes in a variety of size, shape and species.

Here are a few species coming up now.
If you look to your left, you might be lucky to see some of the many vividly coloured birds that live in our native forest.

If you are very special, you might be able to see our cute koalas who roam about looking for leaves to eat when they are not napping in a tree.

Oh, what are the odds! If you look straight ahead, there is Fr MacPherson, SSPX. It seems he has found a furry friend.

We leave you now with a glimpse of some of our not so nice creatures. But don't let this put you off, they are easily disposed of - as Sister Mary Jordan demonstrates.

Photos kindly supplied by Sister Mary Francis

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Feast of the Epiphany 2014, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Convent, Australia

At the conclusion of 2013 and at the start of 2014 we were blessed with a wonderful retreat preached by Reverend Fr Robert MacPherson, who is currently stationed in Wanganui, New Zealand.  It is always a special privilege to end and start a year with holy reflections and blessings. During this time, we did not go anywhere else, yet in the silence of our little temporary convent in 35 Granite Lane, Tynong, we meditated and reflected on the theological virtues and holy vows of religion as reflected in the life of the prophet Eliseus, supplemented with Holy Scripture, the writings of St Augustine, St Bernard and other saints. Thus armed with holy thoughts and good resolutions we were again fortified for this year’s battle towards sainthood and the salvation of souls. We again express our grateful thanks to Fr MacPherson and even though it poured with rain at the end of retreat, we considered it was a symbol of abundant blessings for the year ahead. However we did pray for beautiful weather for the next day – the Feast of the Epiphany – a very special day for our Congregation, for it entailed the reception of the habit for our four Postulants and First Profession for two Novices.

On the awaited day, despite the overcast sky, light rain and little attendance of our faithful parishioners (although we were especially grateful to the presence of these few faithful, friends, and particularly to the loving and very supportive parents and family members of our Postulants and Novices who travelled from afar to be with us), the ceremony began with solemnity.  We were overjoyed to have a grand Schola and choir - the Schola was led by Reverend Fr Couture, District Superior of Asia, who flew in that day from Singapore as well as Reverend Fathers Delsorte and Belisle, the Prior and Assistant Prior of Corpus Christi Church. We were also blessed with a visiting seminarian, Mr Patrick Kennedy and members of the Parish Schola.

A young lady has to be courageous and generous to follow God’s call.  Our "little" Postulants displayed this generosity and valour as they asked for the holy habit after having completed their time of postulancy. Like the three wise men from the East who offered the little infant Jesus, gold, frankincense and myrrh, our dear Postulants offered their very selves as special gifts for the little King.

What do you seek?
God’s mercy and yours, Father.


She hurries to lay down the hair of her head for His love 

that He may give her the Holy Ghost, 

that He may preserve the perpetual habit of Holy Religion in her,

and defend her heart from the distractions of the world and from worldly desires...

Just as she is changed in head and face, in the same way may His right hand give her an increase of virtue and open her eyes from all spiritual blindness and pour upon her the light of eternal glory.

Receive dear sister the crown of thorns in memory of the crown of Our Lord 

and if you wear the crown of thorns of tribulation in this life you will be rewarded by your Spouse with a crown of glory for evermore in the life to come

Names in the Old Testament usually signify something. They refer to, as the Catholic Encyclopedia stresses, “either to some trait of a child, actual or prophetic, or to some feeling or hope in the parent at the time of its birth”. A change of condition too, demanded a change of name, for instance; the conversion of Abram to Abraham – “because I have made thee a father of many nations” (Genesis 17:5). And so our new little Novices received new names, that they may be detached from the world and enter the religious state. Attached to the name is the name of the Mother of God, “Mary” in whose protection St Dominic entrusted the Order of Preachers and another name (preferably Dominican) in order to imitate their virtues and sanctity. For all of us, this was the most exciting part – to hear the new names of our dear little Sisters.  

Miss Maria Beatriz Piña Mejia from Mexico took the name 
Sister Maria Dolores
Miss Anna Cristen from Kansas, U.S.A. took the name 
Sister Mary Amata
Miss Cara Ruegg from Maryland, U.S.A. took the name 
Sister Mary Francis
Miss Emilyn Ng from Singapore took the name 
Sister Mary Imelda

To add to our excitement, our two American Novices, Sr Mary Johanna and Sr Mary Thomas pronounced their first vows.   



 “Just as Jesus hidden under sacramental species is a source of grace to those who approach Him in proportion to their dispositions (faith, hope, charity, humility) thus also the graces we will receive from Jesus hidden in our Superiors will be in proportion to the dispositions with which we approach them.” Dom Marmion

“the eyes of the handmaid are on the hands of her mistress” 
( Psalms 122: 2)

Fr Fullerton, the District Superior of Australia and New Zealand, preached an inspiring sermon on humility, taking the example of Our Lord who was born in a manger and on the Religious vows, pointing out obedience as the key to all the vows and the hardest of all; for by it a Sister submits her own will. 

Behind the cloud, the sun is always shining, as the saying goes, so with happy faces in thanksgiving for new graces received were able to process outside for a "family" photo. We also extend our grateful thanks to Fr Stephens and Fr Du Chazaud for being with us on this solemn occasion.            

Congratulations to our new Novices and Professed Sisters!

To all the Fathers, Parishioners, Friends, Parents and all our family members abroad, thank you for all your prayers. God bless you all!        

We ask for your earnest prayers for the perseverance of our new Novices and the fidelity of our newly Professed Sisters. We also make an urgent appeal to your ever generous hearts to help us build our New Convent in Tynong. God reward you!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

St Dominic's Convent, Wanganui ~ 22nd December 2013

Profession Ceremony

 “The Life of a Prophet” was the topic announced for the Sisters’ annual retreat this year, and the retreat fulfilled the promise of such an intriguing title. The prophet chosen was Eliseus, and we heard from Father MacPherson about burning your bridges (no, sorry, your plow) behind you when you answer God’s call, about taking the honour of God seriously (enough to have disrespectful children eaten by bears), and about not losing faith if at first you don’t succeed (even if what you are trying to do is stop a river by smacking it with a cloak).
From the lower right of this picture one can learn how to strike a river
A memorable story – linked with the theme of charity: bears maul the children who mocked Eliseus.
Rest assured, we do not have such things done to our pupils.

The retreat lasted from the fifteenth to the twenty-second of December, but we received the final blessing of the retreat one day early, as Father had to go to his mission in Auckland. This was providential as it fell on the feast of St Thomas the Apostle, who brought the Faith to Kerala in India, the home of Sister Maria Swarupa, who would be making final profession the next day. And the next day, Sunday, was also the old feast of the Patronage of Our Lady over the Dominican Order. So St Thomas gave his daughter in the faith a final blessing before placing her under the protection of the Queen of Apostles and Lady of the Friars Preachers.

On Sunday, at the sung Mass, Sister Marie Dominique renewed her vows and Sister Maria Swarupa transferred her perpetual vows, made twenty-four years ago, into the Dominican Order. For Sister Marie Dominique, the ceremony was like answering “yes, of course!” to a fiancé who asks halfway through the engagement, “are you sure you want to marry me?” For Sister Swarupa, it was like giving the same answer when your husband has been offered a job in a new country, far from your home and people, and asks if you would go with him there. For both, the Dominican vow of obedience was an act of love and a sign of God’s love for them, so after giving thanks for the many graces of the day at Mass, we celebrated this great occasion with a small reception at the school, at which we enjoyed seeing and speaking to many fellow-parishioners and pupils.

Sister Marie Dominique makes a renewal of her temporary vows (for another two years) in the hands of Mother General
The kiss of peace, given by the Superior, after the pronouncing of vows
Sister Maria Swarupa pronounces her perpetual vows
Father Louis Bochkoltz presides at the ceremony
Father Bochkoltz pronounces the final blessing of the ceremony as Sister Swarupa prostrates in the sanctuary.  She now wears a gold ring on her right hand, a visible sign of her eternal espousal to our Lord Jesus Christ.

At the Communion rail
A photo of the community outside the Church, after the ceremony

Sister Swarupa cuts the cake

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Behold we bring you glad tidings

The Dominican Sisters of Wanganui joyously announce the following upcoming events:

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013
in Wanganui, NEW ZEALAND
Feast of the Patronage of Our Lady over the Dominican order

Sister Maria Swarupa (India)

Sister Marie Dominique (Colorado, United States)

Monday, January 6th, 2014
in Melbourne, AUSTRALIA
Feast of the Epiphany

Sister Mary Thomas (Kansas, United States)

Miss Beatriz Pina (Mexico)
Miss Anna Christen (Kansas,  United States)
Miss Cara Ruegg (Maryland, United States)
Miss Emilyn Ng (Singapore)

Please pray for many holy religious vocations

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Pilgrimage to the South Island: Day One: Across the Seas

One book which will always have a special place in our convent library is Star of the South by Sister Mary Augustine O.P.  After reading it in the refectory on more than one occasion, it inspired us to take a voyage this September to the South Island during our recent school holidays. Our mission: to visit all the places which were once upon a time, not so long ago, hives of Dominican life and fruit for NZ. We wanted to re-trace the steps taken by our Holy Foundress, Mother Mary Gill O.P. who at the age of 16, left the world to eventually come to Dunedin in 1886 as the first superior and plant the first Dominican seed under the guidance of the saintly Bishop Moran. From Dunedin many other convents, schools, boarding schools and hostels were established in other parts of the South Island and it was to these places that we wished to visit.
Early Monday morning, 2nd September, saw us all lined up in a big red transit van to take the rather impressive looking ferry Santa Regina to cross the Cook Strait. Our thoughts turned to what it must have been like on the voyage all those years ago for the pioneer Sisters, some of whom were very young, and who ventured from Ireland across unknown and dangerous seas to a foreign country considered to be full of cannibals. What must they have suffered? What delights must they have seen? For the nature–loving Sisters it was a trip of a lifetime as many a plea was sent up to Heaven during the three and a half hour voyage to ask for something to come out of that vast ocean – perhaps a whale, or a dolphin, or a great white shark or an orca. God’s choice - ONE PLAYFUL SEAL. But, never to be outdone in generosity, He kindly acquiesced by providing us with a whole colony to admire along the East Kaikoura Coast.

Safely on land again, we were directed to the Selby residence in Blenheim where we enjoyed a gourmet dinner, which gave us more than enough strength to reach Christchurch and meet Father Bochkoltz, who was to say a 7pm Mass for us and accompany us on our journey as our Chaplain.

Pilgrimage to the South: Day Two: Timaru, Oamaru, Teschemakers, Dunedin

 Another early morning on Tuesday, we headed for Timaru where we visited the beautiful Sacred Heart Basilica and were lucky enough to find tables of books which were free for the taking. Our Sister Librarian quickly jumped into action and with a quick eye pounced on some good authors such as Garrigou-Lagrange, while leaving more modern ones in their places.


Next was a visit to Oamaru where we had the opportunity to visit what was once Rosary Convent and the beautiful marble church just next door. Now a rest-home, we were welcomed most generously by the Manager who kindly provided some refreshments for us. We toured around and from a plan in the foyer, managed to work out what each room would have been used for. Some Sisters practised gliding down the beautiful wooden staircases (one was reserved for the Sisters, while the other was for boarders) and others investigated all the nooks and crannies within the building while saying hello to the elderly residents at the same time. The Chapel was our greatest delight. Religious remnants were still there for viewing, including the marble altar and four choir stalls. We tested the acoustics and planned to sing a Salve Regina in every Dominican Church/Chapel for the Building of our Motherhouse, Rosary Convent and our own apostolate. The Chapel was being used as a library and to our glee there were many good books for sale including a lot of Dominican treasures. The Manager told us we could take what we wanted……so…..not one to hold back…we quickly leapt into action. Some Sisters stayed at the van to re-organise the luggage so as to fit as many books as we could, while others scanned the library with a fine-tooth comb. Book after book was carried to 'Sister Packer' and thankfully two guardian angels arrived in the form of two Mormons who helped to transport loads of books from the Chapel to Big Red as we nicknamed our vehicle.


 A little later and a little heavier, we were on our way to Teschemakers, which was once upon a time a thriving Dominican Boarding school out in the country, approximately 15min from Oamaru. Ten minutes into our journey we were met with an obstacle – a flooded dip in the road which appeared to be quite deep. Thankfully, our self-sacrificing Padre leapt into action, and for years to come we will have the image embedded in our memories of Father leaping out of the van and wading through the cold water to make sure it was not too deep for the engine. Father safely on board again and presented with towels with which to dry his purpled feet, we arrived at our destination. The owner, Joy Murdoch, generously gave of her time to show us around, the building being now used as a wedding and conference centre. Although the rooms now looked very chic, we were able to again imagine what it must have been like back in the days when some students came to school by horse. What stories the walls could have told us. The kitchen was truly a sight with all utilities being ten times the usual size to cater for large groups. The Chapel of course was the cream of the cob, with Dominican Saints portrayed in stained-glassed windows, a tiered choir loft which was accessible from what must have been the infirmary and which is now a wedding suite and we gaped in admiration and longing at the beautiful white marble altar. The acoustics there were just magnificent and we all felt like bundling everything up and taking it back to Wanganui. If only! Needless to say, many a happy hour was spent here and we arrived late in Dunedin for an evening Mass and another delicious heart-warming meal provided by the Wansink family.





Pilgrimage to the South Island: Day Three: Lawrence, Cromwell and Queenstown

Wednesday it was off to visit the Convent and School in Queenstown. On the way we stopped at Lawrence to visit St Patrick's Church and the Dominican convent which was situated just behind it. Now a private residence we were unable to explore quite as thoroughly as the previous day but we were able to explore the Church. Next stop was Cromwell to visit the Church of the Irish Martyrs which included a glorious drive along the beautiful Lake Wakatipu, which was used to transport the Sisters to their destinations in the early days. As we went from place to place Sister Reader gave us excerpts from the Star of the South so we were able to familiarise ourselves with each place before we got there. Back in the day, Sisters for the Queenstown Convent arrived by boat and were greeted with the town band playing lively airs, local dignitaries welcoming them to the town, the faithful and children carrying lanterns. Other foundations didn’t start off quite so well; one tale included the Sisters turning up a week before they were apparently expected and they had to be whisked off for a day at the beach while the embarrassed Bishop made temporary arrangements for them.


The Queenstown Convent, School and Church were heavenly and matched the stunning surroundings. Snowy mountains, green forests and clear blue lakes wherever you turned. The Sisters must have been very content with their location, for the views from the convent were spectacular. We were able to visit the Church, named in honour of St Joseph, and the School, which to our delight was preparing a play on Mother Gill for her anniversary. Teachers were amazed to see us and thought their pupils had dressed up ahead of time for it. They were kind enough to show us around the convent which was being used as a storeroom for the school and the more adventurous pupils ventured to come up and introduce themselves. Late evening saw us driving back to Dunedin to enjoy another delicious meal cooked by our host Mrs Best, who kindly put her whole home at our disposal.



Pilgrimage to the South Island: Day Four: Milton, Invercargill and Bluff

Early Thursday morning we set off for Milton on our way to Invercargill. This was a most wonderful spot and was well worth the time we spent there. We met an ex-pupil who is currently the secretary for the Principal. Both were delighted to see us and it was wonderful to see that they were trying to keep their Dominican heritage. There were pictures of St Dominic up, as well as old pictures of the founding Sisters in the front foyer. We were shown the old church which was used by the Sisters as a church/school and included some old furnishings, as well as the new Church, which was dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. Our guide gave us great delight as all the stories from the past came back to her. She showed us the side chancel were the Sisters used to hear Mass, the old confessional, the old convent and gave us many insights into life as a pupil at that time. Apparently when working the Sisters used to hoist their habits up and tuck them into their belts to keep them from getting dirty and when Mother General came on visitation all the students would line up to give her posies and for their efforts would get a day off the next day.  All students were amazed at the hard work done by the small communities of Sisters, some of whom were only teenagers at the time – they taught, they prayed, they tended the garden, they cleaned, they cooked, they organised fundraisers. The Principal then asked us to visit the school so we made our way from classroom to classroom, giving small talks, answering questions and singing songs. We were most impressed with the children who were very polite, well behaved and well receptive to us.


Next it was on to Invercargill where we first paid a visit to Calvary Hospital to visit two Dominican Sisters still in habit – Sr Eugene O.P. and Sr Gertrude O.P. A pleasant time was spent there singing songs and catching up on news and then it was on to St Catherine’s Convent which unfortunately had been turned into a student hostel. There were also two other Convents in Invercargill - St Albert’s and St Bertrand’s but sadly they no longer exist. Next it was on to Bluff where we paid a visit to St Mary Star of the Sea and had a little adventure of our own. Owing to a lack of time and our need to be back in Dunedin for evening Mass, we leisurely made a u-turn on a grassy patch of field and unfortunately, forgetful of the added weight, the result was we found ourselves stuck in the mud. To cut a long story short, a guardian angel came in the form of a farmer driving a tractor, providentially with a big chain, and we were rescued from our plight. We venture to say we left our mark on Bluff.


Pilgrimage to the South Island: Day Five: Dunedin

On Friday, the second to last day of our journey, we were able to spend time in Dunedin, the city where the seed was first sown.  We were able to visit the Dominican Cathedral and Chapel, St Dominic’s Priory, the old Novitiate, Aquinas Hall, Bishop Moran’s tomb, the steepest street in the world and Santa Sabina which was a retirement convent for elderly nuns and is now a series of private apartments. The manager of the establishment kindly showed us what she could. It was sad to see the church now being used as an in-house cinema and what used to be the laundry as a gym, sauna and spa area. It was quite an eye opener for all of us and brought tears to our eyes to think of all these beautiful old Dominican buildings just going to ruin or being used for other secular purposes when they could have still been places of much fruit for the Church.



Friday afternoon we bade farewell to the sights of Dunedin with all its steep hills and by Saturday we were heading back home, counting the many blessings God had bestowed on us during the trip and we thanked God for all the benefactors that had made it possible. We learnt a lot from our pilgrimage down South and hope Mother Mary Gill O.P. and all the Dominican Sisters whose fruitful work we saw, will continue to look favourably upon our apostolate as we continue the good work they started. Who knows, maybe in the not too distant future, God-willing,  we may be reading a continuation of a Star in the South. Salve Regina, mater misericordia!


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

St Dominic's Cupcake Competition

Some weeks ago, the front veranda of Saint Dominic’s College became a street of stylish cafes. There was something to suit every taste, and as the choice might prove overwhelming, we appointed a panel of three discriminating food critics to visit the three restaurants and give us their report.

First visited was the Snowflake Café. A breath of wintry air seemed to greet the visitors as the cool whites and blues of the décor surrounded them and snowflakes hanging from the ceiling blew in the breeze of their entrance. A tiered tray of polar-bear cupcakes, besides contributing to the winter-wonderland theme, tempted the appetite as the bears’ cute faces seemed to be made of a soft creamy icing. But the proof is in the pudding, and in fact the inside was as good as the outside—a light and feathery crumb, rich in white chocolate and macadamia but not too sweet. With its atmosphere of understated elegance and top-quality baking, the Snowflake is the gourmet’s choice among the Saint Dominic’s Ave. cafes.

Moving from the cold polar snows to sun and sand, our tasters next visited Beachy Bliss, which proclaimed its vibrant yet relaxing atmosphere with Spanish-Celtic fusion background music, colourful beach towels and surfboards decorating the walls, and a waitress also decorated with a beach towel—worn on her head! The cupcakes here were served in ice-cream cones and iced to look—and taste—like various flavours of ice cream. The sweetness was overpowering, especially when combined with the very sweet chocolate milkshakes served—one rather wanted something like unsweetened iced tea! But with its colourful surroundings and light-hearted, outgoing staff, Beachy Bliss can be highly recommended to lighten the heart of any guest, most especially one with a sweet tooth.

Last but not least, our tasters came to the Swinging Singing Duck. The swinging sign outside the door featured a duck with an umbrella, in the style of an American cartoon or musical, but the music that met the ears was Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. This delightful mix of classic and quirky elements was in evidence throughout the café; the cupcakes were chocolate with royal icing, but the latter was shaped into jumping frogs or swimming ducks; the walls were hung with graceful old-gold damask draperies and a landscape painting was centred on one wall, but raindrops, dragonflies and umbrellas hung from the ceiling and a singing, swinging duck was the centrepiece of the cupcake table. For an atmosphere that is at once elegant and homelike and cupcakes like Mum used to make—with a twist—our readers are advised to visit the Singing, Swinging Duck.