Friday, September 18, 2015

The Southern Star - Winter Issue Online

Dear Friends and Benefactors,
The crisp morning air and frost-laden grass may seem to suggest that winter is quite determined to have a longish stay here in Tynong. Still, the presence of a newly-born calf prancing around in the paddock opposite the Convent and the flurry of nest-building by our feathered friends in the neighbourhood are reminders that Spring is just round the corner!

Before spring does descend upon us however, we are glad to announce that the winter issue of our newsletter, The Southern Star, is now available online, with a special feature depicting the sunnier side of life in the Convent. Do click on the cover page to access the PDF copy of the newsletter. Enjoy reading!

If you would like to e-subscribe and receive the newsletter on a regular basis, do send us a request at astarinthesouth@gmail.comOur postal address is in the newsletter if you prefer a hard copy.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Out of the Winter Silence

The solemn and fog-like silence that has settled over the Wanganui community through the bleak winter months may have lead some of our readers to imagine that the sisters in New Zealand had decided to hibernate during this cold season. Though it was tempting, this has not been the case. Our taciturnity has been more due to over-action than inaction. We have been as busy as…summer bees…in winter! But now that the long-awaited holidays are here, we have time to take a leisurely look back over the past season and recount for you some of its main events.

The first month of winter was fairly uneventful; that is, it certainly held events like mid-year examinations, piles of marking, mounds of report writing and torrents of inquiries from the pupils as to whether or not they had passed – but these are all standard events. We were proud to see some of the pupils who had put in their best during the first half of the year have their efforts rewarded with academic ties which were distributed at one of our Monday morning assemblies. 

From there we quickly pass on to July, a month which marked a special page in the life of the Children of Mary Sodality here in Wanganui: its ten year anniversary. Such a milestone had to be given a special celebration, behind which there was much planning, preparation and cooperation. 

Almost all members of the sodality were able to gather together at a local hall for an evening of memories, games, songs, fun and feasting. May Our Lady continue to watch over her children and the good work they do in our parish.

June, July…August came next! And August can only mean one thing: Saint Dominic’s Day. Many a sister surely had been keeping in mind that well-known truism of Mother General’s: If you can survive until Saint Dominic’s Day, you can survive the rest of the year. The great feast day, and the encouraging fact that we had survived to see it, was heralded not by trumpets, but by the sweet tone of our new bell, which was found for us in Europe by our parish priest and fixed onto the exterior wall of the boarding school entrance on the very eve of Saint Dominic’s feast day, so that its ringing (though at that stage still a little uncoordinated, the bell-ringer yet in need of some practice) for First Vespers announced that the feast day had arrived.

Like the Sisters at Rosary Convent, we too sang First Vespers in the church with our pupils, the brothers and the officiating priest. After the Rosary we headed back to the boarding school, to the quaint little “alfresco” arrangement under the carport – the only space that was undercover and large enough to seat the sisters, priests, brothers and approximately thirty girls! The blue tarpaulin and fairy-lights gave it a pleasant atmosphere and we there enjoyed our pizza, salads and dessert.

In remembrance of the thoughtful gift Saint Dominic made to his sisters, our guests were bequeathed with small, personalised wooden spoons…though they were to be kept more for their aesthetic and sentimental value than for practical purposes…unlike St Dominic’s wooden spoons, we’re sure. He no doubt didn’t have to tell his sisters, “Now don’t use these spoons to eat with – they’re only souvenirs!” as Mother had to several times remind the young (and not so young) recipients.

No Saint Dominic’s Day would be complete without the traditional game of Spotlight, so after dinner the girls eagerly ventured out into the dark field to see if they could find their way to the fortress (and the chocolate treasure it held) without being identified and thrown into “jail”. After a few more indoor games we ended the evening suitably by singing Compline with the girls. On the actual day of the feast the sisters attended the school Mass with the secondary boys and girls and afterwards entertained our tertiary members, friends, benefactors and former pupils with a brunch, towards the close of which the weather turned quite dismal. By the afternoon the rain had set in well and truly and we were denied the satisfaction of what was sure to be a sweet victory over the school netballers we had intended to play (and beat) that afternoon. To this day the match has not yet taken place, being postponed to an indefinite date; but fate cannot be avoided – sooner or later our opponents will have to face their fears, and we will be sure to make known to our readers the glad tidings of our victory as soon as it is in our possession. Thus, with no netball game to raise our heart-rate and zap our energy, the feast day ended with a tranquillity that, though uncustomary, was not unwelcome.

Fortunately most of our school girls had not yet succumbed to the winter ills that were, and in fact still are, in circulation, for their voices and high spirits were needed for the Inter-house Music Competition that was held mid-August at the local Girls College hall. The three school houses competed against one another in a competition that had Australia and New Zealand as its theme. Each house had to present a team piece, a test piece and also submit entries for the senior and junior instrumental categories. The judge overall was impressed with the quality of the girls’ voices and their musicianship, and the final results show how close the houses are in their musical skills – the two houses Bologna and Prouille tied for first place, while Calaroga was only just behind. 

But the evening of entertainment did not end there! After a short intermission the Form 3 and 4 girls performed for their small audience Shakespeare’s Macbeth, which was, in spite of a few hiccups, giggles and lost lines, a pleasing success, making us very proud of the fine abilities of the girls, and caused not a few of us to start thinking about next year’s performance.

It seemed that the whole school breathed a sigh of relief after that concert, which had required so much planning and practice, and let down its defence system, for the influenza hit us hard and the many casualties, affecting the whole school, caused us to have to postpone the annual fundraiser, once more a Bike-a-thon. A week later than the initial date, then, the sisters and pupils who were still healthy jumped onto their bikes and peddled in circles for an hour, in an attempt to help out our school finances. Those who had per lap pledges were enthused to make as many laps as they could, and also to try to beat last year’s record of laps – this year one of our year 10 girls made the record, achieving 111 laps in an hour, and still remaining standing afterwards.

The Bike-a-thon marked the end of another lap of school, and the beginning of the next part of the cycle – holidays. May God, Who has so generously granted to us a busy and fruitful term, see fit to help sisters and pupils alike rejuvenate and recreate ourselves so that we are fit and ready to hop back on our bikes and cycle “onwards and upwards” in the last term of the year.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

St Dominic's Day as seen through the eyes of First Year Novices

  These joyful verses are taken from the First Vespers of the Feast of our Holy Father St. Dominic. This was the first time in the history of St. Thomas Aquinas College that the girls of grades seven to grade twelve were invited to celebrate St. Dominic’s Day with the Sisters. Students and Sisters were very excited! 

We began the St. Dominic Day festivities by filling the newly remodelled college chapel with our joyful singing of First Vespers, followed by praying the rosary - the special prayer and weapon given to St. Dominic by Our Lady. Now it was on to games, dancing, and prizes!

After First Vespers, the Sisters and girls wasted no time in heading to the indoor gym where pizzas and desserts (in the hundredfold) were awaiting. After this hearty meal, Mother Mary Rose assumed the role of MC and organised the girls and Sisters into 10 teams. We started with a ‘meet and greet’ barn dance with Sister Mary Anna providing lovely music with her violin. After burning some of the calories from dinner, we formed a large circle to play the ‘chocolate game’. In this game, the person who rolls a six on the die, rushes into the middle of the circle, dresses up in a wig, glasses and a rather odd nose(!). They then endeavour to cut a piece of chocolate with a knife and fork (no fingers allowed!) and carefully carry it to their team’s bowl. In the meantime, the die is being passed around the circle until someone else rolls a six. Not much chocolate found its way to the bowls but good laughs were enjoyed by all, especially to see the Sisters wearing the ridiculous glasses and nose! This game was possibly the highlight of the night, with a balloon game and a three-legged race following. Father Fortin came to watch the fun and even joined in the last game of the night: a very intense version of ‘musical chairs’. The points of each team were totalled and chocolate prizes given, even to the last runner up! Exhausted but quite satisfied with their first experience of St Dominic’s Day festivities, the girls posed for a large group photo before heading home to recuperate for the netball game the next day!

Last year, the first Sisters vs. students netball game was played at Saint Thomas Aquinas College on St. Dominic’s Day, in accordance with an ‘old’ Dominican tradition. The result of this first match was a draw. This year each side was determined to win! Played in the multi-purpose hall, the game was intense. So was the noise. The whole Girls' School came along to cheer on the students while most of the primary school turned up to cheer on the Sisters. The scores ran fairly even for the first two quarters and then the Sisters began to pull ahead. I must state here and now that we had a most fantastic goal shooter! 

The teams were pretty even, I believe, judging by the way the ball had a tendency to change sides all the time, meaning you had to do a quick about turn on the slippery court to keep up – but once we got the ball to the circle, it was an almost certain goal! Sister Mary of Compassion, unfazed by tall, energetic and experienced GK’s and GD’s, popped that ball in from anywhere in the circle! She was the player of the day! The last quarter was very intense, each side being determined to make it count. The final score was 22-16 to the Sisters! But the girls got the sweets and chocolates. It was a very good game and was enjoyed by everyone, players and onlookers alike.

And last but not least, we had the great pleasure of welcoming two new members to our Dominican family. The small Tertiary ceremony commenced with the singing of II Vespers and the recitation of the Holy Rosary; whereupon the Postulants carrying lighted candles proceeded to the Communion rail and humbly asked to be accepted into the Order. They were then girded with the cord of St. Thomas, received the scapular of the 3rd order and the blessing of Holy Mother Church. The new Novices were then bestowed with their new names as children of St. Dominic and the ceremony fittingly concluded with the singing of the Te Deum.

Afterward a small supper and good chat was had by all and thus another St. Dominic’s day has come and gone. May our heavenly Patron and Holy Father St. Dominic grant us all many graces through the coming year.

Te Deum Laudamus, Te Dominium Confitemur!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Southern Star - Autumn Issue now available online!

"Do what you have to do with joy and a loving heart." 

For those of a more poetic bent, the smell of wood fires and the cheerful hum of the fireplace might betoken the warm hearth by which the Sisters gather daily - the Heart of Christ, burning furnace of charity whereby we draw graces to live truly in unity "of one mind and of one heart", as the Holy Rule of St Augustine says.

As the days grow shorter and the light glows softer each passing day of the season, let us keep our minds fixed ever on the splendor lucis aeternae, the splendour of that eternal light Who is the Son of God Himself, Who lights the lamps of heaven even while pointing our feet ever homeward to our eternal home.

Our 2nd issue of The Southern Star is now available for download. In it you will find snippets of news - of life in Rosary Convent and also in St Dominic's in Wanganui, as well as an update on our Motherhouse Building Project.

The newsletter is also available for e-subscription. If you would like to subscribe, simply drop us an email at and we will be happy to add you to our mailing list.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Sponsor a Sister for Study - and you might win a prize!

Dear Friends,
To meet our financial needs for the upcoming Semester, the Sisters at Tynong are organising a Raffle to raise the AUD 40,000 that we need to pay for tuition.

Do help us spread the word about our Dominican Raffle, which runs from now till the Feast of St Rose of Lima, 30th August 2015. On that day, three winners will be drawn from the pool of tickets at 2pm in Rosary Convent.

Each ticket costs only AUD 10. Every little bit will help us immensely - most of the young Sisters are still pursuing degrees at both the undergraduate and post-graduate levels, all as part of the process of attaining full registration to teach in our Catholic schools.

Please click on the link on the left, which will pull up a little advertisement with the details of the Raffle and how you can help us.

Thank you and may God bless you for your generosity!

Adoro Te Devote

The Feast of Corpus Christi can never be separated from St Thomas Aquinas, who is remembered with pride and joy by Dominicans as the author of the Office and Liturgy of the Feast of the Most Precious Body and Blood of Christ. The tender and childlike devotion shining through each strophe of verse is matched only by the totality of the gift that God bestows upon those who approach this Sacred Banquet.

The days following Trinity Sunday call particularly to mind the wonderful things of God – O res mirabilis – as the Panis Angelicus hymns so sublimely. Here in Tynong, the Sisters have had the extraordinary privilege of having the Feast of Corpus Christi celebrated in a grand way: a Solemn High Mass and Procession of the Blessed Sacrament across the whole span of St Thomas Aquinas College grounds was celebrated; the parish church of Corpus Christi had the 40 Hours Devotion and its attendant liturgies and devotions crowned by the First Holy Communions of 26 Year 2 boys and girls on Sunday, followed by a procession from the Church to the Convent.

For the Sisters too, Corpus Christi was a day of rejoicing – we welcomed our newest postulant, Miss Catherine Ryan, who hails from New South Wales, to our growing family. This brings the number of Sisters currently residing in Rosary Convent to the very nice prime number of 19. More Sisters may mean less room in our already very cramped Refectory and Chapel, but it also means more hands lifted up to Heaven to draw down graces from the throne of God.

Christ is to us, as He was to the disciples at Emmaus, the companion of our journey, God with us. For Dominicans especially, devotion to the Holy Eucharist is part of the very fabric of Dominican life and spirituality. Scarcely has the day begun before the bell calls us to prayer in the chapel, where we beg God’s blessing for the day while we cast ourselves upon our knees in adoration and throw, as it were, both body and soul into the worship of Uncreated Beauty.

O Sacrum Convivium… O Sacred Banquet, in which Christ is received, the memory of His Passion renewed… these are the words that spring from our lips each time we assemble in choir to offer to the Triune Godhead the sacrifice of praise, the Divine Office. Thus gathered before His Presence, we incline ourselves profoundly in adoration of the Sacred Mysteries wrought by God, acknowledging the greatness and the goodness of He Who loves us, uniting our voices with that of the angelic chorus that cry Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus unceasingly before the throne of the Divine Majesty.

Before the Tabernacle, let us enter into that darkness of Faith and into the sacred silence of the Eucharistic mystery. The little door of the Tabernacle opens into the Infinite, and the life that pulsates in the Host is that of the Heart of Jesus Christ, in Whom every prayer and work of ours both begins and ends, the sum and term of our Christian life upon this earth. The Lord of Hosts, Verbum supernum prodiens – the Word of God proceeding forth – tiny and Immaculate, descending lightly into the hands of His priest.

Adoro Te…! Such the cry of the soul who approaches the altar to receive her Lord and God, whose very marrow revolves around and is sustained by the Bread of Life Himself. Let us then go before the Golden Door – the door of the Tabernacle – and say to Him Who dwells within, “In Thee I put my trust.”

(More pictures to come soon... stay tuned!)

Friday, May 22, 2015

A Rose Garden for Our Lady

There is a well-loved story from the Lives of the Brethren that offers much consolation for those who wear the habit of our Order. Our Holy Father St Dominic, being one day granted a vision of Heaven, looked in vain for his children among the heavenly court. Being distressed, he appealed to Our Divine Lord, Who gestured to His Mother, saying, “I have given your Order to my Mother.” The Queen of Heaven then opened her mantle to reveal a company of white-clad religious – safely sheltering under her maternal heart!

The month of May is, as always, a most lovely month dedicated to the Queenship of Mary. Here at Rosary Convent, efforts to honour her as principal patroness of our swiftly growing novitiate this month have included both active works and contemplative ruminations on the special place that she holds in Dominican life.

The month opened with the Sisters lustily singing a Marian “entrance” hymn accompanied by Sr Anna on the organ for each Holy Sacrifice offered daily upon our humble altar. 7am is possibly not the best time to be singing hymns, but we’ve managed so far to keep our veils on while thumbing through the hymnal and croaking along to the dulcet sounds of a very subdued organ.

We also honoured St Joseph’s feastday on May 1st with a Rosary procession that took us up to Corpus Christi and back again down the hill. Mother’s determination to not have yet another recreational dinner - in the community room, outside the refectory - was unfortunately bulldozed by even more determined Dominican novices who insisted that a 1st class feast could not possibly be passed over!

The 2nd year novices took up the slim volume of St Louis de Montfort’s The Secret of the Rosary for their Spirituality class this month – it is certainly delightful to read of the power of the Rosary and all the graces that Our Lady has obtained for her children through the centuries simply by the recitation of the Angelic Psalter. And for those who despair of ever being Scholastics, the humble Rosary – which is after all, materially speaking, a little child’s plaything of beads strung together – is an even greater weapon than all the eloquence and learning that can be put together by men.

In school, the Sisters have also opened the treasury of divine grace by encouraging their students to enrol in the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary. The Rosary by itself is one of the most richly indulgenced prayers by the Church, and when joined together by the prayers and sacrifices of a spiritual community of tens of thousands of souls past, present and future, makes for a most happy prospect of growing not just in love for our Blessed Mother, but also for the much-needed graces to do one’s duty of state with constancy and fervour.

The Sisters also made the pilgrimage to Hampton for their annual May procession of the Blessed Sacrament in honour of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. With the weather surprisingly genial and the Sisters swelling the ranks of the choir up in the tiny choir loft, it was a most beautiful Solemn High Mass celebrated by Fr Elias, assisted by Fr Black and Fr Johnson.

Unfortunately, May also means the beginning of very wet weather here in Tynong. It takes much fortitude and blind trust in God’s Providence to patiently await the day when the little mud flat by the girls’ block will have the first spade of sod turned once more with the commencement of actual building!

May is not quite over yet! So do join us in besieging and beseeching the Queen of Heaven for fair weather and the necessary funds to build the whole of the new Convent. 

We might miss the sheep and kangaroos currently sharing our neighbourhood, but new lodgings are sorely needed!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Signadou Snippets: March & April

Feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas

"St Thomas Aquinas Feast day was very exciting. The juniors (years 7 -9) had to prepare and practise their speeches and the seniors (years 10 – 13) had to prepare debates. We had approximately one week to get ready. It was very stressful and tiring putting it all together. As third speaker I had to repeat the points of the negative side, sum up our team case and end up the whole debate. I was very nervous. My knees were shaking when I got up to speak. My house team Prouille won over all. We all had an enjoyable and intellectual feast day. St Thomas Aquinas, pray for us!"   (a boarder of Signadou)

This day was celebrated by debates and speeches which were judged and house points were given.   The speech and drama teacher of some of the girls judged the debates and Reverend Father Bochkoltz judged the speeches.

The debate topics were:
1) Schools should not have a school uniform
2) Catholics should spend less time listening to classical music
3) It is better to watch Shakespeare than to read it
The topic for the junior speeches was “How to become a Saint” - a topic everyone was eager to receive advice on!

Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows

The school's day of recollection fell this year on the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.  It was a perfect day to prepare for the upcoming Holy Week and the priests gave inspiring conferences on the Sorrows of our Blessed Mother, as seen in the stations of the cross. The children also attended a sung high mass, stations of the cross and several rosaries throughout the day.  With the time being spent in silence, it afforded a great opportunity to ponder and meditate upon the sorrowful mysteries.

Feast of the Annunciation

On the Feast of the Annunciation, the Children of Mary received many aspirants to the sodality, including several boarders of Signadou.  Following the reception ceremony was Benediction and a sung Mass of our Lady. The girls then happily gathered for a reception afterward. May they persevere in their good intentions!


"We were woken at 4.30am by the beautiful National Anthem played by one of the boarding school helpers on the violin. I was pretty excited as it was my first time going to an ANZAC Day Service. ANZAC Day is a day where New Zealanders and Australians come together in their towns to pray for and remember the soldiers that have died for their country in the past wars. There is a march of all soldiers current and old, to a memorial icon called a cenotaph. It is a very special day. By the time we got there, I saw tons of people coming out of their houses looking like they just woke up. There were lots of groups in uniform and we were one of them, proudly representing our school. We finished off by going to Holy Mass."  (a boarder of Signadou)      

Feast of Saint Catherine of Siena

On the Feast of St Catherine the girls competed in a small inter-house competition. It is a special feast day for the Dominican Sisters and pupils and after the school Mass there was to be a shared lunch for the Feast & Sister Mary Bernard’s first profession ceremony.

Before Mass the girls divided into their houses and employed their feminine skills in a spirit of teamwork to see which team could produce the most attractive table for the festivities. Each team had to utilize their team colour and so a red (Bologna), a blue (Prouille) and a gold (Calaroga) table appeared after less than an hour. Though it was difficult to judge, Prouille was awarded the first prize for best table and best teamwork, with Calaroga coming in second and Bologna third.

 The Feast of St Catherine is a perfect feast for a Dominican religious profession to take place upon. St Catherine is an incredible saint, who received the crown of thorns, the stigmata and the bridal ring from Our Lord and she is not only a model for Dominican Sisters, but is also a special patron of this particular congregation. 

Therefore it was fitting that our novice, Sr Mary Bernard (who is also the PE teacher for the girls at school), make her first religious vows of poverty, chastity and obedience on this special day.   Mother General came all the way from Australia to receive the vows of the newly professed and the confessor for the sisters, Reverend Father MacPherson, presided over the ceremony and preached a brilliant sermon on the religious life. It was a special event for the students to be able to witness such an important step in the life of a religious and all of the girls were all delighted to give Sister Mary Bernard their affectionate congratulations.