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. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Southern Star - Our newsletter is now available online!

Alleluia, Christ is Risen! Happy and blessed Eastertide!

"Easter is both a culmination and initiation. For this year Lent is done, "the rain is over and gone," we have finished for the time being our re-living of Passiontide and are now concerned with Christ's glory and triumph; but they in their turn lead on to something further: the pattern of sacrifice is not completed until the divine life is brought to those who offer it; passion and death and glory all lead on to the coming of the Spirit, to the pentecostal fire."
- The Son's Course, by Fr Gerald Vann, O.P.

"If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world on fire."
-- St Catherine of Siena

 The Southern Star Issue#1
With that in mind and the flaming torch of Truth ever before our eyes, this Eastertide was made ever more joyful with the official launch of our newsletter, The Southern Star, on Wednesday of the Easter Octave. 

In it can be found a letter from Mother Prioress General, news from both New Zealand and Australia, and also a little update on our building project for the new Motherhouse and Novitiate in Tynong.

The e-version of Southern Star Issue #1 is now available for download. Simply click on the link above or on the cover page on the left to access the PDF copy online. Happy 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.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Sisterly Happenings at Rosary Convent

“The whole Church enjoys the help of the Heavenly Doctor, 
but Dominic’s Order shines with special glory” 

(Matins Antiphon, Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas).

On the 7th March we celebrated the Feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Angelic Doctor of the Church and famous Dominican. Saint Thomas received the Dominican Habit while quite young and studied philosophy and theology under Saint Albert the Great. He is perhaps best known for his writing of the Summa Theologica (or a summary of the Catholic Doctrine). He never studied without first praying, and is the patron of all Catholic Schools.

We celebrated Sister Mary Thomas’ feast day at Rosary Convent with an abundance of home-made pizza and a ‘Summa’ cake (compliments of talented postulant, Miss Alexandra Reis). The priests also came to join us in celebrating one of our great saints as he is also the patron of the SSPX school here in Tynong.  


The highlight of the day was the news that the long awaited permit for the building of our new convent had been approved! Our novena to St Thomas has been answered!! With this news, the building of the convent at 1 Tynong Road, on the school grounds, can finally move forward. Father Fullerton (SSPX District Superior) will be meeting with us this week, in the hope of signing the contract so the building can begin.

We are now praying a novena to Saint Joseph for funds to build the remaining portion of the convent. Thanks to the continued support of our benefactors, we have approximately enough to build one-third of the convent. 

Meanwhile, we remain in good spirits while making do with the cosy living quarters of our temporary chapel and convent arrangement, filled with our friends, the caterpillars, spiders, and the kangaroos who knock on our window (well, almost!). We were excited to receive three new cabins in January, allowing us to receive the young ladies who wish to try a Dominican vocation. Life in the cabins often demands bravery beyond the call of duty. One of the Sisters has counted 16 huntsman spiders in and around the convent in the last two months.     

We have also made some improvements to our Chapel. Sister Mary of Compassion, our Sacristan, has been working with benefactors to acquire new vestments, tabernacle veils and altar covers, beautifying the chapel for the Lenten season.

We’d finally like to thank everyone for their generosity to us with donations and prayers. We are continuously praying for our supporters and their intentions. God bless, Our Lady guide, and Saint Dominic protect!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

How to commence a new year in 2015

Every one therefore that heareth these my words, and doth them, shall be likened to a wise man that built his house upon a rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and they beat upon that house, and it fell not, for it was founded on a rock. (Matthew 7:24-25)

As Dominican religious who try to aid the cause of the Catholic Church in her mission to lead souls along the path of salvation, a sound plan of action is needed if we are to succeed in this noble cause for the new year. The apostles who wish to sanctify souls must themselves firstly be closely united with God, for one cannot give to others what one does not already possess.

In putting into practice the above words of Our Lord, January is thus a month where our spiritual energies are consolidated together by our annual retreat before being dedicated to God by the ceremonies of clothing and profession. These are then channelled under the direction of our superiors into our apostolate of teaching and prayer.

A stained glass window depicting
St Catherine of Siena in
St Dominic's Church, Camberwell. 
St Catherine of Siena gives us a beautiful analogy of an overflowing fountain: each religious is a fountain, receiving the water which is Christ through contemplation, and then letting the water overflow onto others through our apostolate. Our prayer and contemplation must come first in our lives because it is only through these means that we can give with profit to those who come to us.

It was then with much anticipation that we looked forward to the first week of January. The three kings who arrived at the infant Jesus’s crib on the Epiphany brought with them to Tynong Fathers Albert and Thomas, two Dominican friars from Belgium who had come to preach the annual retreat and to direct the ceremonies.

This precious sense of fraternal unity within our Dominican family was further highlighted by the arrival of our own sisters from Wanganui a few days later.

The blessed union of mind and heart in Christ that was promised by the Holy Ghost to brethren who dwell in unity (Ps 132) was experienced sensibly by us, and was nourished especially by our participation in the Dominican rite of Holy Mass (a rare occurrence here!)
The sisters on a trip to Emerald Lake Park.

A tour of St Dominic's Priory at Camberwell, East Melbourne

Praying the Dominican Office together at the College chapel

Therefore, behold I will allure her, and will lead her into the wilderness: and I will speak to her heart. (Osee 2:14)

As Father Albert O.P. emphasised, it was necessary to retreat into the desert if we were to hear the voice of Our Lord and respond to Him. The spiritual life, that indispensable and foundational element of true union with God, was chosen as the theme of our retreat from 10 to 18 January. 

 The golden thread linking the various conferences on the Redemption, sin, grace, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the theological virtues, the gifts of the Holy Ghost and the various stages of spiritual progress was of course none other than writings of the Angelic Doctor, notably his Summa Theologica.
A lecture by Father Thomas O.P. in the school library

Much wisdom was also drawn from a constellation of saints by both friars-- St Bernard of Clairvaux, St Therese of Liseux, St Bernadine of Siena and H.E. Archbishop Lefebvre contributed many of their own examples and works for our edification and instruction.

A special highlight of the retreat was the Salve procession during the office of Compline. This homage to Our Lady and Patroness of the order is dear to every Dominican heart, and it was enhanced by the attendance of our entire congregation of sisters. The substantial train of religious served as a testimony to the graces of vocation received through the mediation of her Immaculate Heart.

On 18 January, Miss Alexandra Reis from Ontario, Canada was received as a postulant by our congregation after the morning Office. The simple reception ceremony ended with the Salve Regina and the smiles of the entire community were evident as we prayed to the Immaculate Heart for her maternal intercession over our newest entrant.

Miss Alexandra Reis with Sister Mary Francis

“What do you ask?”
“God’s mercy and yours, Father.” (The Ceremonies of Clothing and Profession)

As mentioned above, an important step in the hallowing of a new year to the glory of God and to the sanctification of our neighbour is the dedication of our entire self to His love.

The ceremonies of religious clothing and the profession and renewal of vows enable the new novices and newly professed to consecrate themselves in varying degrees to God through the religious state. 

These progressive stages of consecration to God set the sister down the path to becoming a “living image of the church, a virgin by the purity of her faith, a bride by loving fidelity to the will of Christ in fervent charity, a mother by self-sacrifice for the salvation of souls [and a] living temple of God by her life of prayer” (Fr. Paul Hinnebusch, O.P.). 

In changing their secular dress for the Dominican habit, five new novices undertook the first steps of renouncing the world and self at their official entrance into our congregation. A new group of Dominican saints were chosen as patrons for our new sisters who took on their names, in accordance with their desire to put off the old man with his deeds (Col 3:9).

Miss Katherine Korr from the United States is now known as Sister Mary Peter, after the Veronese martyr and defender of the faith. The Office for the feast of our sister’s glorious patron proclaims the victory of a champion who, endowed with the brilliance of virginity, eloquence and miracles, fell from the assassin’s blow while writing the Credo in his own blood.

Sister Mary Peter

St Augustine of Hippo, our law giver and father, has his name adopted by the former Miss Elizabeth Smith from Wanganui. His holy rule, chosen by St Dominic for its flexibility and breadth of spirit, has served as the guide for religious perfection for countless Dominicans over 800 years. 

Sister Mary Augustina

Blessed Diana d’Andalo became the heavenly patron of Miss Genevieve Erbacher who hails from Queensland. Founder of the convent of St Agnes in Bologna and noted for her deep spiritual friendship with Blessed Jordan of Saxony, she had earlier made a vow to St Dominic himself to enter the order in spite of the resistance of her family.

Sister Mary Diana

Miss Mary Williams from St Mary’s in Kansas received the name of Sister Mary Vincent Ferrer. This Angel of the Apocalypse who re-ignited the spiritual soul of Western Europe in the early 15th century by his preaching is a model for us sisters who are called to re-evangelise a world which has turned away from God.

Sister Mary Vincent

Our Lady of Sorrows, the exemplar of apostolic immolation for all religious souls, assumes her patronage over a former Society oblate who is now called Sister Mary of Compassion.

Sister Mary of Compassion

Crowned with a coronet of thorns and armed with the crucifix and rosary, our new novices are exhorted to imitate the Crucified Christ in their vocation and to serve Him and His Blessed Mother with fervour. 

Please pray for them as they begin an entire year of intense spiritual formation through their classes in Dominican spirituality and the Rule and Constitutions together with additional periods of silence, study and prayer.

“He has placed His sign on my brow, that I may admit no other lover.” (Ceremony of Profession)

In making her First Profession the sister exchanges her white veil for a black one, symbolic of her consecration to God. In preparation for her Final Vows which are made usque ad mortem (until death), he sister promises to live in poverty, chastity and obedience, according to the Rule of St. Augustine and our Constitutions for three years and then for two additional years. 

These vows bind the religious to God and turn her entire life with its daily sacrifices, acts and aspirations into a holocaust that is consumed by love. Religious Profession is, after the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and martyrdom, the most fruitful source of graces for the Church and for souls.

It was thus a great source of joy for our congregation to receive three First Professions and another three renewals of vows on this day.

Sister Mary Anna, Sister Maria Columba and Sister Mary Jordan made their first vows, promising obedience to God, to the Blessed Virgin, to St Dominic and to the Mother Prioress General for three years.

Sister Mary Anna O.P. making First Profession

Sister Maria Columba O.P. making First Profession

Sister Mary Jordan O.P. making First Profession
“An unparalleled promise! The Church knows well in her wisdom that those who choose obedience, that those who practice it, possesses everything. This promise is a contract of love. Without faith, this contract is incomprehensible, it becomes an enigma. We remember those religious, who, during the French Revolution refused to leave, to disobey…those who were happy to submit themselves to that which the revolutionaries called ‘an intolerable yoke.’ Their love of authority was as solid as their faith, unchangeable as their faith, for God alone and to God alone.” (The cloistered Dominicans nuns of Arville.)

Sister Maria Lucia O.P., Sister Mary Jacinta O.P. and Sister Mary Anthony O.P also renewed their temporary profession for another two years during the ceremony.

Sister Maria Lucia O.P. renewed her vows for two years
Sister Mary Jacinta O.P. renewed her vows for two years
Sister Mary Anthony O.P. renewed her vows for two years

These acts of profession have consequences for eternity both for the religious and for the souls she is responsible for. The sister is no longer the same after, for she is engaged entirely to the service and love of the Holy Trinity and consecrated exclusively to Him.

The 3 Professed sisters who renewed their vows.

The Celebrant invokes the Blessed Trinity in
the final blessing that is given to the newly Professed.

The celebratory cake for the
new Novices
The celebratory cake for the
Professed sisters

"A religious will save by his prayers, labours and mortifications more souls in one year than in the whole of his life out of religion. As to his own personal merits, he will gain more in one year by practising obedience than in ten years by living in the world according to his own will". --St Alphonsus Liguori.


 “The Novitiate begins with the clothing and immediately after the clothing the novice participates in all the indulgences and spiritual favours granted by the Holy See to the Professed sisters…The Novitiate shall be, as far as possible, separated from the part of the convent in which the Professed sisters live.” (Our Constitutions)

An aspirant visiting our community this New Year will witness the setting up of proper novitiate quarters. A larger population of sisters within the Motherhouse and the availability of some extra space have now enabled us to provide an environment conducive to the formation of our novices and postulants.

Our community is pleased to announce that we now have the capacity to conform more closely to the requirements of canon law, where the professed sisters generally recreate and work separately from the novices who are devoting themselves to their religious training.

We are also delighted to announce that Sister Mary Thomas O.P. and Sister Mary Anna O.P. will be present at St Thomas Aquinas College in the capacity of form teachers in the Secondary School, having completed their teacher training during the previous year. Please pray for these newly registered teachers as well as for our student sisters who are still training and studying for their education degrees.

In the library at St Dominic' priory, Camberwell

Our vocation as teachers cannot be limited to helping students develop their academic skills, for it must first assist them in acquiring knowledge of the Truth, which has its origin and being in God. The history of the Church, from antiquity down to the present is full of admirable examples of consecrated persons who have sought and continue to seek holiness through their apostolate of education while at the same time proposing holiness as the fundamental goal of education.

May God give us the grace to achieve these lofty goals and to imitate these glorious predecessors in our vocation.