Thursday, December 27, 2007


The Sisters with Father Laisney and Father Couture

From 15-22 December the Dominican Sisters of Wanganui are making their retreat. The Retreat-giver is Father Couture, the District Superior. He is preaching about Our Lady with a strong Biblical and Thomistic background. Two priests are also sharing the Retreat.

The Sisters have also been able to move into their new Chapel and Refectory, which is a great relief from the crowded conditions we have lived in for the last year. It is great to have space to do things in the proper Dominican way, and the new rooms have enhanced the recollection of the Retreat. As well we have our own confessional now in the sacristy, and we have been able to have confessions quietly in the house, instead of attracting a crowd to the priest as happens if we go in the Church. It goes to show that all things come to those who wait.

Our new Chapel

We are not able to actually sleep in the newer part of the building yet as the consent process is not finished, nor are we able to use the community room or laundry (basement floor) as they are not finished yet. However, each little bit of progress is an encouragement and we enjoy each little bit of the building to which we get access.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Examination Results for the Nuns

These last few weeks have also been the time for receiving university exam results for the nuns. I am pleased to report that each Sister doing extramural study from Massey University has gained at least one “A” and one gained two “A’s”. As well, nobody gained anything less than a “B”. This is very good as the Sisters work under difficulties with their schoolwork to do and their attendance at the Divine Office and their private prayer.

Next year, several of the Sisters, and some lay-teachers, will be following the course for the Graduate Diploma in Secondary Teaching from Bethlehem Tertiary Institute. Because we can provide such a large group of students Bethlehem will conduct most of the lectures on our campus. This will be very convenient for our teachers who will do the course part-time over two years.

Blessing of School and New Convent

On Saturday 8 December we had a Solemn High Mass in the Church for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. This beautiful Mass was followed by the blessing of the school and convent.

After Mass, the Celebrant, Fr Couture, and the Deacon, Fr Cranshaw, and the Subdeacon, Fr Jackson, went in procession with the servers to the new Convent and School. After a prayer of blessing the Ministers went in procession, led by the Sisters, right through the building, sprinkling it with Holy Water.

After the blessing there were photographs and then the parishioners joined us for a morning-tea in the first classroom. A happy time was had by all.

End of the 2007 School Year

The 6th and 7th of December found us celebrating the end of the school year. S.M.Catherine and S.M.Madeleine worked hard producing the reports, Sister Mary Rose organized the Prizegiving ceremony, Sister Marie Therese organized the prizes with the help of S.M.Madeleine and the postulants also worked hard, Philomena helping with the Form 1 and 2 item and Antonia helping in the school but also overseeing the collection of textbooks and the ordering of new ones for the English Department. This combined effort by the community, with a shared overview of the needs of the school, reinforced our sense of community and our appreciation of each other’s efforts.

St. Anthony's Ensemble

The evening of the prizegiving was a pleasant, slightly cool evening, which was all to the good as we could have been very hot in the Methodist Hall in Wickstead Street. The Breakup started at 7pm with a welcome from Fr Laisney, the singing of the school hymn, “Hail St Dominic” and a brief sketch by Fr Laisney of the major events of the school year. Then followed a performance by the St Anthony’s Ensemble, a recently formed orchestra made up of the pupils of Mrs Antonia Gregory and other instrumentalists. They had not done well at the practice but found their form on the night. The audience loved them. There were little children playing quarter-size violins, S.M.Rose on the ‘cello with Elizabeth Smith also on the ‘cello. Philomena Ockerse, our postulant provided the brass section single-handed, playing on her tenor horn.

Form 6 - "White men aren't for eating"

A musical item followed, prepared by Mrs Adrienne Borberg, our pianist and singing teacher, who backs us up wonderfully in all musical aspects of school life. Being a Dominican Ex-pupil she is unable to refuse a firm request from a white habit! We mark them for life, you know. Other items included a French song by Form 5 and 6 with bell-ringing accompaniment and two dear little “lambs” borrowed for the occasion. Form Six put on a play, “White Men Aren’t for Eating”, and the entire Boys’ School gave a choral rendition of “The Hound of Heaven” by Francis Thompson.

Boys' School - "The Hound of Heaven"

We were much cheered and encouraged by a speech from Father D. Couture, the District Superior of the SSPX. He encouraged us to value what we have in Wanganui – a complete parish with schools, priests, and nuns. Father pointed out that we are the most complete parish in the Asian district.

Father D. Couture - District Superior

His speech was followed by the Valedictorian Speech given by Nicholas Kawana. Nicholas urged us to keep our Faith in Catholic Education which equips the young men and women leaving our school with the weapons they need to live a good Catholic life in the context of the modern world.

Nicholas Kawana - Valedictorian

The presentation of the prizes was a great success. The list was beautifully read by S.M.Madeleine and the children advanced to receive their prizes with a becoming combination of modesty and poise. The Dux of the school was Keith Benfell, who also won the Senior Catechism Prize. Some amusement was caused when French children received prizes for excellence in French, but fair is fair. The same children were also awarded prizes for diligence in English! The prizes had all been donated by friends of the school, who had also been given the privilege of naming their prize. This made the prizegiving highly interesting as the reading of the Prizelist was a roll-call of people who have helped Tradition. It was heart-stirring to hear names like, “The Father Augustine Cummins Prize for Catholic Doctrine”, “The Father Stan Lorrigan prize for First in Class”. We think it is good that these names be kept alive in our midst and passed on to a new generation of young Catholics. We are very grateful to the donors.

Mother M Micaela O.P

Finally, the children presented “thank you” gifts to teachers who have helped them in particular ways. Mr Halpin was given a bottle of wine and some chocolates for his part in coaching the Hockey team to winning their competition. “I don’t deserve it, but I’ll drink it”, was his comment. Also presented with thank you gifts were Mrs. Borberg (Music), and Madame Mathey (French), Miss Kurcikova (Netball), S.M.Madeleine (Netball), and Mrs. Julie Nyssen (Netball). There was a surprise presentation of flowers to Mother Micaela and chocolates to Fr Laisney. This was an initiative of the girls who acknowledged the work of the nuns and the priests by collecting money for these gifts from all, boys and girls. The evening ended with the spirited singing of “Hail to our Alma Mater” by those present.

On Friday 7 December, the last Mass of the School Year was celebrated for St Dominic’s College. Fr Couture was the celebrant and preacher. He spoke on the virtue of gratitude. The St Stephen’s Guild ceremony for the retirement of Nicholas Kawana as Head M.C. and the installation of Joseph Lavin in the position also took place at this Mass. After Mass reports were distributed and the Christmas holidays began!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Exam Time

For the last month we have been having Cambridge Examinations at St Dominic’s College. Form 4 sat their IGCSE Geography; Form 5 sat the rest of their IGCSE subjects; Form 6 sat their AS subjects and Form 7 sat their A Levels. We are very blessed in that we are the only completely Cambridge School in New Zealand. Other schools may believe in Cambridge, but they are obliged to offer also the subjects for the National Certificate in Educational Achievement. We are free of all the crises of that troubled and much criticized system, and our pupils achieve qualifications that are internationally respectable and portable.

We are also blessed in that the Wanganui Hockey Association allows us (at no charge!) to sit our examinations in the Hockey Hall. It is a pleasant, cool room looking out over the Domain and Hockey Turf, and sanctified by the fact that Archbishop Lefebvre once said Mass there, conferred the Sacrament of Confirmation, and prophesied that one day the Traditional Catholics would regain the right to worship in St Anthony’s Church. That has happened!

This week we also have our internal school examinations for the junior forms and for subjects not taken at Cambridge Level, and for Catholic Doctrine. It is a good experience for the younger children to sit examinations under strict examination conditions, and it certainly trains them up for their public examinations later.

Recently our examination procedures were reviewed by Cambridge Representatives and we gained an “exemplary” status. All credit should go to S.M.Catherine who sets up and runs the examinations procedures.

The results of the internal examinations will be relayed to the parents by the children’s school reports which will be given out after the final Mass of the year on 8 December. The Cambridge papers have been sent to England for marking and results will be available on the Cambridge website about 15 January. Please God, success will attend this year’s candidates!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Feast of Christ the King.

Sunday 29 October 2007: Feast of Christ the King.

Yesterday we celebrated the Feast of Christ the King. A Solemn High Mass was celebrated at 9.30am in St Anthony’s Church. At this Mass nine children of the parish received their First Communion. They had been prepared for the Sacraments of First Confession and First Communion by Sister Mary Rose, O.P. and by Miss Philomena Ockerse, one of the postulants. The First Communicants behaved beautifully throughout the Mass and Procession, which was a long one with three Benedictions, at the home of Gerard and Antonia Gregory, at the Croquet Club, and back at the Church. After the religious part of the ceremony the children had a celebratory brunch with the priests and their immediate family.

Solemn High Mass

Nine children of the parish received their First Communion

Miss Philomena Ockerse, one of the postulants with the First Communicants


Celebratory Brunch

Friday, October 26, 2007

An Introduction

This blog is for our friends, families and benefactors, who are kind enough
to be interested in our life and apostolate. We also hope that young women
interested in a Dominican vocation may make their way to this blog and find
out more about the details of our religious life.

Who are we?
We are a traditional Congregation of Dominican Sisters formed after the lapse into modernism of the New Zealand Dominican Sisters. We aim to live the total Dominican life with full Divine Office in Latin and traditional Convent Life with Habit, Silence, Recreation, Traditional Refectory and Teaching Apostolate. All this is built on our devotion to the Traditional Latin Mass in both our own Dominican life and the beloved Tridentine Rite as we find it here at St Anthony’s parish Wanganui. At the moment there are eight of us.

Where do we come from?
A fuller account of our origins and the story of our first Sister can be found by following the link to the Asian website of the Society of St Pius X. In summary, we were founded by a New Zealand Dominican Sister who had had to leave her Congregation because of its modernism. She has been joined by young Sisters, and, with the advice and help of the Dominican Sisters of Fanjeaux and the Society of St Pius X, we have been able to build up our community here. We have received young women from New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa.

Where are we?

Our only convent, at the moment, is in Wanganui, a coastal town of 43,000 inhabitants at the mouth of the Wanganui River on the West Coast of the North Island of New Zealand. We live in St Anthony’s Traditional (Latin Mass) Parish where we teach in the schools of the Society of St Pius X. We are, at present living in our new Convent, which is only half built, at 12B York Street, behind St Anthony’s Church. We look forward to the completion of the Convent when we will be able to take up all the customs and ceremonials which are curtailed because we have really outgrown our current living space. This convent is being provided for us by the generosity of the Traditional Catholic Faithful of New Zealand.

What do we do?
Our main work is the maintenance of the Divine Office which we sing or chant according to the Dominican Rite with its beautiful ceremonial. By means of the Divine Office we extend the influence of our daily Mass through the whole of life. Our second work is our life in community where we endeavor to sanctify ourselves and each other. Our third work is the maintenance of traditional schools here in the parish. We help to run St Anthony’s Primary School and the two separate schools (for boys and girls respectively) which make up St Dominic’s College.

The Sisters in Church

St Dominic's College

St Anthony’s Primary School

How do we train?
We follow the classical model of religious life with postulancy followed by novitiate and then a period of temporary profession. Some of our training is in-house but we also make use of extra-mural study from Massey University in Palmerston North and the University of New England, Armidale, Australia. If the Sisters are not trained teachers when they enter they do their teacher-training through Bethlehem Tertiary Institute near Tauranga. For our formal religious education we rely on the local Society of St Pius X priests who give us lectures. From February 2008 we are also receiving “distance” courses from Holy Cross Seminary, Goulburn, (SSPX), so that we can gain formal training in Philosophy and Theology.

A few snatches from the Archives:

Visit of Father Albert, O.P.
An important step in the history of our Congregation was the visit of Father Albert to run our retreat in December 2005. We enjoyed a very Thomistic Retreat, and also availed ourselves of Father’s expertise in the chant and ceremonial. To show our appreciation we took Father Albert for a ride in a jet-boat on the Wanganui River. It was, unfortunately, a wet day and Father said that it was like going through a car-wash. None-the-less a good time was had by all. We had, out of courtesy, accompanied Father on his very scenic trip.

Sisters go to Europe and America:
In January 2007 Sister Mary Madeleine, O.P., and Sister Mary Rose, O.P., visited Europe and America to gain more knowledge of Dominican Life and teaching-methods. The trip was made possible by a generous donation from the St Joseph Trust and also a very generous donation from a private benefactor. The Sisters were able to visit Fanjeaux, the motherhouse of the Teaching Dominicans of Fanjeaux. While there they were able to visit St Dominic’s house and the “Signadou”, the place where he saw the sign which pointed out to him where to establish the first convent of Sisters, at Prouille. They were also able to visit Prouille, the ancestral convent of our Congregation. In France they also visited the convent at Romagne and the Contemplative Nuns and the Friars at AvrillĂ©. The also fitted in visits to Lourdes and Paris. In America they stayed with the Fanjeaux Dominicans at St Dominic School, Post Falls, where, as in Fanjeaux, they learned a lot about the Dominican methods of teaching. During their whole trip they also refreshed their knowledge of the chant and ceremonial for the Divine Office.