Sunday, December 14, 2008

Life has been so busy...

A combined school photo of St Dominic's and St Augustine's

Life has been so busy at St Dominic’s School and Convent I scarcely know where to begin or how to condense the information into a short article. Well, no better time to start than the present. I will begin with a pleasurable trip to the Chocolate Factory, which involved the Form 1 & 2 girls and boys, Fr Kurtz, Sister Rose and a kind parent who provided transport for the boys. This little trip was paid by the school since both classes raised the highest amount in each school at our recent Skate-a-thon fundraiser. After Mass and a hearty breakfast, the girls jumped into the convent car with Sister Rose at the wheel, while the boys leapt into a big red transit van with a determined Fr Kurtz at the front. Leaving from the Church at 8.15am it took us about 2 hours to reach the Chocolate Factory.

A jolly lady greeted us at the Factory, gave us what resembled shower caps to wear, then asked us to rub our hands together with some anti-septic spray – everything was done in a highly professional manner. We were given very interesting details – from how to make easter eggs and chocolates with soft centers, to how they package each individual chocolate. It was most enjoyable.

The best part was the end when we were able to TASTE-TEST some of the products and explore their shop. I was particularly excited to find some “sticky specials” for $1. This included a bag of soft centre honey chocolates, which normally would have been $5 for a bag.

Lunch consisted of Pizza and little fizzy drinks, kindly supplied by Fr Kurtz and then we were off to a Car Museum, which was very fascinating. Well worth the journey.

The next day after the little school trip, was all hands on deck to get ready for our end of year prize giving. There were singing practices, props to be made, lines to learn, prizes to arrange etc.

Learning lines...

Making props...

Prayers said outside after a big clean-up!

The effort paid off. The girls sang beautifully under the direction of our Music teacher, Mrs Borberg and the girls had even organized a little song of their own, in French I might add, which was accompanied by one of our students, Mirae Kim. Next was a little Greek myth “Perseus & Medusa” which was dramatized by our French teacher Mr Hays, who unfortunately could not be with us on the night as he was in hospital. The formal part of the evening consisted in a humorous speech by our Mother Superior and engaging speeches by Fr Laisney and our Valedictorian Maria Petersen.

Maria Petersen

Towards the end, our teachers who were in academic dress and the Sisters in their cappas ascended the stage for the actual handing out of prizes. It was most pleasing to see girls who had put in a good year's work go up and receive their reward. Towards the end, everyone was on the edge of their seats wondering who would be Dux. This year it was two girls – Maria Devine and Julia Kelly, whose final scores were so close we couldn’t bear to give it to one without the other. There was thunderous applause as both girls came up to receive their prizes.

We also had a special guest from Massey University who was there to award high achiever scholarships to two of our pupils – Julia Kelly and Adelaide Png. He made the comment that we should be proud of the fact that Massey had given two big scholarships to such a small school.

In fact the school has done very well this year – Virginie Mathey achieved top of the world in French and Julia Kelly won a Film Contest, for which she was awarded an IMAC computer for the school.

Julia presenting the new computer.

At the very end, the students presented a little gift to the Sisters – a beautiful sign which is now out the front so that whoever passes by will see the “Veritas” logo and below “St Dominic’s Convent and Girls’ School.

Our new sign

The next day, Mother and Sister Madeleine were off to Australia to do a little mission in Tynong after Society Priests had asked them to come over to promote the religious life and to foster vocations and to look at “possible” sites for a second foundation, however, we will have to see what God wills for our community. I am sure they will write more on their trip later.

...various presentation evenings.

Meanwhile, Sister Catherine was left to look after the remaining Sisters and postulants. On the 8th December, the feast of the Immaculate Conception and a big day for our convent – our 6th birthday, we had a very active day.

It began with Office and Mass, which included a Franciscan Profession and then after a short practice we sang some special songs at the 10am Sung Mass. The Sisters have recently formed a little polyphony choir and this was our little d├ębut. A little nervous, we sang “O Gloriosa Virginum” and the “Sicut Cervus”. With what little time we had left in the morning, the Sisters decorated the staffroom to celebrate our birthday and we had a lovely lunch together.

The next week we were off to New Plymouth to visit a “free” zoo and a beautiful park. It was a most enjoyable day, however, since I am running out of room I will let the pictures tell the story. the zoo

The sisters prayed Sext and had morning tea at the lake.

Admiring the beautiful flower gardens...

... last look at the mountain before we head back home.

At present we are living a more contemplative life in preparation for Christmas. After a busy school year, it is wonderful to be able to spend some extra time in meditation and have the time to do extra spiritual reading. We also have Latin lessons, lectures from Mother and daily chant practices in preparation for the sung offices and the beautiful “O Antiphons”.

Our little novice is busy constructing the crib for this year’s nativity scene and by the looks of things, it will be a marvel – I wish you all a happy and very holy Christmas.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Update on St Dominic's Convent and College events

Arrivals and a Departure:
Since you last heard from us we have lost one novice, who decided the life was not for her. On the other hand we have gained five postulants. There are two young women from Dunedin, one from Melbourne, one from America and one from the Philippines. This has brought our numbers back to ten. We also have some more “prospects” lurking in the wings. Another young lady from the Philippines is due to arrive within a fortnight. Then we have two young women who intend to come in January, and a young lady from Kenya, who would come immediately if she had the money to pay for her visa.

A Visitor:
At the beginning of July we were much cheered by the arrival of a visitor from Romagne, near Poitiers in France. This was onc of the Dominican Sisters of Fanjeaux, Mother Teresa Joseph, O.P. She was the very first of their American Postulants and was one of the Foundresses of Post Falls. For some years she was Subprioress in Post Falls and then Prioress for six years. Her term of office having ended she is having a spell in France. We thoroughly enjoyed the help she was able to give us in the Chant and in ordinary Dominican living.

At the moment we have four Sisters studying Latin from Massey and one studying Mathematics. As well, Sister Mary Madeleine and Sister Mary Rose are finishing off their B.A. degrees this semester. This is a great credit to them as they have persevered extramurally and have done very well with numerous “A’s” in their degrees. However, this is not the study-burden I have been talking about.

The Sisters mentioned above and two others, plus three of the priests, are all studying for the Graduate Diploma in Secondary Teaching at Bethlehem Tertiary Institude near Tauranga. Much of the course is on-line but the Sisters also have to go to Bethlehem each holidays for Intensive Courses.

Next term and next year the student Sisters will have to go to other schools for a “practicum” where they will teach with other teachers and be inspected by professors from Bethlehem Tertiary Institute. We think this will be a first for schools like Collegiate and Wanganui High School.

As though any more excitement were needed we also celebrate feastdays in the school with vigour, largely powered and organized by our excellent young nuns and our really nice Seventh Form girls. These events usually include inter-house competitions among our three Houses in the school, named, for reasons Dominican ex-pupils will recognize, Calaroga, Prouille and Bologna.

One of these events took place on 7 March, Feast of St Thomas Aquinas. The young Sisters organized an afternoon which consisted of a quiz on the life of St Thomas, races, ball-games, and egg-and-spoon races. The girls had a delightful time with the juniors particularly appreciating the leadership and encouragement of our senior girls.

Another occasion was the Feast of St Catherine of Siena, which also happened to be the last day of Term 1. This time the competition was more intellectual as we had a day of debating and public speaking. Forms 5,6 and 7 debated topics related to their Church History course and the Third and Fourth Form spoke about traditional religious orders. Forms One and Two spoke about different saints. The event took place in the Hockey Club Hall and was a great success. One interesting outcome was that girls shone in this event who do not always make a big impact academically.

Of course the highlight of the year for our school is St Dominic’s Day. We celebrated this in an extended way with a Solemn High Mass on the Day where the Nuns and the girls sang, and the boys sang the proper. We then spent the rest of the day as a holiday. However, on the 22 August, the day of the Skate-a-thon, we completed our St Dominic’s Day celebration by having our interhouse netball competition and the hotly contested Students versus Staff netball match. This last was an epic struggle but the girls won. Between the netball and skating about two hundred rounds of the Skating Rink girls and nuns were exhausted at the end of the day.

As I write, we are moving into the third term. Cambridge Examinations are coming up and the girls are studying well. Our Seventh Form did very well in the Examination they sat in June, AS level French, with one student gaining an A and two distinctions for French Speaking. Our Fifth form also did well in their IGCSE Latin with two students gaining an A. We hope for similar results in November.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

St Anthony’s Procession

On 15 June 2008, St Anthony’s parish held its annual procession in honour of St Anthony. The founding parishioners promised St Anthony that if he got them the Church that had been their original parish Church, then up for sale, they would hold an annual procession in his honour. Using a front-man, and in spite of the efforts of the Bishop of Palmerston North to find out who was buying the Church, they became the owners of St Anthony’s Church plus a presbytery section with presbytery, a convent section which was empty, and a school section, also empty.

Each year the length of the procession gives an indication of the growth of the parish, as we can see from our position in the middle of the procession. First the thurifer and servers, then flower-girls, then the statue of St Anthony surrounded by flowers, then the relic carried by the celebrant accompanied by deacon and sub-deacon and flanked by torch-bearers.

Then the Papal Coat of Arms and the Papal Flag and the New Zealand Flag, then the flags of all the nations represented in the parish. Then comes the St Stephen’s Guild, the Third Orders, and then the girls of St Dominic’s College with their banner carried by the Head Prefect and Deputy Head-Prefect, followed by all the girls in uniform, walking two by two with white mantillas on their heads. Immediately behind the girls come the nuns, also two by two, the whole creating a fine sight for the many people who come out to watch the procession go by. After that comes the Schola and various other parish groups and the general parishioners, plus a pipe-band which plays stirring and martial music in between the hymns led by the leader of the Schola over a megaphone.

We always give especially bright smiles as we pass the home of Mrs Green, who writes to the paper each year to complain that the Catholics have been carrying an “idol” through the streets of Wanganui. After we get back to the Churchyard we sing “God Defend New Zealand” while the New Zealand Flag is run up the flagpole, and then “Christus Vincit” as the Papal Flag is run up the flag-pole. We then re-enter the Church for the blessing of St Anthony’s Bread (we all receive a bun) and the veneration of the relic. After that the parishioners repair to the Primary School (St Anthony’s) while the nuns go back to their Convent. In the Primary Classrooms the older girls serve the meal to the parishioners and help with the washing up.

This year we were blessed with exceptionally fine weather for the procession. It was a still, windless, Winter’s day. Quite warm and sunny, a great day to celebrate our Faith and our achievements under God. May God bless St Anthony’s and its people!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Children of Mary 2008

The Children of Mary at St Anthony’s Parish had a busy time over Easter as well.

They finished off the brass-cleaning which the Girls’ School had started on the Day of Recollection. This was a huge job, getting all the stored brass and the brass off the altar cleaned. As we are near the sea and the river the atmosphere is both damp and salty, which means brass tarnishes easily.

As well the Children of Mary had the responsibility for putting up the Altar of Repose. This was to be put up in the Parish Library where there is already and altar for Mass if there are too many priests in the parish wanting to say Mass. The girls draped hangings behind the altar, put up lights and decorated the altar with flowers. They had to call in the talents of a tall boy to put up the very highest draperies as they could not reach. The highest points. Everybody agreed that it was a truly reverent and inspirational Altar of Repose.

As well, many of the girls from the Children of Mary were involved in the Choir for the Midnight Mass and they all came back voluntarily next morning for the High Mass. Thank you, Children of Mary for all your work for the Parish over Easter!