Friday, December 9, 2011

2011 - An "Eventful Trip"

This has been a memorable year at St Dominic's Convent and College. To close the school year - Sr Madeleine gave an overview of the happenings at our end-of-year prizegiving.

"As they say, traveling is the most important form of education for it broadens and matures a man. One of my assignments whilst studying for my Graduate Diploma in Secondary teaching was to choose a metaphor for teaching. With this saying in mind I chose a flight overseas for my metaphor and I feel that this year was one eventful trip. Mother often reminds me of how I used to complain about being bored as a postulant and I can promise you that there was never a dull or boring moment at St Dominic’s this year. Let us board Dominican Airlines and embark on the journey of 2011 at St Dominic’s Girls’ College.

I have gone from an air hostess, which represents the teacher to a co-pilot which for me is like the Head of School. Our principal, Fr Cranshaw, is the pilot who directs and flies the plane –
our school. The passengers represent the students. They are not alone on the journey, there are many others heading in the same direction but with different reasons for taking this particular flight and perhaps with different destinations in mind. No matter what, each will experience the same services but each one at the end of the flight will have been affected differently. You will have to ask each student what their experience has been this year. I am sure that each teacher will have their own flight stories to tell too.

Along the way the plane may meet with bad weather and turbulence. Yes, we at St Dominic’s Girls’ College did experience that this year but this is typical for a girls’ school with all of its emotional dramas. I think there would be a problem if there were was no turbulence. It makes for a more exciting trip!!! As I said previously the pilot is the principal and he appears from time to time when the need arises. He calms the passengers and the co-pilot when problems are experienced. Fortunately our pilot came to the rescue during our turbulence.
Thank you, Fr Cranshaw!!!

The air hostesses are the teachers. They equip the passengers with everything they need for the flight and ensure that everything is to their liking. What has been our equipment this year? We applied for and received 4 grants for the school. The first one was to transform the tennis club into a home economics room for the girls. We were able to purchase a new oven, a new and bigger work bench and a new working unit with four cupboards and 4 sets of drawers. We are thankful to Mr and Mrs Smith for designing and purchasing the equipment and to both Mr Doug and Mr Brendan Piper for their help with the electrics down at the home economics room. We are now able to have sewing and cooking running at the same time in the same building. We were able to timetable sewing classes for the Form 7 girls this year and next year both Forms 6 and 7 will have sewing classes. The girls have made some lovely projects and it was always interesting to watch the flock of vultures descend on a Tuesday afternoon when the cooking class returned with their unconsumed goodies – not always to share!!

We also received a grant for new desks for the junior girls, a grant for microscopes and lab equipment for the Science department and in the last month we received money for new netball
uniforms for next year. Speaking of netball, we also won some money for new equipment thanks to Farmlands. We congratulate the intermediate team on winning their division and the
senior team for coming third.
We were very impressed with the overall sportsmanship of our girls because there was definitely some biased umpiring sometimes and our girls continued to play well. We extend a special thank you to their coach Mr Foster for his time and dedication to the teams. I would just like to say
at this point that it is unfortunate that more parents do not come to support their girls. Other teams have people all around the courts. Our girls are fortunate to have a few Sisters, their coach and the odd parent. This may be an area that could be improved on in future. We sent a parcel of netball equipment to India for the orphanage as one of our ex pupils was over there trying
to teach the orphans how to play netball properly. She seemed to have interested the boys more
than the girls! Thank you to all who donated to the cause.

Each passenger brings with them their own talents and personalities with which the hostess works. This year we have had quite some interesting characters. There are different classes of passenger but each gets the attention they require. The trip will of course suit some passengers more than others. Some will experience jet lag, others will recline their seat and sleep most of the way, some will suffer from travel sickness and others will take advantage of the in-flight entertainment. I think I can safely say that we have some from every class – wouldn’t I
be right girls?

Entries for the Art Competition - the theme was "The Four Seasons"

Of what did our inflight entertainment consist this year? Well during the first couple of weeks we of course had our three student teachers and their Sr cook absent for studies in Tauranga. The girls dealt well with the constant change of teachers as these 4 had to spend 6 weeks away from school at different intervals. There was also the 5 week practicum at Collegiate for Srs Lucia and Jacinta. The girls are to be commended for their patience in this regard. The students also had the changeover of teachers when new postulants arrived in the middle of the year.
In March we received the news that our Form 7 student, Nicola, was in the top 5% for Cambridge IGCSE Latin. Nicola, Mr Hays and Nicola’s parents had a nice trip to Auckland for the ceremony. It was the fourth year in a row that our school has received a Top School or Top Centre Award. The certificates take pride of place in the staff room.
Choral Speaking
Students participating in the music competition

As in previous years we had our interhouse competitions. This year we had our usual music, drama, art, netball, poetry and tabloid sports competitions. We introduced choral speaking this year and the girls performed very well. There is real talent among them. The judge was very impressed considering that it was the first time that the girls had done it. It is such a joy to see the girls working together as a team and building good relationships with each other. Even at lunchtimes the prefects have done a great job organising games and it is lovely to see them all playing and laughing together. Chester Burrows and the quintet from the NZ Symphony Orchestra also remarked how lovely it was to see the joyful expressions on the students from all three schools.

We also introduced points for the best book work and neatest diaries. It is amazing what a bit of competition can do. The girls work has vastly improved since the beginning of the year and
we hope it will continue. Well done girls! Then of course there was the unforgettable roll-a-thon. The girls spent time and energy going out door knocking and finding many sponsors.
There was a lot of competition among the classes and their form teachers with forms for sponsorship being sent far and wide in order to be the class to raise the most money as we all wanted to win that class trip. It was very close. The girls raised the most for all three schools. Meagan Foster raised the most over all and Form 7 had the highest average, thus winning the class trip.

The event itself was one we will never forget – 3 casualties within 5 mins. Firstly, accident prone Cerese on her bike ran into the back of Sr Lucia on rollerblades and sent her airborne and left a tyre mark on the back of Sr’s habit. Both ended up in emergency and under observation. Soon afterwards as Sr Raymond was coming round for her 16th lap on rollerblades she fell and ended up in hospital for a few days due to a broken arm from which she is still recovering. Four
days in hospital and an operation followed by constant physiotherapy – all for 80 cents per lap in order to raise money for the school. The St Anthony Parish roll-a-thon was the main topic discussed in the hospital for the following week. Fortunately along the way there are stopovers for refueling and technical checks - mid term breaks and holidays to rest from the normal school routine.

Everyone gets off for a change of scene and to refresh themselves. Ultimately the journey must come to an end. As the plane begins its descent there are cards to fill in for customs likened to the tests that one takes at the end of the year. At this point I should mention the excellent results received by the Form 6 girls on their French examinations which they sat at the Alliance Francaise in Wellington last month. Each of them passed their diploma in French language studies. Congratulations girls!

Once the plane comes to a halt, everyone gets up, collects their luggage, like students collecting all of the knowledge they now possess and as they exit the hostess is there at the door to
farewell her passengers and wish them the best in the next stage of their journey like the teacher at the graduation ceremony. Tonight we farewell a lovely group of girls – Nicola, Samantha, Kelly-Marie, Meagan and Madeleine. It has been a great joy to have these girls who have been excellent role models to the younger students. They tried their very best to obey all rules
and to help the teachers as best as they could and we will dearly miss them. They had a very positive outlook and we wish them all the best in their future endeavours. They have now cleared customs and the metal detectors namely, the Cambridge Examinations and are now safe to meet their connecting flights. We also farewell Alex who has been a ray of sunshine around the school over the past few years. We must also farewell Mother, the foundress of the school, Sister Catherine, our Cambridge examinations officer and Sister Raymond – our administrator.
They will all be dearly missed. And we must not forget our dear postulants.
We also farewell Mr Griffiths who taught AS Mathematics to the girls this year.
To these teachers, to Father Cranshaw, our Pilot, and to all of our crew who remain next year I extend a heartfelt thanks for their support and encouragement over this past year.

We must remember that it is God Who directs our flight and it is only on the reliance of prayer that each one of us will reach the goal which God wills and destines for us. We assure each and everyone of our students, past and present of our continued prayers.
Prayer can be likened to the wings of the plane because even when difficulties are encountered the wings continue to support and carry the plane and all on board in order to reach the destination which has been scheduled. May we all reach that destination!!
This year was a trip that will never be forgotten or regretted and will be relished for life. May 2012 be just as bright and eventful. Thank you."

The girls at the end-of-year prizegiving
St Augustine boys at prizegiving

Even though the school year has finished, the sisters are nontheless still keeping busy. The growing gardens on the grounds, as well as the miniature orchard are all thriving with the Spring rains, and are keeping the gardening sisters busy!

Please keep the sisters in your prayers during this holy season of Advent. In addition to preparing for Christmas and for our annual retreat leading up to Epiphany, there are also preparations concerning the furnishing of the future convent in Australia, needing to be completed - as the Novitiate is moving there in January. Yes, this is a very busy - but very happy time of year. We are all looking forward to the grand feast of Epiphany, when there will be the triple blessing of a sister making perpetual profession, several sisters making their first vows, and several postulants receiving the holy habit. St Dominic, ora pro nobis!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

September 2011

The month of September passed quickly with many important events taking place. At the beginning of the month, there was a quick visit to Australia for Mother and two professed sisters. The goal: To have a look at St Thomas Aquinas School in Tynong and a piece of land called "the green wedge," where our future Motherhouse is hoped to be established. All in all, it seemed to be a very happy and positive trip. Father Delsorte, the local prior, was in high spirits as he showed the sisters all the facilities the school had to offer and the newly decorated church. The only drawback to the trip was that there were no encounters with a kangaroo or two!

Meeting with Fr Delsorte, Australia

Outside the Church, Tynong, Australia

Next year will mark an important step in the history of our congregation as Mother heads a brigade over to Australia to begin work on the establishment of a Motherhouse, hoping to have the patronage of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary; leaving a community of sisters to continue running our first foundation, aptly named after our Holy Father, Saint Dominic. Please pray that our community may continue to grow under the loving mantle of the Blessed Virgin Mary, so that we may bear much fruit for Holy Mother the Church.

After a netball game with our senior students

Sister Mary Margaret, OP and postulant, Miss Juliana Maddeford

Netball in Action

At the end of the month, we celebrated the Feast of St Michael the Archangel, which was also the feast day of our Mother Prioress. The sisters rallied around to prepare a celebration worthy of mention. It began with sisters smoking out the kitchen, trying to make pancakes for 17 people before the start of school. Mother was overjoyed to find that 'some delightful person' had ordered the book she had secretly desired for her feast day, along with a few other goodies. In the evening we prepared a bit of, what one might call, an amateur musical recital. We were very fortunate to have the presence of a visiting flautist from the USA, who was able to play sweetly amidst the reverberations of two booming cellists, a one-handed organist (Sister had broken her arm in a recent roll-a-thon fundraiser), a few conductors equipped with wooden glockenspiels, two confident recorder players, and a group of choral singers. There was much delight when all managed to end in harmony at the last bar and the audience, with Mother at the head, gave out a thunderous applause to the voice of an overly confident recorder player, who insisted that we could take requests.

After the September holidays, it was 'all hand on deck' as the seniors underwent a week of mock exams and are now preparing for the upcoming Cambridge examinations. As part of our ongoing professional development as teachers, Sister Mary Catherine, OP gave a lecture to the staff on student motivation, high expectations, and the link they have to academic success. It was certainly an inspiring talk and encouraging to review our school statistics. Although only a small school, St Dominic's College has been awarded four Top Centre Awards since 2007. To gain the award, the students must come in the top few percent in NZ and/or in the world. Sister Mary Catherine pointed out that although our students may not be like the great St Thomas Aquinas, yet with high expectations and hard work, all have the ability to achieve.

Senior girls out on a glass-festival expedition

Sister Mary Catherine motivating the sisters to give their best
in our annual 'Teachers vs. Students' netball game

The month of the Holy Rosary commenced with a Sunday of contemplation to prepare the sisters for the upcoming Feast of the Holy Rosary. On this day (1st Class for Dominicans) our Cappas are hung up until the Feast of our Holy Mother Saint Catherine of Siena, and one of our most powerful weapons unveiled - the rosary - which we always wear by our side. With a true Dominican spirit, we expect to redouble our prayers for the Rosary Crusade, for more postulants, for our new foundation, for our school children, for the salvation of souls, and...... for more gigantic carrots like this one. Deo Gratias.

Postulant, Miss Klingers, with giant carrot

Friday, July 29, 2011

Postulants Move In... Sisters Move Out...

In the month of May a new sight was seen on the front lawns of our Dominican Convent and College. One fine afternoon, trucks came rolling in with two little cabins - all set to become something that no one had ever before envisaged: "hermitages" for religious sisters. When in the month of June, two more came rolling up the hill amidst a shower of rain - all knew what this meant - more postulants on the way!

For truly, these little "hermitages" are a sign of joyous growth within our little community. The postulants began arriving during Lent, and by the time we reached Easter, we knew we had a "cell problem." That is, there were no longer enough cells to house all the sisters and the newly arriving postulants. What to do? We contemplated renting a house close-by, but were finally convinced that it would be wiser to keep all the sisters together. Though the brave, pioneering sisters would be now more subject to the unpredictable changes in nature (from pouring rain to noisy thunderstorms; to howling, almost record-breaking winds; to 5.2 earthquakes) still, they would be only "next-door" to the convent house, the chapel, and the school.

While the cabins do not have any running water for the sisters, they are - thankfully - connected to electricity. The sisters have been adapting well to their new surroundings - and are happy to see the congregation growing. The postulants have been settling in well and surely appreciate the sacrifices which their older sisters in religion are making on their behalf. We all look forward to the day when we shall see either the current convent house extended or a new novitiate house founded - so that all the sisters may once again reside together inside our dormitories. Our Holy Father Saint Dominic, pray for us!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The House That St Dominic Built

We have entered into Term 2 of the 2011 school year and our students have had several chances already to demonstrate their skills in our various house competitions. We have three houses: Prouille, Bologna, and Calaroga, all of which will be recognized as places associated to the life of St Dominic. The girls are divided amongst the houses and take part in various competitions throughout the year to earn points. In Term 1 we enjoyed their creativity in coming up with war cries and banners and at Easter they competed with words in a poetry competition. Let us share with you a few of the poem entries.

A Song of Easter
Form Two

Everyone listen
To what the birds say
It's a song about Easter
"Christ has risen today"

Everyone listen
To what the lambs say
It's a song about Easter
"Let's rejoice today"

Everyone listen
To what the doves say
It's a song about Easter
"Peace be with you today"

Crucifige Eum!
Form Seven

O God, Who great Creation made,
And finds delight 'mong men,
Of hatred found Thyself th' object
As bowed beneath our sin.

Human-kind with mottled mem'ry
Breathes forth vows and then forgets them.
Fear and greed and pride and envy
Still cry, 'Crucifige eum!'

Can I see my Saviour suff'ring
And continue in my sinning?
How ungrateful, cold, unfeeling
To despise the perfect Being!

He loved us first, and therefore we
Should love Him most exceedingly.

Our most recent competition was drama. In past years our students have proven to us that there are some fine actresses among them; this year was no exception. They entertained us with skits on Dominican saints and Prouille won the competition. Prouille leads the scoreboard with 1920 points, followed by Bologna at 1395 and Calaroga close behind at 1195.

Last Friday we had a visit from a quintet from the NZ Symphony Orchestra. They performed for all three schools and gave a wonderful presentation, interacting with the children and even getting two to come up and play (one note) with them on the viola. It was a highly enjoyable afternoon!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Report on the Term: Easter 2011

Here it is, Holy Saturday night and the Sisters are busy preparing the Convent for the celebration of Easter Sunday. They are doing flowers for the Chapel and greenery and lights for the refectory, where we will celebrate our “Gaudeamus”, or party after the Vigil and Midnight Mass. There have also been singing practices and much cleaning. We are nearly ready.

After Easter we have two weeks’ holiday. Because of the lateness of Easter this year our May holidays have been joined to our Easter Break. Easter Monday is also Anzac Day, so we are getting all our holidays rolled into one.

It has been a good term at St Dominic’s College and Convent. Sister Mary Madeleine has been Head of the School and she has helped the girls, already very good, to shape up their efforts even more. The emphasis this term has been on wearing their uniform and hair properly and on playing together at lunch-time and leaving no-one out. They can sit in groups while they eat their lunches but then it’s everybody on her feet with bat and ball. It’s good for them.

The girls’ work is going well. One of our Seventh Formers, Nicola Bjerga, got a top place in the Latin IGCSE Examination last year and went to Auckland earlier this year to collect her award. The school also got a “Top Centre” award which we’ve been able to add to the ones from previous years on the staff-room wall.

The personnel of our convent at this stage of 2011 consists of five finally professed Sisters, three junior professed Sisters, four novices and one postulant. Late last year we received a Sister from India and we also received a Postulant this March. We have had to take the door off the chapel so that we can fit in. The door took up too much wall-space!

The trouble is, if you can call it trouble, that we have other postulants due to arrive during the year and only one more free cell. Our temporary solution to this “problem” will be to rent a little house directly over the road from the Church and Convent. It’s resourceful owner says he can make it sleep four people, which I suppose could mean sleeping in the kitchen or breakfast nook! However, this is only a short-term solution. Sister Rose is collecting money, and she is a great fundraiser, for an extension to our Convent along the York Street frontage. There are two problems with this, though. One is that we have not yet got even half the money we need to start work and the other is that other rooms will need to be enlarged too, particularly the refectory which is also pretty full.

In view of all the above, and on the advice of Bishop Fellay, I have decided that we ought to accept Father Delsorte’s invitation to make a foundation in Tynong, near Melbourne, Australia. I think it would be nice to send a group of professed Sisters there but alas that’s not to be at the moment. Because the numbers lie, and will lie, in the Novitiate, that is what will have to move. We also will take, as the plans stand this early, two professed Sisters who will do some study to complete their degrees and to do their teacher-training. The other Sisters will need to stay in Wanganui for the time being to run the school.

Of course, all this may be changed by the hand of God, but this is how it looks at the moment. Please pray for us that we do the right thing. And all the young ladies who said they would join us if we come to Australia – your time has come.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Epiphany and Religious Profession

The great solemnity of Epiphany is a most appropriate feast for the ceremony of religious profession. The different portions of the Liturgy are highly symbolic; especially alluding to the gifts and virtues the future brides of Christ must possess, and also in representation of perseverance in their vocations. Guided onwards by the divine light, the novices had persevered bravely in their search for the Lord; despite the momentary eclipses of the star.

In St Matthew's Gospel, it is related that the star guided the three Magi, "Until it came and stood over where the Child was." 'Is it to be wondered that a divine Star ministers to the Rising Sun of Justice? It halts above the head of the Child as if saying: This is He: as though being unable to proclaim Him in words it proclaims Him by standing above Him." St Leo adds that "It was fitting for the Baby Jesus, a speechless child, to be announced by a silent star, whereas once grown He would be announced by apostles. This way, all creation could take its turn at proclaiming Him: the heavens, by sending a star; the sea, by becoming solid under His feet, the earth and rocks, by trembling and breaking when He was silent once more in death..."

The novices, as the Magi, must have great faith in their search of the Divine King. At Bethlehem, the Magi's faith was put to the test by the sight of God under the form of Man; and now, our faith is exercised at the sight of God under the form of Bread.

Do you wish to make profession and to observe the Constitutions
of the Dominican Sisters of Wanganui?

This was the great test which the Magi had to face: the humiliations of the Infant God at Bethlehem. Quite naturally they expected to find all the splendors of heaven and earth surrounding the cradle of the newborn Babe, the Messiah. At Jerusalem they had heard the prophecy of Isaias concerning His glory.

But what a surprise! What a scandal for faith less strong than theirs! Guided by the star they came to the stable, and what did they see? A poor Child with His young Mother. The Child was laid on the straw like the poorest of the poor, nay more, like a little lamb just born; He slept in the midst of animals; He had only wretched swaddling clothes to protect Him against the bitter cold...

What would the Magi do? See them on their knees, their heads bowed to the ground, adoring with the most profound humility this little Child. They weep for joy as they contemplate Him. They are delighted with His poverty to the point of rapture. Et procidentes adoraverunt Eum! "And falling down they adored Him!"

Great God! What a puzzling mystery! Never do kings lower themselves in this way, even before other sovereigns! What is it they saw in the stable, in the Crib, in the Child? What did they see? Love! An unspeakable love; the true love of God for man; God impelled by His love to become poor; God becoming weak so as to comfort the weak and the forsaken; God suffering so as to prove His love. That is what the Magi saw. That was the reward of their faith...

The sacramental humiliation of Jesus Christ is also a test of Christian faith. Jesus in His Sacrament receives for the most part nothing but indifference, and very often unbelief and contempt. Understand well this sad truth; it is easy to learn: Mundus eum non cognovit. "The world knew Him not."

But to a real Christian, this is not a scandal or a test of faith - his lively faith pierces through the poverty and weakness of Jesus and goes straight to the soul of Jesus to study His awe-inspiring thoughts and feelings. And finding our Lord's divinity united to His Sacred Body and hidden beneath the Sacred Species, the Christian, like the Magi, falls down, contemplates, and adores; he is transported with the most enrapturing love; he has found Jesus Christ! Et procidentes adoraverunt Eum!

The novices also this day imitate the Magi in their adoration. As the Magi from their treasures offered to the Lord mystic kinds of gifts, so they too brought forth from their hearts gifts that were worthy of Him: offering Him the gold of a pure heart, the incense of a life devoted to prayer, and the myrrh of the sacrifice of all things and of themselves.

The three vows of religion, as well, are like unto the three gifts of the Magi. The sisters lay before their King - the gold of Poverty, the incense of Chastity, and the myrrh of Obedience. By the vow of poverty, the religious give up all their earthly wealth for the sake of their Infant King. The Magi gave frankincense to acknowledge Christ's Divinity and the sisters doe the same through the vow of chastity - by tempering and mortifying their senses so that, burned by the fire of charity, they may rise to Him like a pure, sweet perfume. Finally, as the Magi gave myrrh to symbolize that Jesus would die for our sake, through the vow of obedience, religious die to their own wills for His sake.

"... I promise obedience to God and to Blessed Mary, and to Blessed Dominic and to you Mother..."

"How fortunate to be able to share, through the Eucharist, the happiness of Mary, and of the Magi who offered gifts to Jesus Christ! In the Eucharist we still have the poverty of Bethlehem to relieve. Oh! Yes! all the good things of grace and of glory come to us through the divine Eucharist. Their fountainhead is at Bethlehem, which became a heaven of love..."

"Posuit signum in faciem meam ut nullum, praeter eum, amatorem admittam"

"He has placed a sign on my brow that I accept no lover but Him"

As the new religious kneel before the Tabernacle, they might well hear the exhortation of St Bernard:

"Whence is this to thee, O Human Soul, whence to thee? Whence to thee this immeasurable glory, that you should merit to become the spouse of Him on Whom the angels desire to look? Whence is it to thee that He is thy Bridegroom Whose beauty the sun and the moon reflect with wonder, at whose nod all things are moved? What wilt thou render to the Lord for all that He has rendered to thee, (Ps. cxv. 12) who art the companion of His table, the sharer of His Kingdom, the consort of His bridal chamber, and at the end the King will bring you into His House?"

"Be ye therefore followers of God, as most dear children; and walk in love,
as Christ also hath loved us, and hath delivered Himself for us,
an oblation and a sacrifice to God for an odor of sweetness." (Eph 5)

"Behold how much already you perceive of the Lord, how much you have already tasted of Him; see with what eagerness of love bestowed must He be embraced and loved in return, Who has deemed thee worthy of so much, nay, Who for thee has done so much? From His side He refashioned thee, when for thee He slept upon the Cross, and for thee accepted the sleep of death. For thee He went forth from His Father, departed from the Synagogue His mother, that cleaving to thee, you might become one with Him in spirit.

"And hearken thou, O Daughter, and see, and reflect, (Ps. xliv.11) and consider how great is the condescension of thy God to thee, and forget thy people and thy father's house. Depart from the loves of the flesh, unlearn the ways of the world, withhold thee from thy former sins, and forget thy evil habits. And why you may wonder? Does not an angel of God stand by thee, who shall cut thee in two (Dan. xiii, 59), should you, which God forbid, accept another lover?"

"As He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy
and unspotted in His sight in charity..." (Eph 1)

The Magi are our models, the first adorers. Let us pray that these new religious be worthy of their royal faith in Jesus Christ; that they may be heirs to the love of the Magi, and so one day will be heirs to their glory.

{Excerpts taken from the Fathers of the Church and the writings of the Saints}