Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Next Stage of the Journey

After the departure of our Australian cohort, another school year has taken off. From January 23 – 27 we had our annual teachers’ week with all members of staff attending departmental meetings and planning their lessons for the year ahead. We also received the Cambridge examination results during the week. A few surprises, but those aside, there were some very pleasing results for the students. What a joy to hand over the results to a nervous student, reluctant to look at the paper before them and then after some very gentle coaxing to take a peek, to see a beautiful smile light up the face! Hard work pays off and I am sure that each and every student can vouch for that.

On Monday, January 30th, we officially started school with a Solemn High Mass of the Holy Ghost with Fr Fortin as celebrant, Fr Lavin as deacon and Fr Bochkoltz as subdeacon. Fr Fortin preached a very inspiring sermon on truth and charity to all present. All of the staff took the anti-modernist oath and were decked in academic regalia for the special occasion. Fr Bochkoltz came to spend a fortnight in Wanganui before flying off to Singapore to await his visa for New Zealand as he will be replacing Fr Anderson in the parish. Fr Laisney, our former principal, has returned to fill in for him during this time. We are all very grateful for Father’s help in the school.

The past weeks have been quite eventful. We welcomed our new form one students as well as three new pupils to the school. Our prefects have been very busy organising exciting games for the girls during the lunch break and are already organising their houses for the upcoming inter-house music and choral speaking competitions – what initiative considering that these competitions are not until April and August!

On Thursday, February 2nd, the feast of the Purification, we had our first inter-house competition for the year – tabloid sports. Even though certain students had prayed unceasingly for rain in order to delay the event due to complaints of unfitness from lack of exercises over the holidays, the weather held out until the last event. After a session of stretches the girls competed in sprints, ball games, egg and spoon and three-legged races and a relay on the croquet lawn. By the end, it was obvious that each and every girl really enjoyed themselves, not to mention the staff! Prouille won with 480 points, followed by Calaroga with 430 points and not far behind was Bologna with 410 points.

While on the topic of sport, we are encouraging the girls to register netball teams for the inter-school competitions which will begin in May. At present we will have an intermediate team but we still need a few more players for the senior team. Let’s hope that we can keep up the tradition of having teams representing our college. On Thursday evening as our bursar sister was looking over the accounts she noticed that a substantial sum of money had been deposited by the Pub Charity. After summoning a couple of sisters to show them, she discovered that it was the outcome of a grant applied for during the holidays for new computers. We extend our heartfelt
gratitude to Pub Charity for this money which will be very beneficial to the school.

The senior girls ended the week with their first home economics lesson. They cooked up some scrumptious caramel dumplings and returned to school very content. Over the weekend, the Sisters and some of our pupils and former pupils had the honour of singing at the wedding of two former pupils of our school. What a joy to see the fruits of our labour. It was quite a tender and moving occasion.

We have just had the wonderful blessing of a Redemptorist visiting the parish to preach a mission over the past week, and the students were very grateful as no homework was issued during this time in order to allow them to attend. We hope that this remarkable parish mission bears much fruit in the souls of our students, and in the whole parish!

Now with Lent around the corner, we pray that the spiritual seeds planted during the mission may grow during this holy season of penance and fast - and when Easter finally arrives - that our souls may bloom with the radiant purity that is gained only by the purifying way of the Cross and union with our Crucified Saviour. May His sorrowful Mother lead us on the way to Calvary and finally to the joys of Easter!

Friday, February 10, 2012

An Historic Occasion

The 17th of January marked a significant day in our Congregation’s history, as we, the sisters remaining at St Dominic’s Convent, Wanganui, farewelled a courageous contingent of fellow sisters bound for Our Lady of the Rosary Convent, the new foundation and motherhouse in Tynong, Australia.

The contingent, which consisted of three novices (S.M. Louise, S.M. Johanna and S.M. Thomas) and one newly temporarily-professed sister (S.M. Raymond O.P.), was headed by our Foundress and Mother Prioress General, Mother Mary Micaela O.P. They would be joined in Tynong very shortly by S.M. Catherine O.P. and the new postulants from America and Australia; other postulants from Singapore and the Philippines would likewise come later, once their visas were approved.

For weeks in advance, we had been awaiting the day with trepidation, wondering how convent (and even school-) life would fare in the absence of our Foundress, Mother Micaela. Conversely, there had also been many humorous moments, as the Australians amongst us took great delight in describing to the departing sisters (with only a little exaggeration, to be sure) the huge spiders, poisonous snakes and other deadly animals that they were sure to encounter in their new surroundings.

At last, the day dawned. We all gathered at the airport, lugging the (rather overweight-looking) bags and suitcases of the travellers.

Sister Margaret made acquaintances with one
of the travellers bound for Auckland.

And then, after some last words of encouragement between the “stayers” and the “goers”, the shedding of an odd tear, and a final cry of “Goodbye everybody!” from Mother Micaela, we watched them mount the steps of the plane and leave us for the distant shores of Oz. We also farewelled our Mexican postulant, Maria Beatriz, who, after much deliberation, had decided to enter the Franciscan Minims in Mexico.

What are we to think of it all? As our Mother Prioress General herself stated, the new foundation is a step forward, and we should rejoice at the growth and expansion of our congregation. Deo Gratias.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Last Ceremony In New Zealand?

Epiphany 2012 marks a momentous occasion for the Dominican Congregation of Wanganui. On this day several of our sisters made their oblations to our Lord, in what may have been the last ceremony to be held here in New Zealand.

Most of our Community after the Epiphany Ceremony

Because of the continuing growth of our community, it has become necessary to move the Novitiate to Australia, where it will be easier to expand and build a larger convent. As for New Zealand, the sister remaining at St Dominic's Convent will continue to teach in the schools and to work for the greater glory of God.
January 6, 2012 marked a triple-blessing for our Congregation. Not only did three postulants receive the Holy Habit of St Dominic, but four novices also made their first temporary profession and one professed sister mader her final vows.
Postulants asking to receive the Holy Habit
Newly-veiled novices making their choice between the earthly crown of roses and the heavenly crown of Thorns

The three postulants all hailed from the United State of America - but from different parts. One came from Texas, another from New Hampshire, and the third from Kansas. The new novices have been faithful to the 'call of St Dominic' to his Order - they must now imbue their souls more and more with his spirit.
"The black and white cross. Veritas ! We are the knighthood
of truth. Others have Pax or Caritas or Gloria Dei. None of these is outside the orbit of the Dominican soul, but she will reach them by the way of truth : it is in the light of truth that she looks at everything. Truth sets off and quickens the elements that she shares with other
Christian forms of spirituality. A thirst for truth will be the ruling sentiment of our soul.
When we sing the praises of our Father, in a noble hymn every night after returning from our procession to the altar of Our Queen and Lady, Mary, we call St. Dominic "light of the Church, doctor of the Truth" : we say that he pours forth the water of wisdom and that
his preaching diffuses grace. And if we add that he was a "rose of patience" and "ivory of chastity," these are but the accompaniments of his fundamental vocation
to be a man dedicated to the truth. He espoused the faith as St. Francis espoused poverty.
Whereas St. Benedict wished that "nothing should take precedence of the divine praise,"
St. Dominic placed study in the forefront of his own life and of ours. St. Bruno forsook the schools to seek the wildest solitude and to shut himself up there : Dominic founded his priories and convents in the heart of the town and particularly in university centres to
study and teach there. St. Bernard, like St. Augustine, wished his monks to spend much time in manual work : St. Dominic did not hesitate to suppress such labours entirely in order that spiritual work alone should be undertaken.
All ancient observances that he retained are subordinated and adapted to the pursuit of truth. Francis of Assisi, putting poverty above all else, reproved a young disciple who wished to study theology, on the ground that possession of the requisite books would entail unfaithfulness
to holy poverty. Dominic, on the other hand, looks upon poverty as a release from temporal anxieties to facilitate concentration upon study. Moreover, he authorizes his disciples to possess, as he did himself, the books which are the instruments of knowledge. St. Catherine of Siena in her Dialogue rejoices to hear the Eternal Father praise that love of science which characterizes
the "barque"of Dominic. " Our Order is the first," said Humbert of Romans, "to have thus linked study to the religious life, prius habuit studium cum religione conjunction."

It is not the pleasure of cultivating our mind that underlies our intellectual efforts : it is love of Him Who is the Truth itself, it is the love of God. Dominic seeks God in the sacred books where He has revealed Himself. Always, as he trod the highways which lead to Rome,he turned in search of God to the infallible Master of sacred doctrine. " What is God ?" was the oft-repeated question of the little child in whom the Dominican vocation was beginning to awake, and who was to work until the end of his life to compile the Summa of what man can know on that divine subject.
" Our spirit," said St. Thomas, " must strive unceasingly to know God more and more."

A St. Catherine of Siena bids us gaze upon God with a wide-open eye, the pupil of which is faith. Even simple Tertiaries should be relatively better instructed and more intellectual than other Christians, and assuredly no Dominican soul worthy of the name will ever prefer
sentimental dreams to the certainties of the faith. Study ought to upraise us towards God and lead us on to contemplate His perfections, His government and His activity within us. This contemplation will be the highest expression of that appreciation of truth which
characterizes the Dominican soul. It must be attempted even by those who cannot make long and profound meditation. To help them St. Dominic instituted the Rosary, which places the contemplation of the Christian mysteries within the reach of everyone. As Pere
Lemonnyer notes with pleasure in his book upon the Friars Preachers, it was by Masters of Theology that this splendid devotion was restored and propagated in the fifteenth century."
It is thus, by instilling in the hearts and mind of the novices - the desire for Truth, the thirst for Doctrine, the love of prayer - especially that of our Lady's Rosary - and all of the other characteristic aspects of the Dominican spirituality, that souls are formed - ready to follow in their Holy Father's footsteps, working for God and for souls.

The solemn high Mass of Epiphany was celebrated in the Dominican Rite by our Dominican retreat master, who was assisted by two priests who have served as our convent's chaplains.

It was beautiful to once again see the Dominican rite perfomed on our altar here in Wanganui.

At the Offertory, five sisters made the oblations of their lives in religious vows: four temporary professions and one perpetual profession.

The novices made their temporary vows in the hands of their Mother Superior and then exchanged their white veils for the black veils.

After the last sister made her perpetual vows in the hands of her superior, then the temporarily professed sisters had left the altar. The finally-professed sister then received the newly-blessed ring - the priest saying, as he places it on her hand in the name of the Church:
"Receive the ring, sign of bridal fidelity to God in the name of the Most Holy Trinity, that, wearing it, thou mayest be armed with the strength that cometh from divine protection, and that it may benefit thee unto everlasting salvation."
Afterwards, the sister prostrated herself in the form of a cross, and the solemn prayers were chanted after the following antiphon:
"I love Christ, into Whose nuptial room I shall enter : Whose Mother is a Virgin, Whose
Father doth not know woman; and Whose voice singeth sweet to me: Whom
when I love I remain chaste, Whom when I touch I am pure, and Whom when I take I remain a Virgin. With His Ring He hath wedded me, and He hath adorned me with most precious jewels."

After the ceremony, the priests, family and friends, and parishioners joined us for a small reception - full of much joy and merriment.

We would like to thank everyone for their prayers and ask that you continue to keep our congregation in your intentions as we expand 'over-seas.'
Our Holy Father St Dominic, pray for us!