Thursday, May 31, 2012

AUTUMN IN TYNONG

It’s not really fair. There’s so much press given to the others. Spring gets all the joy and newness poetry, Summer’s inevitably associated with good long holidays, and Winter, while it’s often painted as a bit dreary, has a monopoly on Christmas carols, at least. What happened to Autumn?

Ok, so there are a few songs (if you look hard enough in one of those old ‘Family Favourites’ songbooks) about Autumn Leaves and Autumn in New York, but that’s about it. It’s like the forgotten season. And rightly so, you may be thinking – after all, what on earth happens during autumn? Most of the plants die and it gets colder. That’s about it. And over here in Australia, the gum trees even stay a stubborn green, not having the decency to go a respectable orange, which our North American sisters were horrified to find out.

I would like to propose that Autumn be given good press – for once! – because all the seasons have something special about them, and when you get down to fundamentals, the reason we have seasons is because the good God made it that way and wanted to show us a little hint of Himself through them.



Now, seeing the significance of the passing seasons is pretty easy in the Northern Hemisphere because Easter goes with Spring up there: everything is new and reborn, and the newness that grows into the fullness of Summer parallels the story of the Apostles after Pentecost. But what about us, here Down Under? Does that mean our seasons are all back-to-front? Well, of course God doesn’t forget about His little Southern Hemisphere children, and our Autumn tells us about Him, if we only take the trouble to look.

First of all, the meaning of Our Lord’s “A little while and you shall not see Me, and again a little while and you shall see Me” resonates just that bit more when the flowers are saying farewell until spring, and the warm summer breezes are fading away. The now-chilly nights help us relate to the Apostles after the Ascension, when they were all huddled together in that Upper Room, feeling lonely and unsure.

But the Southern Hemisphere’s reversal of seasons means that we get Pentecost in our trees (if you ignore the stubborn green gums, of course!) Providentially, maples take to the soil very well around here, so we’re not completely destitute of the autumn colour experience – here’s proof!

The leaves even look like tongues of fire! And we have definitely been reminded of the ‘great wind’ that the Apostles never forgot. It even blew one of our the trees over.

And the fact that the red leaves crinkle up and drop off reminds us that the same thing happened to the tongues of fire. The Apostles only got to see them for a short while. But the most important part is that they were changed men for what had happened. They let God do His work within them, and so the Church was born. The little infant Church, whose Birthday really is Pentecost, after all, was very much like our plant-life in autumn and winter. There wasn’t much to see of the new Church, just like our threadbare trees in winter, and an awful lot of things had to die (think:martyrs) so that there could eventually be growth. So you can see that our autumn and winter are really very good reflections of what was happening to the Apostles and the early Church around Pentecost time and afterwards.

This season is also a gentle reminder of how we should be in our spiritual lives, too. While the trees are slowly dying, we could learn from them and die to ourselves that little bit more than we did last year, so that come Springtime, we can give more of ourselves to Him Who has, in actual fact, given us everything.



You may be wondering how you, too, can get in amongst this seasonal experience. Well, you could take our lead and go for a pleasant ramble through the woods. We’re very blessed over here in that there are woods in our back yard, complete with kangaroos and watering hole (and there are rumours from our more observant nature-loving sisters that there are echidnas too!) I would highly recommend it – the air temperature is just right this time of year, and the insects of the flying and biting variety have hidden themselves away.

I would also recommend taking along a four-legged friend for company, if you have the chance (isn’t she cute!)

The strong autumnal winds, of which we made mention above, did bring their own special gift to us. As our resident expatriate Milduran postulant says, “When the north winds blow, the gremlins grow!” And grow they did. Part of the house was transformed into a cold-and-flu ward for a few days, and here I’d like to say thank you to the kind person who was moved to donate us lemons, because this place was turned into a veritable honey-and-lemon-drink factory in a bid to triumph over the nasty viruses. It looks like we’re just about there; we finally had a full complement of sisters at recreation again last night! This is largely thanks to the well sisters (affectionately called the ‘wellies’, as opposed to the ‘sicklies’), who became nursing sisters for a few days, and I must say, as a ‘sickly’, did a terrific job. Thank you, sisters!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Upcoming Mission


DOMINICAN TRIP TO USA

June 2012

Kindly sponsored by a Generous Benefactor



Three Sisters from the Dominican Sisters of Wanganui

will be travelling to the United States in order to

attend the June ordinations and promote religious life.


ITINERARY


15th June, Ordinations at Seminary

16th-20th June - St Mary’s, Kansas

20th-23rd June - Phoenix, Arizona

23rd-28th June - San Jose, California


They will be

giving talks and presentations,

arranging Catechism lessons,

going on outings with young girls,

talking to girls/woman interested in entering the religious life.

St Dominic’s Convent - Term 1, 2012

TOUT EST GRĂ‚CE, is what we have been hearing again and again at our Spiritual Conferences lately. All is grace – whether it is opening the mail to find you have received a substantial grant for the school tempting one to dance all the way down the convent corridor alternating shouts of delight with side-kick leaps of joy or having to cope with printers not working, the network down and the telephone ringing non-stop at a time when you have to make an important deadline that just has to be thrown out the window. Yes, all is Grace. The key is to have a stable cheery disposition amid the storm and sunshine, knowing that God is in control of all things. We simply have to submit like warm wax in his hands, accepting the joys and sorrows, for the good of the Church, as God moulds us more and more into an image of himself.
So let me quickly summarise our time of grace during the first term here at St Dominic’s Convent, New Zealand.
Let us start with storms – literally. We had one great whopper during Lent. I have never experienced anything like it in all my many years in New Zealand. Heavy rain and very strong winds caused havoc all over the city. One morning, while the sisters, well - some sisters, were enjoying the contemplation of seventh heaven, they were immediately brought back down to earth by a large bang which seemed to be coming from one side of the chapel. Noticing it was our gutter hanging by a thread, “Mission-Save-Gutter” began. Two brave sisters, with a bit of string and heavenly determination had it fastened securely to our windows in no time. Scaffolding was erected at a later date, at which time we noticed our solar panels were on the brink of falling into our convent; Deo Gratias, both are now fixed.


One of our large & "ancient" trees was struck down during the storm


Then there were the many trips to the hospital as one poor sister had to undergo the surgeon’s knife. Although we do sorely miss our medical sisters who are now residing in Tynong - after the experience, we all now feel we have sufficient knowledge to graduate with a doctorate in medical science. I know all there is to know about pain-medications, short and long-lasting, and what to do in the event of a multitude of health problems.

On the Feast of St Thomas Aquinas we had the honour of attending and singing the Mass of Final Profession of one of our Third Order Tertiaries, Mr Guy Legrega (Brother Dominic in the Order). 


We have also been very fortunate to have received two big grants this year – one for new computers and the other for sports equipment, as well as receiving a surprise visit from a young pro-life group who travel around the world, singing and promoting Catholic family values. It was lovely to see some good Catholic youth, who were also wonderful choir singers, actually go out and do some good in the world. May God grant them the grace of a religious vocation!


Sisters with Pro-Life Group - who gave a presentation to the school


Just before Easter we had the pleasure of seeing Mother General again, who stayed with us to celebrate the joys of the Paschal season.  Spider webs were brushed away from every nook and cranny, shoes scrupulously polished and a cell prepared which would be fit for our busy Mother General and Foundress. The week Mother arrived we attempted (for the first time in the history of our congregation) singing Tenebrae according to the Dominican rite, (rather than assisting the priests, brothers and schola of the parish with the singing of the Roman rite) which includes the long but beautiful Prayer of Jeremiah as well as a beautiful Lenten-yet-heavenly ending. For those wondering what it entails, my lips are sealed – you’ll have to come and see for yourself.

Mother General addressing the students
Easter Gaudeamus
Now we are all enjoying the contemplative atmosphere of the convent during our two week break from school. One of our Dominican benefactors recently paid us a visit and donated a FIRST-CLASS relic of our Holy Father
St Dominic in a beautiful reliquary along with another one of St Catherine of Siena. When we heard what first class relics usually comprise of, faces moved a little closer to investigate and an interesting conversation followed with thoughts of “ewww” going across some sister’s minds. Nevertheless, we all foster secret hopes of one day having a proper chapel to put them in but when we hear of our postulants/novices sleeping in walk-in wardrobes/barns and cardboard rooms due to lack of room in Australia, our heart goes out to them and we pray that very soon, we will have proper Motherhouse. We unite with them in preparing for the upcoming Feast of Pentecost - imploring the Holy Ghost:
 
 
Come, O Creator Spirit blest!
And in our souls take up Thy rest
Come, with Thy grace and heavenly aid,
To fill the hearts which Thou hast made.

An article will be following soon by our Head of School about St Dominic’s COLLEGE - Term 1; She is enjoying an apostolic experience in New Caledonia at this present time. I would like to just end by mentioning two humorous anecdotes which brought a smile to all the Sisters during recreation one day.

Mother Mary Rose O.P



From Sr Jacinta – Standard 1&2 Catechism Class

Sister:  "What is the sixth commandment of the Church?"
Student: “The sixth commandment of the Church is to observe all the laws of the Church concerning marge.” (thou shalt not eat butter on thy toast, it is too expensive, only marge).

From Sr Madeleine – Suggestion submitted on paper by Form 1&2 Girls

"BEST FRIDAY TIMETABLE"
7:00am School Sung Mass, Morning Prayers
8:00am Breakfast for whole school with desks joined together
8:30am Music and Singing
10:15am Morning Tea followed by one hour of playtime
11:25am Physical Education for the whole school
12:55pm Lunch and Playtime
1:40pm Home Economics for the whole school
3:05pm Free Time
4:00pm Rosary
4:15pm Inter-house competitions for the whole school
5:30pm Do jobs (mop), pack bags
6:00pm Dinner with all the desks joined together
7:00pm Evening prayers and go home
                                     

 Signed: all the Form 1 & 2 students

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Easter Week at Rosary Convent, Tynong

It’s the same every year – Ash Wednesday comes along and one feels oneself girding the proverbial loins for a long, hard forty days. We want it to be the Best Lent We’ve Ever Done, and part of our soul shrinks from the task ahead. Passion Sunday feels like ages away from the joy and glory of Easter. But somewhat paradoxically, all of a sudden (even though it seemed like ages away at one point!), we find ourselves standing beside the Paschal Fire in the dark with a five-year-old’s excitement, because It’s Today!

What is not the same every year is spending Easter in a Convent for the first time. I shall only say that it is simply splendid and that you’ll just have to join the Order to find out more about it.

Easter Week, in this uplifted frame of mind, could only have been what it turned out to be: one of high adventure and survival against the odds. The latter sounds a little misplaced, you may think, but all shall be revealed in due course. For, you must understand, Sister-Teachers On Holiday From School have recharged their poor little school-worn batteries and can tackle just about anything.

Just about anything, this time around, came in the form of two major events: The Trip To The Dandenong Ranges and The Move. This may not sound like much, but the fact that all emerged relatively unscathed from both is where the real achievement lies.

I shall treat of The Trip first. This took careful planning, involving appraising scores of different bushwalking options. The Dandenong Ranges’ Olinda area managed to make the final cut, and it was there that we set out on Easter Thursday. This was after printing off relevant maps and guides, of course, to help us on our way, including the step-by-step directions kindly provided by Google Maps. The first small problem was that the postulant who printed off the maps (who shall remain unnamed) printed a ridiculously zoomed-out version, so that the path from Tynong to Mt Dandenong was a squiggle on a page. This was not identified as an issue until the first turn-off to the mountain was encountered. Or the roundabout containing the turn-off, at any rate. Exactly where to get off was unknowable from the information on the paper in front of Mother, and poor Sr Raymond (who had the unenviable task of piloting the van) was beset with suggestions as to what to do. Any driver knows how unwelcome that kind of scenario is. Anyway, after hauling the van through a couple of multiple-point turns after a couple of faulty decisions from the rabble in the back, we managed to find the right way, and set off again. All smiles.
I should mention here that there was a GPS available for the day, but the limits of its usefulness were defined when the GPS-bearer, at a particularly labyrinthine part of the journey, pronounced ‘Oh Dear’, which raised the blood pressure in the front seat about 50mmHg. The GPS, you see, needs to talk to the internet to produce a map and the internet, in amongst all of those trees and winding roads, falls in and out a bit. It fell out.



Despite these inconveniences, Mother Catherine still had the presence of mind to take a picture of the scenery on the way up...



We had a bit more trouble finding our way to Olinda, what with vague directions from Google Maps and the aforesaid lack of actual map detail. After a few wrong turns and a bit of narrow dirt-road time (which took us past two little boys whose eyes were practically falling out of their heads as we drove by), we were there at last! And worth waiting for, it certainly was.


Happy smiling faces: We’re THERE!!!

Setting off: Professed Sisters leading the way, of course.

A glimpse of the rare and elusive SisteriaRaymondii. Native to: USA (recently imported into Australia). Natural habitat: Dominican Convents (although it seems a tree-trunk might do for a cell in a pinch).

God must have wanted us to have a good time, because He gave us the most perfect weather day imaginable. The sky was clear, the air was fresh and cool, and it had just rained, so the watery bits of the park were in full swing. Whether or not you think (as Tolkien did) that the sound of naturally running water is a remnant of angelic music, it’s undeniable that there is nothing quite like it, especially when you’ve spent a few hours driving around to find it! The Tolkien imagery was quite prominent that day - we even had our own little staff-wielding escapee from his mythical world accompany us on our journey:


We had a picnic lunch in an absolutely idyllic spot – high on a hill (no lonely goatherds!) with a breathtaking view, discreetly screened from Other Picnickers by a row of thoughtfully planted trees. You could just about hear Julie Andrews up there.



After refuelling ourselves, we went for a walk through some more of the forest. It was surprisingly rainforest-y, with plenty of ferns in the undergrowth. It wouldn’t have surprised us much to see a dinosaur emerge from within.


Sadly, the day had to end some time, but even the end of the day had its own beauty, with the sun smiling goodbye to us through the foliage.


The other major event for the week was The Move, which – don’t be too hasty to jump to conclusions! – did not involve leaving 35 Granite Lane, but rather was an internal reshuffle of sorts. Rooms in the house were subdivided, furniture was hauled around, and the end product was that several inhabitants of the Barn were moved into the house, and some inhabitants of the house were reassigned to newly subdivided rooms, creating space for any New Postulants. (Nudge, nudge to those whom it is relevant!)

I must add here that the furniture hauling was probably ranked highest in terms of technical difficulty, with some items requiring up to 7 sisters, a dolly, a blanket and a screwdriver. An audio clip of the proceedings would go something like this: “One, two, three, uuup”, “Is your back ok??”, “Ooooh, OOOoooh – Stop! There’s a post in the way!”,“Hang on, hang on, we’re squashing her”, “Ouch!”, “You ok?”, “Yep, it was just my head”. I really don’t know how ants manage to carry however many times their own body weight on their backs. I certainly wish I could.

Mother Catherine reminded us at the start of the exercise that “if a Community can survive a Moving Day, it can survive anything!”, and I am happy to report that we survived with barely a scratch (I think the worst of the war wounds was a splinter or two), and with the good old joie de vivre well and truly intact.

And so passed Easter Week for the Dominicans in Tynong, who are refreshed and rejuvenated and – after proving themselves capable of surviving Moving Day – ready. Watch out, Term 2!