Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Behold we bring you glad tidings

The Dominican Sisters of Wanganui joyously announce the following upcoming events:

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013
in Wanganui, NEW ZEALAND
Feast of the Patronage of Our Lady over the Dominican order

Sister Maria Swarupa (India)

Sister Marie Dominique (Colorado, United States)

Monday, January 6th, 2014
in Melbourne, AUSTRALIA
Feast of the Epiphany

Sister Mary Thomas (Kansas, United States)

Miss Beatriz Pina (Mexico)
Miss Anna Christen (Kansas,  United States)
Miss Cara Ruegg (Maryland, United States)
Miss Emilyn Ng (Singapore)

Please pray for many holy religious vocations

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Pilgrimage to the South Island: Day One: Across the Seas

One book which will always have a special place in our convent library is Star of the South by Sister Mary Augustine O.P.  After reading it in the refectory on more than one occasion, it inspired us to take a voyage this September to the South Island during our recent school holidays. Our mission: to visit all the places which were once upon a time, not so long ago, hives of Dominican life and fruit for NZ. We wanted to re-trace the steps taken by our Holy Foundress, Mother Mary Gill O.P. who at the age of 16, left the world to eventually come to Dunedin in 1886 as the first superior and plant the first Dominican seed under the guidance of the saintly Bishop Moran. From Dunedin many other convents, schools, boarding schools and hostels were established in other parts of the South Island and it was to these places that we wished to visit.
Early Monday morning, 2nd September, saw us all lined up in a big red transit van to take the rather impressive looking ferry Santa Regina to cross the Cook Strait. Our thoughts turned to what it must have been like on the voyage all those years ago for the pioneer Sisters, some of whom were very young, and who ventured from Ireland across unknown and dangerous seas to a foreign country considered to be full of cannibals. What must they have suffered? What delights must they have seen? For the nature–loving Sisters it was a trip of a lifetime as many a plea was sent up to Heaven during the three and a half hour voyage to ask for something to come out of that vast ocean – perhaps a whale, or a dolphin, or a great white shark or an orca. God’s choice - ONE PLAYFUL SEAL. But, never to be outdone in generosity, He kindly acquiesced by providing us with a whole colony to admire along the East Kaikoura Coast.

Safely on land again, we were directed to the Selby residence in Blenheim where we enjoyed a gourmet dinner, which gave us more than enough strength to reach Christchurch and meet Father Bochkoltz, who was to say a 7pm Mass for us and accompany us on our journey as our Chaplain.

Pilgrimage to the South: Day Two: Timaru, Oamaru, Teschemakers, Dunedin

 Another early morning on Tuesday, we headed for Timaru where we visited the beautiful Sacred Heart Basilica and were lucky enough to find tables of books which were free for the taking. Our Sister Librarian quickly jumped into action and with a quick eye pounced on some good authors such as Garrigou-Lagrange, while leaving more modern ones in their places.


Next was a visit to Oamaru where we had the opportunity to visit what was once Rosary Convent and the beautiful marble church just next door. Now a rest-home, we were welcomed most generously by the Manager who kindly provided some refreshments for us. We toured around and from a plan in the foyer, managed to work out what each room would have been used for. Some Sisters practised gliding down the beautiful wooden staircases (one was reserved for the Sisters, while the other was for boarders) and others investigated all the nooks and crannies within the building while saying hello to the elderly residents at the same time. The Chapel was our greatest delight. Religious remnants were still there for viewing, including the marble altar and four choir stalls. We tested the acoustics and planned to sing a Salve Regina in every Dominican Church/Chapel for the Building of our Motherhouse, Rosary Convent and our own apostolate. The Chapel was being used as a library and to our glee there were many good books for sale including a lot of Dominican treasures. The Manager told us we could take what we wanted……so…..not one to hold back…we quickly leapt into action. Some Sisters stayed at the van to re-organise the luggage so as to fit as many books as we could, while others scanned the library with a fine-tooth comb. Book after book was carried to 'Sister Packer' and thankfully two guardian angels arrived in the form of two Mormons who helped to transport loads of books from the Chapel to Big Red as we nicknamed our vehicle.


 A little later and a little heavier, we were on our way to Teschemakers, which was once upon a time a thriving Dominican Boarding school out in the country, approximately 15min from Oamaru. Ten minutes into our journey we were met with an obstacle – a flooded dip in the road which appeared to be quite deep. Thankfully, our self-sacrificing Padre leapt into action, and for years to come we will have the image embedded in our memories of Father leaping out of the van and wading through the cold water to make sure it was not too deep for the engine. Father safely on board again and presented with towels with which to dry his purpled feet, we arrived at our destination. The owner, Joy Murdoch, generously gave of her time to show us around, the building being now used as a wedding and conference centre. Although the rooms now looked very chic, we were able to again imagine what it must have been like back in the days when some students came to school by horse. What stories the walls could have told us. The kitchen was truly a sight with all utilities being ten times the usual size to cater for large groups. The Chapel of course was the cream of the cob, with Dominican Saints portrayed in stained-glassed windows, a tiered choir loft which was accessible from what must have been the infirmary and which is now a wedding suite and we gaped in admiration and longing at the beautiful white marble altar. The acoustics there were just magnificent and we all felt like bundling everything up and taking it back to Wanganui. If only! Needless to say, many a happy hour was spent here and we arrived late in Dunedin for an evening Mass and another delicious heart-warming meal provided by the Wansink family.





Pilgrimage to the South Island: Day Three: Lawrence, Cromwell and Queenstown

Wednesday it was off to visit the Convent and School in Queenstown. On the way we stopped at Lawrence to visit St Patrick's Church and the Dominican convent which was situated just behind it. Now a private residence we were unable to explore quite as thoroughly as the previous day but we were able to explore the Church. Next stop was Cromwell to visit the Church of the Irish Martyrs which included a glorious drive along the beautiful Lake Wakatipu, which was used to transport the Sisters to their destinations in the early days. As we went from place to place Sister Reader gave us excerpts from the Star of the South so we were able to familiarise ourselves with each place before we got there. Back in the day, Sisters for the Queenstown Convent arrived by boat and were greeted with the town band playing lively airs, local dignitaries welcoming them to the town, the faithful and children carrying lanterns. Other foundations didn’t start off quite so well; one tale included the Sisters turning up a week before they were apparently expected and they had to be whisked off for a day at the beach while the embarrassed Bishop made temporary arrangements for them.


The Queenstown Convent, School and Church were heavenly and matched the stunning surroundings. Snowy mountains, green forests and clear blue lakes wherever you turned. The Sisters must have been very content with their location, for the views from the convent were spectacular. We were able to visit the Church, named in honour of St Joseph, and the School, which to our delight was preparing a play on Mother Gill for her anniversary. Teachers were amazed to see us and thought their pupils had dressed up ahead of time for it. They were kind enough to show us around the convent which was being used as a storeroom for the school and the more adventurous pupils ventured to come up and introduce themselves. Late evening saw us driving back to Dunedin to enjoy another delicious meal cooked by our host Mrs Best, who kindly put her whole home at our disposal.



Pilgrimage to the South Island: Day Four: Milton, Invercargill and Bluff

Early Thursday morning we set off for Milton on our way to Invercargill. This was a most wonderful spot and was well worth the time we spent there. We met an ex-pupil who is currently the secretary for the Principal. Both were delighted to see us and it was wonderful to see that they were trying to keep their Dominican heritage. There were pictures of St Dominic up, as well as old pictures of the founding Sisters in the front foyer. We were shown the old church which was used by the Sisters as a church/school and included some old furnishings, as well as the new Church, which was dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. Our guide gave us great delight as all the stories from the past came back to her. She showed us the side chancel were the Sisters used to hear Mass, the old confessional, the old convent and gave us many insights into life as a pupil at that time. Apparently when working the Sisters used to hoist their habits up and tuck them into their belts to keep them from getting dirty and when Mother General came on visitation all the students would line up to give her posies and for their efforts would get a day off the next day.  All students were amazed at the hard work done by the small communities of Sisters, some of whom were only teenagers at the time – they taught, they prayed, they tended the garden, they cleaned, they cooked, they organised fundraisers. The Principal then asked us to visit the school so we made our way from classroom to classroom, giving small talks, answering questions and singing songs. We were most impressed with the children who were very polite, well behaved and well receptive to us.


Next it was on to Invercargill where we first paid a visit to Calvary Hospital to visit two Dominican Sisters still in habit – Sr Eugene O.P. and Sr Gertrude O.P. A pleasant time was spent there singing songs and catching up on news and then it was on to St Catherine’s Convent which unfortunately had been turned into a student hostel. There were also two other Convents in Invercargill - St Albert’s and St Bertrand’s but sadly they no longer exist. Next it was on to Bluff where we paid a visit to St Mary Star of the Sea and had a little adventure of our own. Owing to a lack of time and our need to be back in Dunedin for evening Mass, we leisurely made a u-turn on a grassy patch of field and unfortunately, forgetful of the added weight, the result was we found ourselves stuck in the mud. To cut a long story short, a guardian angel came in the form of a farmer driving a tractor, providentially with a big chain, and we were rescued from our plight. We venture to say we left our mark on Bluff.


Pilgrimage to the South Island: Day Five: Dunedin

On Friday, the second to last day of our journey, we were able to spend time in Dunedin, the city where the seed was first sown.  We were able to visit the Dominican Cathedral and Chapel, St Dominic’s Priory, the old Novitiate, Aquinas Hall, Bishop Moran’s tomb, the steepest street in the world and Santa Sabina which was a retirement convent for elderly nuns and is now a series of private apartments. The manager of the establishment kindly showed us what she could. It was sad to see the church now being used as an in-house cinema and what used to be the laundry as a gym, sauna and spa area. It was quite an eye opener for all of us and brought tears to our eyes to think of all these beautiful old Dominican buildings just going to ruin or being used for other secular purposes when they could have still been places of much fruit for the Church.



Friday afternoon we bade farewell to the sights of Dunedin with all its steep hills and by Saturday we were heading back home, counting the many blessings God had bestowed on us during the trip and we thanked God for all the benefactors that had made it possible. We learnt a lot from our pilgrimage down South and hope Mother Mary Gill O.P. and all the Dominican Sisters whose fruitful work we saw, will continue to look favourably upon our apostolate as we continue the good work they started. Who knows, maybe in the not too distant future, God-willing,  we may be reading a continuation of a Star in the South. Salve Regina, mater misericordia!


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

St Dominic's Cupcake Competition

Some weeks ago, the front veranda of Saint Dominic’s College became a street of stylish cafes. There was something to suit every taste, and as the choice might prove overwhelming, we appointed a panel of three discriminating food critics to visit the three restaurants and give us their report.

First visited was the Snowflake Café. A breath of wintry air seemed to greet the visitors as the cool whites and blues of the décor surrounded them and snowflakes hanging from the ceiling blew in the breeze of their entrance. A tiered tray of polar-bear cupcakes, besides contributing to the winter-wonderland theme, tempted the appetite as the bears’ cute faces seemed to be made of a soft creamy icing. But the proof is in the pudding, and in fact the inside was as good as the outside—a light and feathery crumb, rich in white chocolate and macadamia but not too sweet. With its atmosphere of understated elegance and top-quality baking, the Snowflake is the gourmet’s choice among the Saint Dominic’s Ave. cafes.

Moving from the cold polar snows to sun and sand, our tasters next visited Beachy Bliss, which proclaimed its vibrant yet relaxing atmosphere with Spanish-Celtic fusion background music, colourful beach towels and surfboards decorating the walls, and a waitress also decorated with a beach towel—worn on her head! The cupcakes here were served in ice-cream cones and iced to look—and taste—like various flavours of ice cream. The sweetness was overpowering, especially when combined with the very sweet chocolate milkshakes served—one rather wanted something like unsweetened iced tea! But with its colourful surroundings and light-hearted, outgoing staff, Beachy Bliss can be highly recommended to lighten the heart of any guest, most especially one with a sweet tooth.

Last but not least, our tasters came to the Swinging Singing Duck. The swinging sign outside the door featured a duck with an umbrella, in the style of an American cartoon or musical, but the music that met the ears was Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. This delightful mix of classic and quirky elements was in evidence throughout the café; the cupcakes were chocolate with royal icing, but the latter was shaped into jumping frogs or swimming ducks; the walls were hung with graceful old-gold damask draperies and a landscape painting was centred on one wall, but raindrops, dragonflies and umbrellas hung from the ceiling and a singing, swinging duck was the centrepiece of the cupcake table. For an atmosphere that is at once elegant and homelike and cupcakes like Mum used to make—with a twist—our readers are advised to visit the Singing, Swinging Duck.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Religious Riddle

My first is in the book from which the Sisters sing Office.

 My second is in the name given to the kind of Sister who has taken vows.

My third is in the part of the Habit which was given to Blessed Reginald by Our Lady herself.

My fourth is in the word that completes this oft-quoted definition: “A novice is a creature who breaks crockery, spills oil and __________________.” (This definition is truer than you would imagine.)

My whole is responsible for maintaining regular observance in the Community, and yet I cannot speak by myself.

Who am I???

[Answer in next edition :) ]

Monday, July 22, 2013

As Stars for All Eternity

Address to parents on July 17, 2013

With the feast of Our Holy Father St. Dominic around the corner I wish to begin my talk tonight by recalling the shining example he gave to us his daughters, which we endeavour to follow in the education of your children.

          At his baptism, Saint Dominic’s godmother saw a star shining on his forehead, symbolising the light and guidance he would give to the world.

          Part of our school’s mission, as stated in the handbook, is to prepare “the Catholics of the future” who will “lead their fellow citizens to the Church and to eternal life.” Like Saint Dominic, they must be stars helping sailors to find their way at sea.

          A star attracts by its beauty and guides by its position. We want our girls’ lives to shine with the virtues and traditions that are lost to the modern world, and we want their souls to be fully oriented towards God, the pole around which all must revolve, so as to guide others to Him. This is how they will be stars, like Saint Dominic, to guide the world.

          Among the traditions which the world often disregards are languages, music and the feminine skills of sewing and cooking. Learning different languages reminds the girls that they are part of the Catholic, which means universal, Church by giving them a connection with other members of the mystical body both in heaven and on earth.  For example, on their trip to New Caledonia this year the IGCSE French class were able both to sing Gregorian chant in Latin, now seldom heard even in Catholic countries, and also to speak French with other traditional Catholics. 

          Through monitoring our pupils’ book-work and diary keeping, and by activities such as the upcoming cooking and craft competitions we encourage the girls to develop the skills necessary to create an ordered, bright and beautiful home, the building block of society, which depends on the mother for its survival. We want the girls to take pride in their work, to be able to organise themselves and keep things in order, to use their imagination and sense of beauty to make a happy home for themselves and others. We are also working towards fostering responsibility, generosity and selflessness among the girls through the exercise of team spirit, leadership and co-operation in these inter-house competitions.  Membership in the Children of Mary Sodality and participation in its various activities will also help in this regard.

          We do need to find the balance between the physical and the spiritual, the formation of the body and the soul.  We have two netball teams entered in the inter school competitions this year and the girls are on a fitness regime each lunch time.  The girls are coming second in their respective grades which is a good achievement.  We have also had inter-house competitions in netball and tabloid sports this year so the body is not being neglected.

          Another opportunity for physical exercise for the girls is the yearly summer camp. It is of course also a part of their spiritual formation and it is because we are emphasising the importance of generosity and zeal that a missionary theme has been chosen for the camp and some of our upcoming inter-house competitions.  This year also marks the 175th anniversary of Catholicism in New Zealand so it all ties in perfectly.  The visits of the respective sights where Bishop Pompallier worked and lived will put into perspective what each one of them has been learning about him in class and help them to trace the roots of their faith in their beautiful homeland. 

          We have also chosen St Kateri Tekakwitha as our patroness as she was a young woman who modelled the virtues of love of God and neighbour, humility, obedience, patience, purity, and the spirit of sacrifice.  Like Father Bochkoltz said in his sermon on Sunday “We need the spirit of sacrifice in our youth to change the world”.  We hope that through the talks and activities on camp the girls will further develop these qualities.   A lot of work is put into making the camp an occasion of many graces, so the girls should be encouraged to come and should make every effort to avail themselves of this opportunity.  We have arranged for the camp to be straight after school ends, so all the girls should be able to attend, including those from outside of Wanganui.  There are many places that do not have such a grace, and we hope that the girls appreciate the time and effort given by the priests and sisters for this event which is geared solely towards their character formation.  For your information the camp costs can be covered by chocolate selling so money should not be an issue and the worries of too much travelling can be allayed as the majority of the camp will be spent at our camp site at Thames in the Coromandel area.

As Mother Mary Micaela constantly tells us, we must always go forward.  So where are we heading in the future…

          To start off I would just like to give you an update from our novitiate in Tynong, Australia.  Currently we have 5 postulants, 4 canonical novices and 2 second year novices who are all working towards gaining an internationally recognised teaching qualification through our very own teachers’ college which we have been able to establish there – the only Traditional Catholic Teachers’ College in the world.  This has been a miraculous achievement and will be very beneficial for the future; already we have postulants lined up for next year, including our first very own “kiwifruit” from the school, Miss Smith.
          Last month we had a young lady from America stay to help us for a month and today, a 15 year old Swiss girl arrived to spend six weeks with us improving her English. She is a pupil at a Dominican School in France. Like our voyage to New Caledonia, this is an opportunity for the girls to learn the reality of the Communion of Saints: that Catholics everywhere are one body and share a common culture, expressed in different ways.

          We have more boarders coming next year which means we will have to apply for a formal  Boarding House license, whereas so far, we have only been able to offer what they call “homestay” accommodation.

          English is being improved in both schools by the introduction of a more thematic approach at the junior levels. This approach incorporates the study of poetry, novels, and plays chosen for the noble ideas and examples of virtue expressed therein. Grammar, spelling and writing are studied not in isolation, but in relation to these literary texts and themes. This summer, Sister Mary Jacinta will visit the Dominican Sisters at Post Falls, Idaho and the Society school at St Mary’s, Kansas, to tap into their curriculum and take what is useful from them to incorporate into our methods here. 

          Next year, we also hope to introduce compulsory summer reading to increase the pupils’ desire for this pastime.  We endeavour to give the girls more ideas of suitable leisure activities as it is evident that some of them are spending too much time in front of the television and computer screen, which is not only harmful for the brain but also inculcates false ideals and bad examples—thus undoing the work we are trying to accomplish with the English curriculum and in fact, through all of our teaching.

          Another landmark in our English programme is that we have entered the Form 3's and 4's in the National Spelling Bee and were informed last week that two girls have made the regionals, which will take place in Wellington on August 19th.

          Father Fullerton pointed out on his recent visit that music is an important element of a child’s formation. On her recent trip to the States, Mother Mary Rose spoke with Dr Childs of St Mary’s in Kansas, gathered resources and is working towards reforming our Music curriculum. The new curriculum will be run throughout the primary and secondary schools to encourage the pupils to better their musical abilities, both in singing and in playing musical instruments. It will also include the study of the history of music.

          Mother Mary  Rose is hoping to have little concerts at the end of each term for the pupils to perform in, and is working on increasing their repertoire of religious and folk songs to give the girls an appreciation of beautiful music. As a first step, a St Dominic’s College choir has been formed this year of Sisters, pupils and ex pupils. We have also had our annual music competition which as always was much enjoyed by the judge, Mrs Ennis, as well as by pupils, parents and staff. Many pupils also choose to be involved in external music lessons and activities, and among them this year one is competing for a music scholarship and another will perform in a Piano Competition tomorrow.  The girls will also be visiting the Broadview Rest home early August to sing some of the folk songs that they have learnt this year to the elderly.

          We are also working on other subject areas. We intend to continue entering our students in the US National Latin Exam, which our girls sat for the first time this year, with two receiving gold medals, one silver, and several commendations. We are looking into purchasing new geography books with a focus on God’s physical world, the science department has received a $200 grant for new equipment, and a benefactor has kindly offered to pay for some Sisters to travel overseas during our holidays to receive help from the Dominican Sisters there in their particular fields.   

         Bishop Moran, who brought the first Dominican Sisters to New Zealand in 1871, wanted them “to enrich the people, in the midst of the ephemeral, constantly changing patterns of life today, with the religious and cultural life of the old world, and encourage them to hold fast to the traditions which have proved so valuable in the past.” Like him, we want our children to learn the faith and the cultural traditions of their ancestors which are even less appreciated today than in the 19th century. We are searching far and wide for traditional materials—books, songs, craft projects and more—which will help us to form souls in the traditional spirit of the Catholic Church. In this way, they will be able to instruct the rest of the world, and as the Holy Ghost said in Ecclesiastes, “Those who instruct others to justice will shine like stars for all eternity.”  May St Dominic be our star and our guide and make us his faithful daughters.