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.

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