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.