Friday, September 18, 2015

The Southern Star - Winter Issue Online

Dear Friends and Benefactors,
The crisp morning air and frost-laden grass may seem to suggest that winter is quite determined to have a longish stay here in Tynong. Still, the presence of a newly-born calf prancing around in the paddock opposite the Convent and the flurry of nest-building by our feathered friends in the neighbourhood are reminders that Spring is just round the corner!

Before spring does descend upon us however, we are glad to announce that the winter issue of our newsletter, The Southern Star, is now available online, with a special feature depicting the sunnier side of life in the Convent. Do click on the cover page to access the PDF copy of the newsletter. Enjoy reading!

If you would like to e-subscribe and receive the newsletter on a regular basis, do send us a request at astarinthesouth@gmail.comOur postal address is in the newsletter if you prefer a hard copy.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Out of the Winter Silence

The solemn and fog-like silence that has settled over the Wanganui community through the bleak winter months may have lead some of our readers to imagine that the sisters in New Zealand had decided to hibernate during this cold season. Though it was tempting, this has not been the case. Our taciturnity has been more due to over-action than inaction. We have been as busy as…summer bees…in winter! But now that the long-awaited holidays are here, we have time to take a leisurely look back over the past season and recount for you some of its main events.

The first month of winter was fairly uneventful; that is, it certainly held events like mid-year examinations, piles of marking, mounds of report writing and torrents of inquiries from the pupils as to whether or not they had passed – but these are all standard events. We were proud to see some of the pupils who had put in their best during the first half of the year have their efforts rewarded with academic ties which were distributed at one of our Monday morning assemblies. 

From there we quickly pass on to July, a month which marked a special page in the life of the Children of Mary Sodality here in Wanganui: its ten year anniversary. Such a milestone had to be given a special celebration, behind which there was much planning, preparation and cooperation. 

Almost all members of the sodality were able to gather together at a local hall for an evening of memories, games, songs, fun and feasting. May Our Lady continue to watch over her children and the good work they do in our parish.

June, July…August came next! And August can only mean one thing: Saint Dominic’s Day. Many a sister surely had been keeping in mind that well-known truism of Mother General’s: If you can survive until Saint Dominic’s Day, you can survive the rest of the year. The great feast day, and the encouraging fact that we had survived to see it, was heralded not by trumpets, but by the sweet tone of our new bell, which was found for us in Europe by our parish priest and fixed onto the exterior wall of the boarding school entrance on the very eve of Saint Dominic’s feast day, so that its ringing (though at that stage still a little uncoordinated, the bell-ringer yet in need of some practice) for First Vespers announced that the feast day had arrived.

Like the Sisters at Rosary Convent, we too sang First Vespers in the church with our pupils, the brothers and the officiating priest. After the Rosary we headed back to the boarding school, to the quaint little “alfresco” arrangement under the carport – the only space that was undercover and large enough to seat the sisters, priests, brothers and approximately thirty girls! The blue tarpaulin and fairy-lights gave it a pleasant atmosphere and we there enjoyed our pizza, salads and dessert.

In remembrance of the thoughtful gift Saint Dominic made to his sisters, our guests were bequeathed with small, personalised wooden spoons…though they were to be kept more for their aesthetic and sentimental value than for practical purposes…unlike St Dominic’s wooden spoons, we’re sure. He no doubt didn’t have to tell his sisters, “Now don’t use these spoons to eat with – they’re only souvenirs!” as Mother had to several times remind the young (and not so young) recipients.

No Saint Dominic’s Day would be complete without the traditional game of Spotlight, so after dinner the girls eagerly ventured out into the dark field to see if they could find their way to the fortress (and the chocolate treasure it held) without being identified and thrown into “jail”. After a few more indoor games we ended the evening suitably by singing Compline with the girls. On the actual day of the feast the sisters attended the school Mass with the secondary boys and girls and afterwards entertained our tertiary members, friends, benefactors and former pupils with a brunch, towards the close of which the weather turned quite dismal. By the afternoon the rain had set in well and truly and we were denied the satisfaction of what was sure to be a sweet victory over the school netballers we had intended to play (and beat) that afternoon. To this day the match has not yet taken place, being postponed to an indefinite date; but fate cannot be avoided – sooner or later our opponents will have to face their fears, and we will be sure to make known to our readers the glad tidings of our victory as soon as it is in our possession. Thus, with no netball game to raise our heart-rate and zap our energy, the feast day ended with a tranquillity that, though uncustomary, was not unwelcome.

Fortunately most of our school girls had not yet succumbed to the winter ills that were, and in fact still are, in circulation, for their voices and high spirits were needed for the Inter-house Music Competition that was held mid-August at the local Girls College hall. The three school houses competed against one another in a competition that had Australia and New Zealand as its theme. Each house had to present a team piece, a test piece and also submit entries for the senior and junior instrumental categories. The judge overall was impressed with the quality of the girls’ voices and their musicianship, and the final results show how close the houses are in their musical skills – the two houses Bologna and Prouille tied for first place, while Calaroga was only just behind. 

But the evening of entertainment did not end there! After a short intermission the Form 3 and 4 girls performed for their small audience Shakespeare’s Macbeth, which was, in spite of a few hiccups, giggles and lost lines, a pleasing success, making us very proud of the fine abilities of the girls, and caused not a few of us to start thinking about next year’s performance.

It seemed that the whole school breathed a sigh of relief after that concert, which had required so much planning and practice, and let down its defence system, for the influenza hit us hard and the many casualties, affecting the whole school, caused us to have to postpone the annual fundraiser, once more a Bike-a-thon. A week later than the initial date, then, the sisters and pupils who were still healthy jumped onto their bikes and peddled in circles for an hour, in an attempt to help out our school finances. Those who had per lap pledges were enthused to make as many laps as they could, and also to try to beat last year’s record of laps – this year one of our year 10 girls made the record, achieving 111 laps in an hour, and still remaining standing afterwards.

The Bike-a-thon marked the end of another lap of school, and the beginning of the next part of the cycle – holidays. May God, Who has so generously granted to us a busy and fruitful term, see fit to help sisters and pupils alike rejuvenate and recreate ourselves so that we are fit and ready to hop back on our bikes and cycle “onwards and upwards” in the last term of the year.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

St Dominic's Day as seen through the eyes of First Year Novices

  These joyful verses are taken from the First Vespers of the Feast of our Holy Father St. Dominic. This was the first time in the history of St. Thomas Aquinas College that the girls of grades seven to grade twelve were invited to celebrate St. Dominic’s Day with the Sisters. Students and Sisters were very excited! 

We began the St. Dominic Day festivities by filling the newly remodelled college chapel with our joyful singing of First Vespers, followed by praying the rosary - the special prayer and weapon given to St. Dominic by Our Lady. Now it was on to games, dancing, and prizes!

After First Vespers, the Sisters and girls wasted no time in heading to the indoor gym where pizzas and desserts (in the hundredfold) were awaiting. After this hearty meal, Mother Mary Rose assumed the role of MC and organised the girls and Sisters into 10 teams. We started with a ‘meet and greet’ barn dance with Sister Mary Anna providing lovely music with her violin. After burning some of the calories from dinner, we formed a large circle to play the ‘chocolate game’. In this game, the person who rolls a six on the die, rushes into the middle of the circle, dresses up in a wig, glasses and a rather odd nose(!). They then endeavour to cut a piece of chocolate with a knife and fork (no fingers allowed!) and carefully carry it to their team’s bowl. In the meantime, the die is being passed around the circle until someone else rolls a six. Not much chocolate found its way to the bowls but good laughs were enjoyed by all, especially to see the Sisters wearing the ridiculous glasses and nose! This game was possibly the highlight of the night, with a balloon game and a three-legged race following. Father Fortin came to watch the fun and even joined in the last game of the night: a very intense version of ‘musical chairs’. The points of each team were totalled and chocolate prizes given, even to the last runner up! Exhausted but quite satisfied with their first experience of St Dominic’s Day festivities, the girls posed for a large group photo before heading home to recuperate for the netball game the next day!

Last year, the first Sisters vs. students netball game was played at Saint Thomas Aquinas College on St. Dominic’s Day, in accordance with an ‘old’ Dominican tradition. The result of this first match was a draw. This year each side was determined to win! Played in the multi-purpose hall, the game was intense. So was the noise. The whole Girls' School came along to cheer on the students while most of the primary school turned up to cheer on the Sisters. The scores ran fairly even for the first two quarters and then the Sisters began to pull ahead. I must state here and now that we had a most fantastic goal shooter! 

The teams were pretty even, I believe, judging by the way the ball had a tendency to change sides all the time, meaning you had to do a quick about turn on the slippery court to keep up – but once we got the ball to the circle, it was an almost certain goal! Sister Mary of Compassion, unfazed by tall, energetic and experienced GK’s and GD’s, popped that ball in from anywhere in the circle! She was the player of the day! The last quarter was very intense, each side being determined to make it count. The final score was 22-16 to the Sisters! But the girls got the sweets and chocolates. It was a very good game and was enjoyed by everyone, players and onlookers alike.

And last but not least, we had the great pleasure of welcoming two new members to our Dominican family. The small Tertiary ceremony commenced with the singing of II Vespers and the recitation of the Holy Rosary; whereupon the Postulants carrying lighted candles proceeded to the Communion rail and humbly asked to be accepted into the Order. They were then girded with the cord of St. Thomas, received the scapular of the 3rd order and the blessing of Holy Mother Church. The new Novices were then bestowed with their new names as children of St. Dominic and the ceremony fittingly concluded with the singing of the Te Deum.

Afterward a small supper and good chat was had by all and thus another St. Dominic’s day has come and gone. May our heavenly Patron and Holy Father St. Dominic grant us all many graces through the coming year.

Te Deum Laudamus, Te Dominium Confitemur!