There are two houses:
St Dominic's convent is situated in the town of Wanganui, in the North Island of New Zealand.
The town of Wanganui
Rosary Convent is situatted in Tynong in the state of Victoria, Australia.
Sisters from the first convent established in New Zealand
Although our Congregation is small and situated “at the end of the world” it has a proud history. We can trace our ancestry back to the first convent founded by St Dominic, as the result of a sign from God, at Prouille in Southern France in 1206. In 1644, the English being occupied with their own troubles, it was thought a good time to establish a Dominican Convent in Ireland. Nuns from Prouille went to Galway and established a flourishing convent. Despite the persecutions of the next few years, the necessity of running away to Spain from time-to-time, the need to live disguised as widowed school-teachers, and great poverty, foundations were made elsewhere in Ireland. The Convent from which we trace our ancestry was at Sion Hill in Dublin.
It was in Dublin that the Sisters, hitherto Contemplatives, took up teaching in order to support themselves in a very difficult situation. As a consequence of the Penal Laws in Ireland and the Napoleonic Wars on the Continent, the Dominican Friars were almost extinct, and were of no support to the Nuns. Also the many years of fines and persecution had made the Irish so poor they could not support the nuns and young Irishwomen who had an education which would fit them for the Dominicans were few. Also, the passing of the Catholic Emancipation Act had led to a pressing need for Catholic Schools. From this taking on of school-teaching, and passing for a time under the control of the Bishop of Dublin in the absence of the Friars, arose confusion over whether the nuns of Sion Hill, and their daughter-houses, were Second Order or Third Order Regular. Rome in recent years has dealt with the Sion Hill Nuns as Third Order but the foundations from Dublin are very proud of their Second Order heritage, and loath to give it up. From this heritage we get our devotion to saying the full Divine Office our wearing of the cappa, our Enclosure, our Silence, our devotion to Study, and other rules and customs.
Sion Hill made foundations in South Africa, the United States, and Dunedin, New Zealand. It is from the Dunedin foundation that the Dominican Sisters of Wanganui come. Our superior, Mother Mary Micaela, one of the Dunedin Sisters, was forced to live at a distance from her Congregation because she would not go along with the modernism that was taking over. She eventually came to the SSPX parish in Wanganui, where Fr Gentili had been praying for a nun to start a secondary school. While teaching in Wanganui in the schools run by the Society of St Pius X, Mother was joined by two postulants. Others gradually came and Bishop Fellay agreed to give our Congregation the status of a Congregation of diocesan right with himself as ecclesiastical superior and the local prior as his representative. The congregation has continued to grow, and at the moment there are 27 Sisters (18 professed, 7 novices and 2 postulants).
St Anthony's parish
The Sisters are fortunate in having the protection and help of the Priests of the Society.
The Society of St Pius X runs both a Primary and Secondary School within Wanganui,
in which the Sisters teach.
Links: Traditional Dominicans
We also have a good relationship with other Dominican congregations, especially the Dominican Sisters of Fanjeaux, whose habit we have adopted and from whom we receive help and encouragement. Two of our Sisters visited several Dominican Convents in France and America last January, and Sr Mary of the Cross (one of the Fanjeaux Sisters in Post Falls, Idaho) visited us earlier this year. Our links with other traditional groups, especially other Dominican congregations, are important to our sense of a religious family, and they also provide a means for securing books and music for the Dominican Liturgy.
.Our Sisters have varied backgrounds, having come from New Zealand,
Australia, India, South Africa, America, Canada, Singapore, Samoa and the Philippines.
St Dominic’s College & camp; St Anthony's School, St Thomas Aquinas College
In our daily life we aim to fulfil that traditional Dominican formula coined by St Thomas: to contemplate and to give to others the fruit of contemplation. For, on the one hand, we are bound to the recitation of all the hours of the Divine Office in choir, which we regard as our primary work and our most efficient means of attaining our end, as well as two periods of meditation a day, the Rosary, and Spiritual Reading. And on the other hand, all the Sisters are involved in the work of teaching, either of the children in St Anthony's Primary School or of the secondary-aged girls of St Dominic's College and at St Thomas Aquinas College. The novices in their canonical year of formation do not teach, however.
Study, Silence, Enclosure
We also aim to hold to the traditional Dominican characteristics of study, the practice of poverty, the silence and enclosure, early rising, and certain days of fasting and abstinence. Like all Dominicans, the Sisters study all their lives. Some religious study is done with Mother and some with the Priests of the Society of St Pius X, however, the Sisters are expected to continually and regularly study by themselves the Scriptures, the teachings of St Thomas Aquinas, and the history of the Dominican Order. They are also expected to obtain or maintain a sufficient level of Latin that will enable them to read and understand the Gospels and the Breviary. We also study in order to gain the background to teach secular subjects in the school and to gain teaching qualifications.
You may wonder how it is possible to keep the silence and enclosure when we are involved in running a school. During the day we observe the Mitigated Silence in which we may speak if necessity or our work demands it, however, silence is always observed at mealtimes in the refectory, and in the evening during the Grand Silence, which extends from after Compline until after Mass the next morning. With regards to the enclosure, we are permitted to leave the grounds of the Convent for certain reasons, for example: to run children’s camps, for shopping, or on a outing with the community or with immediate family for the purpose of recreation.
Daily Timetable (during the school year)
5.40 Lauds, Prime, Pretiosa
8.40 School, Novitiate lectures or assignments
12.00 Spiritual Reading
1.30 School or Novitiate Duties
5.00 Vespers and Rosary
9.15 Lights Out
When a young woman first arrives at the Convent she becomes a postulant. Postulancy is a period of time which intervenes between the acceptance of a person into religion and the beginning of the novitiate, and during which the young woman is initiated into religious life.
Postulants need to be at least eighteen years of age, of sound physical and mental health, and having the capacity to teach and study. Our constitutions strictly forbid the acceptance of anyone who is unable to read, those with notable deformities of body or with exceptional defects of character.
The entry date for postulants is usually (not necessarily) during January. The postulancy has a duration of between six to twelve months, ending prior to the reception of the habit in January. Postulants do some study as well as taking classes.
A period of pre-postulancy may be required if aspirants are under eighteen years old, if they have language difficulties or if they need extra time to adjust to religious life. Both postulants and pre-postulants wear a simple attire consisting of a black skirt and white blouse.
After the postulancy comes the Novitiate, that period of time given to a candidate so that she can become acquainted with the rule and routine of the congregation and find out for herself if she is capable of observing them faithfully, prior to making vows. It also allows the congregation to assure itself concerning the disposition, habits, intelligence and capacities of the aspirant.
The two-year novitiate begins on the day that the young woman receives the habit of the Order and the white veil. The first year is a canonical year of formation, while in the second year the Sister is permitted to do part-time teaching. During the canonical year, the novice concentrates on her own spiritual formation. To use an analogy, if we think of the religious life as being like a magnificent building, then the novitiate is like the time when the strong and sturdy foundations are laid: a good building needs a good foundation. During the canonical year the novice is not permitted to work in the apostolate (that is, she cannot teach), and she is not permitted to study secular subjects, although she may keep up a skill, such as maintaining her current knowledge of Latin or of a musical instrument.
At the end of the two Novitiate years, if the Novice and the Congregation are still of the same mind, the Novice is accepted for Profession. As other Dominicans do, she makes only a vow of obedience but she understands that she is also binding herself to poverty and chastity. These vows are made for three years at first, then renewed for another two years. During this time the Sister wears a black veil. At the end of her temporary vows the Sister can make Final Profession, and at this ceremony she is given the gold ring of a Sister with permanent vows.