Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Vocations Discernment Retreat and Visit from Fr Albert, O.P.

The time of the vocations discernment retreat finally arrived after months of preparation! Sixteen young ladies came from various parts of New Zealand, Australia, and Tasmania. Parishioners had been generous in their loans of bedding, and even a house across the road was lent for the purpose of housing some retreatants (and a Sister to watch over them, of course!). All 16 girls were settled into the convent, a classroom made into a dormitory, or the house.


Fr Albert, O.P. had come from the snow in Minnesota, U.S.A., to the warmth of Wanganui to give this retreat on vocations to the religious life. Father's conferences brought before the retreatants' minds various topics including Divine grace in the soul, mental prayer, and the state of perfection. The young ladies got a taste of the teaching of St Thomas Aquinas from his Summa Theologicae and other great saints, in particular St Maximilian Kolbe.

It had been arranged to use the parish church for Mass and the Divine Office, our chapel being too small to accommodate the number of girls and Sisters. Each day began with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, according to the Dominican rite, and ended with our biggest Salve procession yet! The history of the Salve procession is a beautiful one. Mother Francis Raphael, O.S.D. relates in her book The Spirit of the Dominican Order that "[f]rom the very beginning of the Order the Salve was recite after Compline, as we find from that vision in St. Dominic's life in which we are told that our Lady made herself known to him by saying: "I am she whom you invoke every evening; and when you say, Eia ergo, advocata nostra, I prostrate before my Son for the preservation of this Order." But it was not sung processionally, as it is now, until the time of Blessed Jordan, the successor of St. Dominic, when the dreadful sufferings endured by the Brethren from diabolical apparitions induced him to order it in the Chapter of Paris, A.D. 1226. Its effect was the immediate disappearance of these troublesome visitants; and in their stead Mary took possession of the Dominican choirs, as we would fondly hope, never to yield her place to another.



"Salve, Regina..."


It became, if we may say so, the fashionable devotion to go to the church of the Friar-Preachers after Compline to assist at the Salve, and many therefore were the witnesses of the heavenly apparitions which our chronicles describe.



"Eia ergo, advocata nostra..."


The Queen of Heaven was seen to descend into the choir, as the Friars came out in procession, and to place herself in the midst of them, and, as they sang the last words, O dulcis Virgo Maria, inclining at her sweet name, she blessed them and disappeared. . . . A devout woman of Lombardy...saw the Divine Mother assisting at the Office, and when the Friars said Spes nostra, salve, our Lady graciously returned the salutation, and at the words Eia ergo she interceded for them with her Son; and at those other words, Jesum benedictum, etc., she held out the Child Jesus to the Brethren, giving Him to each one of them to kiss; and then, blessing them, disappeared." Our Blessed Mother surely must have smiled lovingly upon her children as they bade her goodnight.



"O dulcis Virgo Maria..."


Once the retreat was finished, Father Albert, a true son of St Dominic, preached a three-day Rosary mission for the parish. Each night he gave an instruction, led the praying of the Rosary with a meditation before each mystery, and preached a sermon.




And just like that it was time for Father to return to his duties in the U.S.A. We would like to thank him for all his hard work during his visit and pray that someday he may return!

Finally, we ask that you keep us in your prayers as we begin our annual retreat, which will be a preparation for two of our novices who will make their first temporary vows on January 6th. We wish you all a most blessed and happy Christmas!

An Unforgettable Adventure

Soon after school ended for the year, two of our Sisters rushed off to run a camp for the girls of the school and parish. As a treat to our readers, we are happy to present this next instalment written by one of the campers. Enjoy!

Earlier on in the year Sister Madeleine had announced to us that we would be having a girls’ camp and boy did that get everyone excited. To make this dream camp a reality we had to do a lot of fundraising. We did sausage sizzles at a local store and for some reason the public were extremely generous (I think it was because we had the Sisters with us but I guess it will forever remain a mystery). As the months passed we baked goodies to be sold at the stall after the Sung Mass on Sundays and we hosted a Fairy light dinner and auction for the parish.

All the hard work was rewarded on December 6th, when after two hours of having my mum remind me not to forget the essentials, we were dropped at school and all our things were loaded into our assigned van a.k.a. “the big red bus”. After a prayer for a safe journey (the prayer was mostly needed for the big red bus because one never knew if it would last the trip but I guess that was another thing that made the camp fun). We all piled into the vans (there were 3) and we loaded Father’s car with the excess baggage and set off for “Camp” – the Highland Christian Home. Forty five minutes later we stopped off at a nearby lookout. Fr L. dashed up a nearby hill to get a better look and slowly but surely a group of us were able to reach the top but, unfortunately, by that time it was time to go down. We returned to the vans and after a few dusty roads and a “tuneful” rendition of “100 bottles of beer on the wall” the camp grounds came into sight. We quickly unloaded the vans, set up the altar and got our cabins organised.



We then had an assembly and Sister told us the schedule for the day. After lunch we drove 18kms to go caving. To kill time we started singing “the Peanut song” and “the Song that never ends’ which unfortunately ended when we reached the caves. Those who were claustrophobic were advised not to go through the loop at the end of the cave which was very narrow. Five minutes after a whole lot of arguing over who should carry the torches, we discovered that the cave became very small. Most of us had previously gone through the cave and we remembered it to be much bigger, so either the cave had shrunk or we had grown. We came up with the logical conclusion that the cave had shrunk due to the earth’s movements. Somehow, we all managed to squeeze, pull or drag ourselves through the loop and before we knew it we had conquered caving. The next item on our itinerary was a swim at a nearby river, which was really cold. Everyone went into the river either for or against their wills and an hour later we had to return to camp for dinner. To our surprise after our spiritual talk from Father, we received a visit from St Nicholas and Black Pete and we were rewarded for our good deeds.



Due to two courses of Lasagna and Apple crumble most of us went to bed immediately, a few stayed up till 3 a.m. but they paid the price when the fire alarm accidentally went off at 5:25 the next morning (now that was funny). Ding! Dong! The bell rang waking everyone up at 6.20 am. We “quickly” got ready for morning prayers and Mass. Thirty minutes later we entered the chapel and Fr L. celebrated Mass. At the end of Mass group1 left to set up for breakfast while the rest of us still half asleep wandered to the dining room. A toast and a cup of hot chocolate later, we rushed to the field to hear what was on today’s agenda. OH NO!!!!!! it was “THE HIKE”. Due to previous experiences with Fr C. and his estimations of the length of camp hikes we all dreaded this activity and to make matters worse it was cold and rainy when we left.

A near “death experience” and approximately five U turns later (due to Sister Rose) we arrived at the farm. Our guide then led us to the beginning of the hike and after an hour of ups and downs we reached the climax of the hike “the river” (well that’s what we thought at the time). We started off very enthusiastic whether we ended that way I guess you’ll have to ask the Sisters. While others were busy pushing forward with the guide, some of us were bust trying to avoid the eels. Unfortunately for Nadia an eel tried to get her and according to one of the girls, she broke the 100m record escaping its’ jaws. A few more hours down the river and we were finally told that we had reached the end – some of us having walked chest deep in water. We “quickly” rushed up the hill to the vans and before you could say “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”, we were changed and were on the road heading back for a dinner of chicken drumsticks and wedges followed by pudding.

Day three was not any different. In the morning we each had a go at shooting and undertaking a team building obstacle course. In the afternoon we had played mini golf to relieve our muscles from the previous day. Mini golf was thirty five minutes away in Palmerston North so as usual we got into the vans and were off. Fortunately after running out of every possible animal Old McDonald could have on his farm we arrived in Palmerston. Our first stop was at Rose Park which has a playground for little children and one for older children, so like mature girls a group of us rushed for the little kid’s playground. We went down slides, up slides, back and forth on swings and we even played noughts and crosses. The fun ended and we were called back to the vans and were off to minigolf.

Everyone collected their golf ball and putter and were showed the mini golf course. All of us were divided into groups of five. The course looked relatively easy, I mean all one had to do was get the ball in the hole, and the worst one could get was eight (this had to be a piece of cake!). By the time hole three came around I realized two important things, my assumptions of mini golf were completely wrong and patience is a virtue much needed in these situations. The best score of the day was Sister Rose with 71 (we all thought that she had help from a higher power, but the theory is still debatable).

Due to it being the feast of the Immaculate Conception we had a night of fun planned with skits, marshmallows, camp songs and a game of “blow up the bridge” (metaphorically not literally). After dinner the teams assembled their props and the skits began. Group1 performed three jokes which were funny. Group 2 performed a skit about two Maoris abducting people for a hangi, it was a bit gruesome but it was quite funny. Group 3 performed a skit about an unusual judo class and the judo moves were hilarious. The last group showed how easily we can give into the devil and fall in to the seven deadly sins. There were some extremely funny performances which I can’t help but mention. Unfortunately for Natalie when she jumped onto her bed it fell apart, Kelly and Grace performed an original haka that would put any All Black to shame, Olivia and Nadia showed what Judo moves should not look like and Melanie showed the helpers that no matter how loud one rings a bell some people just don’t wake up.

With gusto and joy everyone then burst into camp songs such as “Clementine” and “the Wheels on the Bus”. We then raced to the caves to see the glow worms which lit the path like stars. “Gooey on the inside and golden on the outside” was the description Maria gave us of the perfect marshmallow. However most of our marshmallows ended up burnt or in the fire. After the energy boost we all suited up and headed for the nearby bridge. The party poppers were handed out and within the first ten minutes someone had blown up the bridge. An hour later, it was time for bed so we headed back.

December 9th was the date everyone had dreamt of, it was the day we would go on a HELICOPTER. Unfortunately, due to the fire alarm going off again at 5:25 the day didn’t get off to a great start. At 1:30 the helicopter was greeted by a group of over excited campers. We were split into groups and briefed on what not to do (whether anyone listened to what was being said is questionable). There were ups, downs, twirls and turns and before we knew it, it had all ended. At night after the usual spiritual talk from Father and the night prayers, the helpers decided to play a game called “nightline”. We were all blindfolded and led to a nearby track. We were then split into pairs and set off through the track following the string. If someone had been passing by the track all they would hear would be screams and threats being made by the campers begging the helpers not to scare them. After that ordeal, we played a few games and went to bed.

Sadly, the last day had arrived. We started cleaning our cabins and packing our bags. The certificates were handed out and we then departed for jet boating. At the riverbank one by one each group put on their life jackets, got into the boat, screamed and when the ride had ended everyone had the most ridiculous smiles on their faces.


As an end of camp treat, we were driven to Woodville, to get some cheesecakes from “Yummy Mummy Cheesecake”. The last crumb was eaten and we were back on the road. With the church in view, we drove up the hill, unloaded the vans and gave them a good needed clean. Everyone said their goodbyes and thank yous and departed for home, for a much needed rest.

When everyone was asked by their parents whether or not they enjoyed camp I personally think that every girl replied that they had a great time and that this camp was one not to be forgotten.