Remembering with Gratitude

November is the month when we traditionally remember all those who have died. New Zealand Marist Sisters from Auckland communities gathered at Panmure cemetery recently to pray for our Sisters buried there and to decorate their graves. The newest graves belong to Sisters Isabelle and Margaret Therese who died during 2019. Prayers of gratitude were expressed for their life and example of Marist living  and for inspiring us as we endeavour to walk in Mary’s way.

Marists at Vocation Expo

On Saturday the 5th of October, several Religious Congregations, Diocesan seminarians and young people gathered at Saint Joseph parish, Grey Lynn Auckland for a Vocation Expo. Marist Sisters in New Zealand were represented by Srs Tulua and Seini.

The day started with a mass at 8:15 am and various people from different congregations shared  on their vocation call and charism to young people. It was a lovely opportunity to meet a lot of young Catholic people and share our Marist charism. The day ended with a lovely lunch.

Chavoin House Mass at Marist College

Empowerment through Presence was the theme of the recent Chavoin House Mass at Marist College Mt Albert, New Zealand. Sr Seini Fatai presented the following reflection during the Mass:

Empowerment through Presence
Jeanne-Marie Chavoin, Foundress of the Marist Sisters

Life is full of mysteries and we often wonder how we may ever solve some of them. I am sure that you young women of our Marist School often wonder what your future might be. Whether you are going to fulfil your dream to become a doctor or marry a handsome and successful guy or whether you are going to be a caring mother of some beautiful children, or better still perhaps a Marist Sister.

Some of the mysteries of my life began to unfold when I was as young person like you. Growing up, I really looked up to my dad because he had a way of empowering me to be the best person I could be. My dad was my greatest role model for he helped me unfold some of the mysteries in my life.

As a young person Jeanne-Marie Chavoin too was influenced by her father as she was discerning God’s will in her life. But life was a big mystery for her too, as she did not know what God wanted her to do but she waited, listened in prayers and answered His call and that is how we have our congregation of the Marist Sisters.

Chavoin’s life showed a great sense of balance. What do I mean by that? That means that she lived her life knowing that prayer and service must go hand in hand. She believed that God’s Loving Presence in the Eucharist gave meaning and spiritual power to her work. Chavoin believed that her prayer life provided her with purpose and meaning for doing her work well.

Father Colin, the founder of the Marist Family, affirms this, saying “In all the three branches of the Society (Marist Fathers, Marist Brothers and the Marist Sisters), Chavoin is the person with the greatest spirit of prayer. I believe that Fr Colin would have agreed with me that Jeanne-Marie Chavoin is a woman of balance and one who empowered people with whom she came in contact.

In our Gospel today, we see that Mary, the mother of Jesus empowered people through her attentive and loving presence at the Wedding feast in a place called Cana in Galilee. Mary noticed that the wine for the party was nearly finished so to avoid embarrassment for the host family she took the matter to Jesus. Because Mary was attentive to her Son, a positive result came about. People had lots of wine to drink. Jeanne-Marie Chavoin did learn from Mary how to be a woman of empowerment through her presence in every situation.

One of the things that we could all learn from Jeanne-Marie Chavoin is to be people (men and women) of prayer an action here in our Marist College community. If she were here today, she would remind us all, that God is the source of strength and power, and our work and learning here in this school can only find meaning in God through prayer. So, how often do you spend time talking and listening to God? As we leave today from this Eucharistic celebration, let us remind ourselves that God is always wanting to have a chat with us. Are we ready?

 

Drinking from the Wellspring of Life

A group of twenty five Marist Sisters from around the world have gathered in Auckland, New Zealand, for a time of renewal the theme of which is Drinking from the Wellsprings of Life. During the first week participants have appreciated being together and the contemplative atmosphere that has permeated each days activities. There has been time for input, for reflecting, for sharing and for experiencing the beauty of the world around us. The Fijian Community in Auckland paid a visit to the group one evening which was a rich cultural experience for all.

Marist College Celebrates Feast of the Assumption

Marist College, Mt Albert Auckland celebrated the Feast of the Assumption on the 15th of August. Bishop of Auckland, Bishop Patrick Dunn was the main celebrant in the School Feast Day Mass. Father Kevin Murphy sm, the school chaplain and the parish priest Fr Philip Lakra ofmcap concelebrated this beautiful Eucharist. The focus of the Mass was “Empowerment” for it is the core value of Marist College for the year.

In the Mass, the school community was reminded that we look to Mary as the role model, a courageous and faith-filled woman, who in her own simplicity pointed the way to Jesus. Mary is the figure of empowerment for us as she showed us what it means to empower others. She empowered Elizabeth when she stayed with her for about three months. At the Wedding Feast of Cana she empowered her son Jesus to change the water into wine. Mary taught us to be other centred and enrich the lives of those around us through our words and deeds.

The highlight of the Mass was the conferring of the Sacraments of Initiation for 17 young women. Before the final blessing, Bishop Pat blessed the Chavoin Honour Board which shows the list of students who have won the “Chavoin Award” since 1968. Our Sister Lorraine Campbell was the recipient in 1969 and she was one of the ex-students who unveiled this special board.

Sr Isabelle Harding sm

Sr Isabelle Harding sm sm was called to eternal life on Sunday 11th August 2019.

Eternal rest grant to her, O Lord.
May perpetual light shine upon her.
May she rest in peace.
Amen.

We extend our prayerful sympathy to the Marist Sisters in Aotearoa-New Zealand and to Sr Isabelle’s family. the following eulogy was delivered at her funeral held at St Mary’s Parish, Mt Albert on 14th August 2019.

With the death of Barbara Jean Harding, Sister Isabelle, it is the end of an era, several in fact.
Firstly for her family as Isabelle is the last of the thirteen children of Isabella and George Harding to die, and so the last of her generation of the family. She has been the Matriarch for some years and the keeper of the family history all her life.
It is also the end of the era of the Marist Sisters having an important part to play in Waitaruke and especially at the school there, Hato Hohepa for 90 years. Sister Isabelle was the last Sister on the staff and was later for a number of  years the Chairperson of the Board of Trustees.
Again, Sister Isabelle was the last of the young Marist Sisters who in the 50’s and 60’s left Australia and New Zealand soon after their Profession to go to the Missions in Fiji. Earlier others had also gone to Tonga but had been evacuated during WW2. Isabelle went to Fiji in 1960 and taught at the Goldmines school in Vatukoula and also at schools in Lami, Solevu and Varoka, Ba,and Nadi, all on the main Island of Viti Levu, and later on the outer Islands of Ovalau and Yasawa.   Isabelle is the last of the valiant and wonderful women we all knew there, Josephine, Regina, Anita, Sabina, Miriam and many others. Of course there were also French and Irish Sisters and others like Alexius and Nolasco who were born in Fiji but were part of that generation also. Today all the Marist Sisters in Fiji are  born and bred in that country, are living in different parts of  Fiji serving the needs of their people in new ministries as well as in schools.
In 1982 Isabelle came back to New Zealand for good, and after a few years teaching at Mt Albert, Orakei and Putaruru, she went to the North where she remained for the next almost thirty years. She taught at Hato Hohepa until she was given the Diocesan Ministry of Religious Education Adviser, Northland.  She held this position for eight years, and if you were around in Kerikeri where she lived at that time, you would have seen her in her little car which held a TV monitor, stacks of religious videos, and piles of books and papers heading out the gate to go North South East and West to visit schools, parishes, families and individuals, to prepare them for the Sacraments and nourish their Faith.
In 2003 she was back in Waitaruke, involved in the school and Parish, and in particular facilitating and tutoring those who wished to follow the three year programme of ,’Walk By Faith’ and many men and women in the North have done all or part of that course with her.
In 2014, as the buildings in Waitaruke were needed for a new venture, and Sister Margarita her companion, was now in Kauri Rest Home in Kaeo, Isabelle moved with Sister Catherine to join Sister Kathleen in Kaikohe where she continued the Walk By Faith Programme right up to the Graduation of the last group of participants earlier this year.
Sister Isabelle had many loves in her life. First of course, was the Lord and his mother Mary. She loved prayer and to meditate on the Scripture Readings of the day, both in English and Maori. She loved all things Maori, art, culture, marae stays, and especially Te Reo which she studied at Massey University and Wananga Aotearoa for many years.She loved her family deeply and the Marist Sisters and wider Marist family. She loved Waitaruke and especially the school where she taught the children, another of her loves, gardening. They grew vegetables, harvested them and proudly took them home to their families. She had a particular love for Waimahana and our little bach there and to swim in the beautiful bay.
Sister Isabelle was a wonderful woman to whom God had given many gifts and talents. As an artist and a poet she loved to share with Brother Romuald FMS, in Kaikohe, himself an artist and poet. She published two books about the Hokianga and her family which included many photos, another hobby, and poems.    As she aged she began to lose her eyesight from Aged Macular Degeneration.  She took advantage of the experience of blindness of Brother Mark Chamberlain FMS to learn ways of coping with this disability. She was also attracted by his guide-dog for she loved all animals, horses, cows, dogs and especially one special cat named, Psycho, who was in Waitaruke and Kaikohe, and is now buried in a grove of trees just inside the gates of Waitaruke.
Sister Isabelle’s Fijian friends would say, “Moce, Sister, and loloma levu.
We say, ‘ Go in peace, Isabelle, enjoy eternal life with all you love.
Haere ra, Isabelle, Barbara Jean Harding, you good and faithful daughter of Mary.

 

Asia-Pacific Leaders Meet

The Leaders of the four Marist Sisters Units in the Asia-Pacific Region met recently in Davao, The Philippines. Srs Catherine (Australia), Jane Frances (Aotearoa-New Zealand), Lavinia (Fiji) and Sheila (the Philippines) spent a week together focusing on issues such as Marist Life and mission, formation at all stages of life, sharing of resources, developing leadership skills and mutual support for those in leadership. While in Davao the sisters also visited Balay Banaag (a hostel administered by the Marist Sisters) and participated in a Sunday Eucharist at the local jail where members of the Marist family, including our Sisters, minister.

Sr Margaret Therese Kerins sm

Sr Margaret Therese Kerins was called to eternal life on Friday 28th June 2019.

Eternal rest grant to her, O Lord.
May perpetual light shine upon her.
May she rest in peace.
Amen.

We extend our prayerful sympathy to the Marist Sisters in Aotearoa-New Zealand and to Sr Margaret Therese’s family.The following eulogy was delivered at her funeral:

Margaret Therese was the fifth of the six children of Thomas and Esther Kerins born 1933.  Her family lived on a farm near Masterton so Margaret attended the Fernbridge Primary School. She went further afield for her secondary education to the Brigidine Sisters at St Bride’s College Masterton.  We hear that she was often commended there for her sewing and handcraft skills and these remained with throughout her life.

Her older sister, Noreen, entered our novitiate at Karori in 1947 and they had an aunt living in Karori so the Marist Sisters were familiar to Margaret – so much so that she decided to join them in 1954. The novitiate moved to Australia during this time so Margaret, now Sr Patrick, was professed in Sydney. A year after her profession she returned to New Zealand and in the years that followed she lived in all of our houses and even managed three short periods back in Sydney.

In Waitaruke and Herne Bay she was in charge of the boarders.  Her time in Moerewa, our motor mission, provided an opportunity for parish visitation, while in Sydney and in Mt Albert she was caregiver for our elderly Sisters.

Our Congregation values ministry but realises that it needs to be supported by times of prayer and reflection, Margaret had several opportunities for such periods.  The first of these included a time in Rome with a group of Marist Sisters. Margaret rejoiced especially in her visits to St Peter’s Basilica and many other historic places.  From Rome she travelled to France to visit places associated with our Foundress and early Sisters.  Margaret kept an account of each day to share later with the Sisters and her family.  Meeting so many of our Sisters  in England, France and Ireland was a real joy for her.

There was a further period of renewal that we shared several years later – this time in Sydney with religious of different Congregations. We took time to reflect on our vocation and its relevance.

Margaret’s last years were spent in Rotorua – twenty of those with Sr Mary who shared these insights on Margaret’s ministry and the person she had become.  She stressed that Margaret was first and foremost a woman of prayer and it was this quality that supported all she did.  She spent each morning visiting the housebound and those in rest homes and was truly devoted to each person she visited.  Her ability to talk easily to everyone she met, including small children won her many friends in the community. She was a great communicator either in person or by telephone to the Sisters, her family and her friends.  The garden surrounding the Rotorua house was a tribute to her untiring efforts and it was greatly admired.  There were times of recreation too when she played indoor bowls or visited friends in the area.

Margaret, as we recall your life and ministry, we thank you for all you have been and done for all those whose lives you touched.  May you rest now in the lord and His Mother who loved you and chose you for their own.

Thanksgiving for 60 years as a Marist Sister

Marist Sisters in Aotearoa-New Zealand held their annual assembly from the 25th to the 28th of April. This involved a contemplative dialogue on their present reality and consideration of needs at this time. The last day of the assembly was dedicated to celebrating Sr. Kathleen Bright’s 60th anniversary of  Marist religious profession. Bishop Denis Brown was the main celebrant for the thanksgiving mass and many of the Sisters were present. Kathleen’s sister and brother in law joined in the celebration plus Brother Mark fms and his guide dog Rosco.

Keeping the Connection with Marist College, Mt Albert

Two of  Year 7 students from Marist Sisters College, Mt Albert came to visit the sisters at the Mt Albert Convent in New Zealand. One of the students had her RE Assessment with her and Sr. Patricia Bowley showed great interest in it.

The student was very surprised when she discovered that Patricia was 91. The two girls are daughters of ex-students taught by some of the sisters at Marist College in years gone by.