Carmelite Monastery                                                   J.M.+ J.T.

52 Halswell Road

Christchurch 8025

 

Peace of Christ!

 

Dear Sisters and Brothers, Carmelite family, relatives and friends,

 

Our loving Christmas greetings to you all, and may this holy season be filled with the presence of our Lord and Saviour - the Lord who is Himself our peace. Many thanks to our Carmels for their letters and all the news we share as one big family. As you well know, these past months have been unusually busy – in ways quite unforeseen - and once again we have been overwhelmed by the kindness of so many people, relatives and friends - who throughout the years have surrounded us with their love and support. Their faith and loyalty is truly touching, and as quite a number of them have left us this year for heaven we can be sure they received a wonderful welcome when they entered into “the joy of the Lord” carrying their sheaves of good works as the Liturgy puts it.  Many things have happened this year, and perhaps the note of rejoicing will be somewhat muted in this part of the world in view of the recent disasters that have affected so many people in Canterbury and the West Coast.  They have a special place in our thoughts and prayers as we ask the God of all consolation to comfort them with His presence.

 

We would like to take this opportunity to share with you some of the events that have marked 2010. We always welcome visits from our seminarians so it was a real joy when twenty seminarians from Good Shepherd College, Auckland, together with Father Philip Handforth, Father Steve Lowe and Sister Leona Garchow joined us for Evening Prayer on February 10 and time in the visitors’ room afterwards when we had an opportunity to talk with them and explain something of our contemplative way of life.  The group were on a Hikoi - a special journey, in this case a pilgrimage to all those places throughout New Zealand connected with the establishment of the Faith.  A really wonderful introduction to the living history that is the Church. Their itinerary seemed to be packed and though the students were enthusiastic about the reception they had received along the route, the older members of the group were showing signs of fatigue as half of the Hikoi still lay ahead. Of special interest to us are the four Vietnamese Students for our diocese: Do, Thanh, Tien and Huynh whose visits are always a joy as we follow their journey to the priesthood and admire the sacrifice of home and country they  have been prepared to make.

 

Our Secular Order of Carmel continues to flourish. Our congratulations to Annette and Megan on the making of their Definitive Promises.  It was with regret that the Secular Order farewelled Father Carl Telford, their chaplain for a number of years.  His friendship and spirituality have made a lasting impression.  The sisters, too, will remember him for his love of St Therese, his rare understanding of her doctrine and his ability to communicate this to others.  Father Greg Homeming, our regional vicar, was with us in June and presided at the Mass for the Golden Jubilee of Sister Mary Teresa.  It was a very happy celebration for Sister, who has endeared herself to us all since her arrival from Singapore 16 years ago.  Another reason for thanksgiving was the Ordination to the Diaconate of Brother Shane Kelleher on November 27.  Born in New Zealand, Brother Shane joined the Order in Australia a number of years ago, but has recently felt the call to the Priesthood.  Please pray for him as he completes his journey during the next few months.

 

Our long and unusually wet winter made the first signs of Spring so very welcome, and although the calendar said the “official” date for Spring was September 1, already in early August lots of unofficial daffodils were popping up in the paddocks.  And each morning we were treated to a real chorus of bellbirds.  However this idyllic state of affairs was not to last for long.   The Earthquake of September 4 has become a defining point -before and after. Our hearts ached for so much damage done to our beautiful city and the trauma endured by so many people.  As Sister Cushla has described the whole saga as it affected us - the crashing of the chimney through the laundry roof, water pouring from broken pipes and smashed library cupboards disgorging their contents, many broken statues etc—I shall not go into further detail, save to add that Heidi the cat disappeared for several days and the bellbirds stopped singing…Compared with other people’s losses ours may be considered minimal, especially as there was no structural damage.  All the same, it was a relief to receive our green sticker verifying this. Most of the needed repairs have been carried out, thanks to our builder, Mr Tovey and the many workmen he engaged. We were touched by the atmosphere of kindness and concern which seemed to envelop the city at this stressful time and of which we too were recipients in so many ways.  Offers of help came from our Carmels near and far, for which we are most grateful.  Auckland Carmel helped with our Altar Bread orders, while the presence of Sister Maria Nive and Sister Susitina from Samoa, cheerful and obliging, was of great help.

 

The effects of a major earthquake last for some time so we when our parish priest, Father Fitzmaurice, offered to visit the homes of the parish with a special blessing, we were glad to avail ourselves of his offer.. It became quite a solemn occasion with the sisters in mantles receiving Father in alb and cope at the cloister door.  We then processed through the house reciting the Litany of the Saints, and how fervently we prayed the invocation: “From the scourge of earthquakes - Deliver us, O Lord!” Meanwhile Father bestowed blessings and liberal sprinklings of holy water.  The ceremony concluded with special prayers and then a surprise visit to the laundry where Father Fitzmaurice and Mr Tovey (brandishing his hammer), posed for a photo. Since then we have faced numerous aftershocks with varying degrees of equanimity!

 

A friendship going back nearly fifty years came to an end with the death of Father Miles O’Malley on August 25.  He had not long been ordained when he came to Addington as curate.  His love for the liturgy stemmed from his love of the priesthood and his all-embracing love of the Church. Coming to us as our chaplain kindled his interest in the monastic life. In fact, as a seminarian he had considered becoming a Benedictine monk.  Thankfully, God decided otherwise. However, it so happened that he was to make his last private retreat in 2009 at the Cistercian Abbey of the Holy Spirit in Georgia, USA, entering into the full monastic timetable including rising at 3am for Matins. With the passing of the inimitable Father Miles we have lost a true brother who in innumerable ways contributed to the growth of our monastery.  It was only fitting that his casket should come to our chapel for Evening Prayer for the Dead and rest with us overnight. May he rest in the peace of the Lord he had served so generously.

 

An annual highlight for us is the Youth Mass.  On October 3, a packed church of young people sang and praised the Lord with the vibrancy of youth – truly inspiring.  Special thanks to Father John Adams and also to Sister Marietta Parsons who each year organizes the Galilee Experience for those discerning their vocation.  We appreciate these contacts with the young people of our diocese and pray for them all and their future.

 

During the year our community has been enriched by talks on Scripture, Liturgy, St John of the Cross and other subjects, for all of which we are most grateful.  Something dear to our hearts was the beatification of Blessed John Henry Newman and we rejoiced at the ways hearts and minds opened to receive his message as relayed by Pope Benedict: “Heart speaks to heart”   Nearer to home was the canonization of St Mary McKillop and we shared in the joy of our Australian brothers and sisters in this unique event which has given to us a saint so eminently human who knew and loved New Zealand, and whose brother, John, lies buried in the old Barbadoes Street Cemetery in Christchurch.

 

Our emeritus Bishop John Cunneen has long had a special place in our affection, having been our chaplain for  a number of years, as well as our much-loved Bishop, ever kind and encouraging. It was with sadness that we received news of his death on November 9, although we knew he was so ready to go home to the Father.  However, we were privileged that his body should lie in state in our chapel so that we could say our farewells and surround him with our prayers that his soul might be forever in the radiance of the Lord; having lived to the letter his chosen motto: “Faithful in service”.

 

Looking back over the past year we realize the big debt we owe to so many who helped and supported us in ways too many to enumerate.  Special thanks to Bishop Barry, and our priests who minister to us, in particular Fr Denis Collins who celebrates Mass for us each day.  To one and all we offer our fervent thanks and the assurance of our prayers.  When we gather around the crib to lay our petitions before the Prince of Peace, we shall ask Him to grant you His own gift of Peace, now and throughout the year ahead.

 

Your loving sisters in Christ,

The Carmelite Sisters