Carmelite Monastery J.M.+ J.T.
52 Halswell Road
Peace of Christ!
Dear Sisters and Brothers, Carmelite family, relatives and friends,
The beautiful season of Advent is upon us once again. As we look forward to Christmas and back towards all that has happened since we last knelt around the crib, we realize how much we have to be grateful for, in spite of the rather unusual conditions of the last 12 months.
At the end of 2010 we thought that everything was about to return to some form of normality, as the earthquakes had begun to decrease in frequency. Little did we expect as we bottled pears that late summer day that everything was soon going to be turned upside down again. Because of our location, and the fact that we had secured statues and bookcases, the February quake did less damage to our monastery than the September one, with cracks just becoming wider, but we did have a lot of liquefaction. Once again many generous people came to our aid, and we ask Our Lord to bless them abundantly – all those who kept us and our cattle supplied with water during the 10 days we were without running water, the dozens of helpers who removed the liquefaction from our property, and the tradesmen who came promptly to make emergency repairs. Our monastery has now been thoroughly inspected on many occasions; it is safe to live in, with mainly just superficial cracks (apart from larger crevices where buildings used to be joined). The worst damage seems to be to our enclosure wall, which is now buttressed up in parts, and may need to be completely replaced. We will see what the New Year brings as regards the many repairs to be made. We thank God that our little wooden chapel, built as “temporary” in 1933, managed to hold up well to all the shaking. The wider picture is not so good - four of our Catholic Churches have already been demolished, and another dozen are out of action. Many of our friends have had to move from their homes, or are waiting till new accommodation becomes available. We continue to keep in our prayers all who lost their lives in the earthquake, and their families and friends who will spend their first Christmas without them.
In the aftermath of the earthquake, owing to damage at Nazareth House, Sr Mary of the Sacred Heart and Sr Mary of the Angels were evacuated to Nelson (by air and land). Sr Mary of the Sacred Heart had been declining in health, and unable to come home to the monastery since her 94th birthday in January. The Lord came for her on 19th March. (Sister was born in Nelson Creek (on the West Coast) and never thought she would go to heaven from Nelson!) Two of our Sisters were able to fly to see her a few days before her death. Sr Mary of the Angels returned to Christchurch for the funeral, and was finally relocated here in May. She is now resident at Villa Gardens, from where she comes each Sunday in a wheelchair taxi to spend the day with us. Meanwhile, our Sr Marie continues to wait peacefully for Our Lord. We are very grateful for the loving care of the staff at Villa Gardens, and all those who visit our Sisters there.
Nature continued to spring surprises on us this year, with two ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ snowstorms, in July and August, covering our city and our monastery in a white blanket. Both events brought everything to a standstill for a week – we were blessed that even in these conditions we were never without Mass, thanks to the unstinting care of our chaplain, Fr Denis Collins, who even had to dig the snow away from his car to drive home.
In spite of all the quirks of nature, or perhaps because of them, the flowers have never been so beautiful – magnificent magnolias, stunning rhododendrons, superb roses; it’s as if all of life is suddenly rushing forth in abounding beauty...
Fr John Goulding from Australia was with us again over the 2010/2011 Advent and Christmas seasons. (We look forward to his return to us in a few weeks – we know he will be saddened to see much of the city; with his great love for our country, he has become an honorary Kiwi.) We were also blessed by the visits of three of our Carmelite friars during the year: Fr Greg Homeming in January, Fr Charles Serrao in July to give us a week of lectures on community life, and our newly-ordained Fr Shane Kelleher in September. It was a special joy to have Fr Shane celebrating Mass in our chapel and once again we thank God for the graces He gives so generously.
We were sorry to farewell three of our local clergy this year. On 14th January we were saddened to hear of the sudden death of Fr Peter Blake sm, who had faithfully come to minister to us each month, despite failing health. A month later the Lord called home Fr Paddy Cahill, who had been a friend of our community since he used to cut the hedges as a boy. Then in Holy Week, following a long illness, Fr Paul Duncan went home to the Lord.
In May we welcomed two additions to our monastery. Sr Teresa had a long-held wish fulfilled when two adoring angels were found in USA, and with the help of some generous friends, came to adorn our chapel - you will see them on our Christmas card. They were installed on 1 July and now welcome in the worshippers with their praise of God: Benedicimus Te and Adoremus Te.
An even more welcome addition was the entrance into our Carmel in July of Katherine Pawson. She has settled in well to Carmelite life. She is using her talents to assist us musically, and has transformed the vegetable garden. We thank God for the signs of fresh life we are seeing – please keep Sr Katherine, and the other aspirants to our Carmel especially in your prayers.
In November we were blessed to have our annual community retreat, given by Professor Benjamin Gibbs from Nelson. Ben has pondered the works of St John of the Cross for more than 50 years, and generously shared the fruit of all that pondering with us.
Our Secular Order of Carmel continues to flourish. Our congratulations to Ken Orr on the making of his Definitive Promises and Yvonne Otto on the making of her First Promise. Ivonne Guerrero is looking forward to making her First Promise later this month. We are very grateful for all the assistance given to us by the Secular Order during the year. It has certainly not been an easy year for them, as several members lost their homes in the earthquakes and have moved or are preparing to move. The temporary nature of all our dwellings on earth will be remembered this Christmas as we gather around the “innless” crib.
Now it is time to say thank you to our many friends, near and far, whose kindness, expressed in countless ways, enables us to continue to live our life of prayer. Our special thanks this year to our Carmels in Samoa, Auckland and Wallis, who have loaned us the help of a Sister when a need has arisen. We are grateful to our Bishop and priests who faithfully minister to us, and to so many others. You will all have a place in our prayers this Christmastide. We thank you for all those who prayed for the protection of our city and our Carmel. Please continue those prayers into the New Year, especially for peace for all those so badly affected. As we look towards the Star of Bethlehem, which points to the One who is Emmanuel, we are reminded that “God is with us”.
God bless you.
Your loving sisters in Christ,
The Carmelite Sisters