Purchase of House

Mother Anne and Sister Margaret Mary spent the next few days inspecting properties for the new foundation, and eventually decided to purchase “Homeleigh”,Homeleigh owned by Mr William Hayward. The old colonial-style house, which still forms the front of the monastery, situated some distance back from Halswell Road behind several towering cedars, had been built by a former owner, Robert Pitcaithly in the 1880’s, and named “Traquair”. Although, where elegance is concerned, it may not compare with other ‘stately homes’ of Christchurch, it is of solid construction - as would have befitted a man who had once owned Halswell Stone Quarries! Little did Robert Pitcaithly dream that the high-ceilinged drawing-room with its classical moulding would one day echo with the chanting of nuns, or that monastic processions would wend their way along the panelled hall with its wide floor boards stripped bare of the carpet of former days! Upstairs, several ornate gaslight fittings and “the maid’s bell” are silent relics of those days of gracious living.

Beginnings

However, for the six pioneer sisters of 1933 adapting the old house to monastic needs, and arranging for the construction of a small chapel entailed a good deal of hard work before the canonical enclosure - an essential element of the cloistered contemplative life - could take place. It is well to recall here the fact that these were the years of the Great Depression when little finance was available, so for a Bishop and his diocese to undertake the establishment of a monastery of enclosed nuns at this particular time required more than usual faith. The sisters, aided by the generosity of the people, did all they could to support themselves and help on their building programme, not only be the making of vestments but also by much hard work: chopping down trees, clearing the ground, etc, became part of the daily routine. Over the years their feats with axe and spade have taken on the aura of community legend! Besides watching over the early days of the infant foundation with fatherly interest, Bishop Brodie also gave practical assistance. The sisters recall how he not only opened their numerous packing cases, but with sleeves rolled up and hammer in hand worked far into the night to have all in readiness for the day set for the solemn enclosure.

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