Carmelite Monastery                                                 J.M.+ J.T.
52 Halswell Road
Christchurch 8025
New Zealand

December 2012

Peace of Christ!
Dear Sisters and Brothers, Carmelite family, relatives and friends,

It is with joy that we come to greet you this Advent season in this special Year of Faith. We are united with the whole Church striving with Mary to deepen our own faith as we live our Carmelite life to the full. We are grateful for the many ways we support each other in our different callings to live our faith and we keep you all in our prayers, especially the sick as they live the Paschal mystery in all its depth. A year ago we were still experiencing many large aftershocks which disrupted the Christmas preparations of so many people.  The earth seems to have settled down somewhat since then, and we pray this year will be more peaceful for everyone.

Many of our faithful friends have been joining our prayers over the years for vocations to our monastery, and we are now seeing the fruit of those persevering prayers.  Our postulant received the Carmelite Habit on September 1st, Feast of St Teresa Margaret, becoming Sr Katherine Maria of the Eucharist, and began her two-year novitiate.  Two other young women stayed with us for a short time during the year to further their vocational discernment and one of these has asked to enter our Carmel as a postulant and will hopefully be coming early next year.  Please keep these generous young women in your prayers as they continue their journey of responding to God’s call.

As well as signs of new life, we have had a time of farewell.  On the Tuesday of Holy Week our dear Sister Marie of the Immaculate Heart went home to God, surrounded by four of the Sisters.  Sr Marie had been resident at Villa Gardens for some years as her dementia worsened.  Since May of last year, she had the companionship of Sr Mary of the Angels in the neighbouring residential wing.  It was a blessing to have a Marist priest to anoint Sr Marie less than an hour before she died, particularly appropriate as her brother, Fr Jack White, was a Marist.  (She would have been as delighted had she known that the Marist community became responsible for our Parish of Addington this year. ) We had Sister home with us, lying in the Novitiate Oratory for the Easter Triduum until  she was laid to rest on Wednesday of Easter Week after a beautiful Requiem Mass.

Earthquake inspection work has continued on our property and it is anticipated that our wall and monastery repairs will begin in 2013.  We hear of one friend after another having to vacate their homes while repair work is done (often at quite short notice).  We have had offers of accommodation should this happen to us, but we are hoping to be able to remain where we are (the ideas of campervans or tents in our paddocks have been suggested, with responses of various degrees of enthusiasm from the Sisters). 

Although our earthquake repairs are still  in the future, much work has been done on our property during the year.  In January renovations began in our extern area, so as to make our facilities roomier and much more manageable. In the middle of the year extensive tree surgery work was carried out inside the enclosure.  The removal of the excess foliage has allowed the sunlight to flood into our grounds and recreation room (so important for doing those tasks where extra light is essential and eyes are no longer what they used to be!).  Around the same time the redesigning of our grotto area began.  Though the area was always beautiful and a stunning setting for photos, it was very laborious to maintain.  We are delighted with the results, with the lawn now sweeping right up to the grotto, and carefully placed rocks and paving making the whole a picture of landscaping genius, all the while easy to keep up.  A generous friend put in several days of hard work in his holidays to achieve such a result. 

Our new cattle, looking quite thin, arrived in late September and are having a continual feast on the luxuriant grassy paddocks.  On their arrival they were duly given saints’ names to ensure their good behavior.  Unfortunately the names didn’t completely suit the temperament of each.  Far from being the silent, dependable type, Joseph has already shown his true colours.  He let the team down by leaping a fence and eating the lovingly tended saplings which were being grown to eventually provide the cattle with shelter. We are hoping for reform in the New Year.
This year has seen many visitors to our monastery, including in June young people from all over the world from the International World Evangelisation Team.  They sang our Mass and performed some inspiring action songs in our visitors’ room afterwards, including the Sydney World Youth Day Theme Song, “Receive the Power”.  Truly the Church is young and alive! In August some of the young people in our Diocese who are discerning their vocations came as part of their Galilee Experience, sharing in our Mass and meeting us afterwards.  We are grateful for the continual work done by those in our Diocese responsible for promoting vocations.  In September our annual Youth Mass brought together a chapel full of young (and not so young) people with their beautiful music and vibrant worship.  It is always touching to receive the box of prayer intentions with which they entrust us at the end of Mass.  Over the years since we have been having these annual Masses, it has been lovely to see so many of the young ones grow up, and then bring their spouses and children to subsequent gatherings.
We began and ended the year with visits from our Carmelite friars from Australia.   Father Shane Kelleher came in February as part of a visit to the New Zealand Secular Order of Carmel, and Father Paul Maunder came in November to give us, and our OCDS community, our annual retreat. It was a grace to gain fresh insights into St Therese’s Way of Confidence and Love.  The visit of Fr Justin Taylor, recently retired from the Ecole Biblique, Jerusalem, was both stimulating and informative and we are so grateful for the time Father gave us. We were blessed this year to have talks on the Year of Faith from Bishop Meeking and on St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) from Professor Benjamin Gibbs. The latter talks revealed new facts about Edith gained through his careful research.   
We are getting into the swing of the Year of Faith, with a whiteboard full of suggestions of how we as a community will celebrate it.  We are really looking forward to having the beautiful Icon, Mary, Mother of the Church, with us in late Advent and throughout the Christmas season.  The icon was commissioned for our Diocese for this special Year and written by the St John the Baptist Studio in Auckland.  It will make a pilgrimage around the Parishes and Schools during the Year. 
Our Secular Order of Carmel continues to live the Carmelite charism and shine it out to the world. They are a blessing to us in so many ways.  It was with sadness that we learnt of the sudden death of long time member Kevin McCarthy in June.  The following month they had the joy of the Final Promise of Christine Pitcaithly. Christine and her family  visited Lisieux a few months later and were there for the 1st October!  They shared with us the highlights of their ‘pilgrimage’.  St Therese blessed them with some wonderful experiences, making her presence very real.
As the rebuilding begins in Christchurch and many decisions are made we ask you to keep all those involved in your prayers, that everything will lead them closer to God, the one true rocklike foundation.  As we read recently: “May we never take Christmas for granted, but continue to be filled with child-like wonder as we contemplate what God has done for us by becoming one of us.”  May this wonder be part of your Christmas this year.  And may the Christ Child bless and reward you for your kindness to us shown in so many ways during the past year.
God bless you.
Your loving sisters in Christ,                              
The Carmelite Sisters