Dear Carmelite Sisters and Brothers, Family and Friends,
We wish you all the blessings of this beautiful Easter season. Thank you for your prayers, messages and kindness at this time. It was with great joy that we sang the Alleluias at the Easter Vigil last night. During the week we read the following: “The Alleluia is like a first revelation of what can and shall someday take place in us: our entire being shall turn into a single immense joy.” (Joseph Ratzinger)
Our Lent was a bit different from what it usually is, as you can imagine. It had both its joys and sorrows, and plenty else besides. On St Patrick’s Day we were pleased to welcome a young woman, who has come for a 3-month aspirancy. Her presence has been a great blessing to us, and she has willingly shared her talents, playing the organ for Mass this morning. Please keep her in your prayers, and also the other young women who are showing interest in our Carmelite life.
On St Joseph’s Day, Sr Mary of the Sacred Heart went home to the Lord. When we last saw her she kept asking us why the Lord hadn’t come for her yet. So it was with both sorrow at her leaving us and joy that she is finally with the Lord forever, that we farewelled her. Sr Mary of the Angels is still resident in Nelson, but things are looking bright for a return to Christchurch soon. She was able to come down for a few days for Sr Mary of the Sacred Heart’s funeral on 24th March and will be coming down for a few more days in early May. There are 200 elderly evacuees all wanting to return home to Christchurch. The number of hospital and rest home beds available has dropped markedly, after many rest homes were damaged.
The Sisters who live in our older building, and who were still sleeping down in the Infirmary for safety, decided it was high time to move back upstairs in time for the silence of Holy Week, and spent last Saturday moving up. As if on cue, that same evening during Silent Prayer we had the biggest aftershock (5.3) since 22nd February. It was very violent, sending us all to places of safety, but surprisingly we had no more damage. Our neighbouring suburb lost electricity, meaning that the Saturday Vigil Mass for Palm Sunday at our Parish was mostly carried out by candlelight. News travels fast, and within half an hour of the aftershock we were fielding phone calls from all over the country inquiring as to our safety. The Sisters braved it, nevertheless, and nervously returned upstairs .
One day in March a team of officials clad in florescent colours and all sorts of labels hanging off them arrived to check our wall after concerns were lodged with the City Council regarding its safety. They found it dangerous in many parts. A builder was contracted to buttress it up along the parts where the public may be in danger. Any non-urgent repairs are a long way off – as there are so many seriously damaged homes in Christchurch, the Earthquake Commission (EQC)will be focussing on them, and the lesser-damaged ones won’t get a proper inspection for 8-9 months, with repairs following after that. Our water pipes are continuing to protest against the continuing earth movement by bursting all over the place, and we have averaged more than one visit from plumbers per week for the whole of Lent (including Holy Week). We regularly find suspicious pools of water on the lawn, then have to break the news to Mother Dorothea who has to phone the plumbers once again. One man who came had been working since 4am – they are really going the extra mile. As the cold weather descended last week we discovered that the separation between our Infirmary building and the main thoroughfare, which noisily parted company on the 22nd, was letting in draughts of bitterly cold air, so our builder was here during Holy Week to do temporary repairs to make it more weatherproof. Any permanent fixes will have to wait till after the EQC inspection, so that will push them on to next year. On April 8th the requirement to boil all drinking water was lifted, which simplified things a bit.
In other areas life is continuing as usual. During Lent we hired a big skip and filled it to the brim with rubbish from the monastery, gardens and paddocks. We have also had the best walnut and chestnut harvest that we’ve had for years. As we were securing our statues in the interquake period (September – February), one of our painters who was helping us, commented that we had the biggest statue collection he had ever seen. The population has now increased considerably, as broken statues from all over the city turn up, each with its own tale of woe. Sr Marietta is doing great work, assisted by others where needed. Some of the statues are in a very bad state, but so long as the face is preserved, most of them are able to be repaired (with much prayer, dedication and glue).
The grass is growing up through the large patches left when the liquefaction was removed, and we are getting used to the cracks in the buildings and pathways. Compared to so many, our damage has been mild. We know people still living in homes which will need to be demolished. There will be much hardship as autumn turns to winter and the damage and overcrowding in some areas take their toll. We ask you to continue to keep all those who are suffering in your prayers. We are also mindful of the terrible destruction in Japan, and while we were relieved to hear that our Carmels there were safe, we are saddened by the suffering of so many.
We were reminiscing this morning about how many of our good friends have died since last Easter. In the past 8 months, one bishop and 4 priests of our diocese have died (all dear friends of our Carmel), including on Monday of Holy Week, Fr Paul Duncan, Parish Priest of Mairehau, after a long battle with cancer. Fr Paul was only in his 50’s. Please keep him in your prayers and his mother, Mary, who will miss him dearly. When we heard that our Bishop Barry Jones had suffered a stroke in late March, we wondered what next? Fortunately he is recovering well, and we are seeing many other signs of new life and hope coming through these trials.
All of the Sisters send their love. Everyone remains in good spirits, and there has been much humour as we make the necessary adjustments to the often changing circumstances we find ourselves in. We look forward to the next 50 days of rejoicing, as we celebrate our Redemption, which came by way of the Cross.
May God bless you all abundantly.
The Carmelite Sisters