We are rather proud of our history, which can be traced back to our holy Father St. Dominic. While he was preaching around the Fanjeaux – Prouille area in the South of France, he converted a number of heretic women back to the true Faith. As they still wished to live a religious life, he formed a religious community at Prouillle. From Prouille there was founded a Convent in Galway, Ireland. Among foundations from Galway are Cabra and Sion Hill near Dublin. Ten nuns came from Sion Hill with the first Bishop of Dunedin to New Zealand in 1871. I joined this group in 1973 and found them to be marvellous nuns. Unfortunately, even in the conservative South Island of New Zealand, they began to fall apart in the aftermath of Vatican II and so I started a new Congregation called the Dominican Sisters of Wanganui.
How would you describe traditional Dominican Spirituality? Besides St. Dominic, does the order have other patron saints?
Traditional Dominican Spirituality is both apostolic and contemplative. Our Order has two main mottos. The first is “Veritas”, “Truth” in English, which means that we devote ourselves to the study of the truths of the Catholic Faith. For example, we recently examined a feminist “theologian” and immediately noted that these so-called “theologians” see the truths of our Faith as merely symbolic of their personal development. However, as we study the Summa of St. Thomas Aquinas, a Dominican, we can immediately see that St. Thomas deals with the truths of the Faith as real truths. This explains the traditional devotion of the Order to the realities of creation and redemption.
The other Dominican motto is “Contemplari et contemplata aliis tradere”. In English this means, “To contemplate and to give to others the fruits of contemplation”. We write “O.P.” after our name because we belong to the Order of Preachers. This is what we do in our teaching – we give to others the fruits of our contemplation.
The Dominican Order has nearly three hundred “official” saints, including two Popes. However, our major saints are St. Dominic, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Martin de Porres, and St. Rose of Lima. Interestingly though, we also celebrate St. Francis of Assisi, calling him “Our Holy Father St. Francis” because of the great friendship and mutual admiration that existed between the two great founders.
Please describe a typical day in the life of a Dominican Sister during the school year.
A typical Dominican Sister in our Congregation rises rather early. We have to get started in good time, since we nearly say the full Divine Office.
5:10 a.m. Rise
5:35 a.m. Lauds, Prime, Pretiosa, Terce, half-hour meditation
7:00 a.m. Mass; Breakfast
8:20 a.m. School Meetings
8:40 a.m. Classes begin
12:50 p.m. Sext in Convent Chapel; Lunch
1:40 p.m. Classes Resume
3:05 p.m. Classes end
3:30 p.m. Recreation in Convent
4:00 p.m. Spiritual Reading
4:15 p.m. None
4:30 p.m. Free time
5:00 p.m. Vespers, Rosary, Matins
6:10 p.m. Dinner; Free time
7:30 p.m. Recreation
8:00 p.m. Compline
9:10 p.m. Lights out
Your Order is both active and contemplative. Could you explain further and also provide us with some of the rules and customs of the Order?
It is a challenge to be both contemplative and active. This has been a balancing act since 1221. At times in its history the order has tipped too far towards contemplation and at other times it has tipped into a sort of activism. St. Thomas Aquinas reminds us that the Dominican balance between contemplation and action results in a life with the closest imitation of the apostles and Our Lord, while our dear Saviour was on earth. Another dear Dominican brother of ours, Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange explains in his book “The Three Conversions in the Spiritual Life” that “apostolic men” are able to make progress in the spiritual life just as contemplatives. With this delicate balance between the two, progress will always be steady and help the Friar or Nun work towards sanctity.
The Rules and Customs of the Order reinforce the contemplative side of our life, because it is easier to forget this part rather than to forget a demanding apostolate. To help us contemplate, we observe a lot of silence in our lives. Our refectory is a silent space in which we never speak, except on Christmas Day, Easter Sunday, and St. Dominic’s Day (August 4th). Silence creates an atmosphere for meditation. We make two meditations every day, half an hour in the morning and another half an hour in the evening. We have spiritual reading during lunch and dinner with personal spiritual reading before None. We also keep order in our lives, because order is a good background for prayer. We have order in the goods we are given permission to use (Poverty) and order in our relationships with each other, with the children and adults with whom we work (Chastity). Finally, we observe order in our observance of the Rule and Constitutions and by obeying our legitimate Superiors (Obedience).
We live according to the Rule of St. Augustine, the Constitutions of our Congregation, the Acts of the most recent Chapter, and the commands of our Superiors, which are according to the Divine Law, Church Law and the Rule and Constitutions.
There is a nice little ceremony, which simply expresses this obedience. Together we sing the Salve Regina in procession after Compline. In this procession the senior Sisters walk last. When the Prioress gets back to her seat she turns to each side of the choir and bows to them, and the Sisters bow back. Thus, both parties express their esteem for each other. The Sisters express their willing obedience to the Prioress and the Prioress expresses that the Sisters have been given to her and are under her care to guide them to Heaven.
The two colours of the Dominican Habit express the idea of sacrificial self-offering through contemplation and action. The black of the habit is for penance and the white is for innocence.
For those with religious vocation enquiries, please explain formation.
Religious Vocation Enquiries:
First – Make contact with us and feel free to ask questions.
Second – Visit us; one look is worth a thousand words, on both sides.
Third – We will ask you to fill out our questionnaire.
Fourth – At this time, you will consult with the Sisters for a date to enter.
Once you enter the convent you begin as a postulant. You will wear a black skirt and a white blouse and try the Sisters’ life for at least six months, but not longer than twelve months. Next, you apply to become a Novice and receive the habit and a white veil and spend the year receiving lectures from the Novice Mistress and the older nuns. The Novice helps with the work at the Convent and enjoys pleasant walks and sport activities at certain times of the week. The Novice will learn to assume larger roles in the Divine Office and also the finer points of Gregorian chant.
After the first year as a Novice, you learn the ways of the Convent and begin to teach and study. If you and the Order are still of the same mind at the end of this second year of Novitiate you will apply to be professed and take your vows. Dominicans only take the vow of Obedience, although they affirm before profession that they understand that as Dominicans they will be bound to observe the vows of Poverty and Chastity. After their first profession, the Sisters wear a black veil.
At First Profession the Sisters take vows for three years and after three years they renew their vows for an additional two years. After five years of profession, the Sisters make Final vows. Years of study continues, since Dominicans study all their lives, either formally or informally. They also “preach” all their lives with some type of teaching.
The Dominican Sisters of Wanganui are a diverse group of 25 Sisters. What parts of the world are they from?
New Zealand (3)
South Africa (1)
With the steady growth of your Congregation, what are some current major projects?
At the moment we have plenty to do at our two foundations: Wanganui, New Zealand and Tynong, Australia.
In Wanganui, New Zealand, St. Dominic’s Convent supports St. Dominic’s College (high school) and the Signadou Boarding House for girls. We are moving on to the “second generation” in the girls’ boarding school, which has been going very well.
In Tynong, Australia at St. Thomas Aquinas College (high school), we are a large group of Sisters fulfilling our apostolate by teaching. Here, we also intend to open a Traditional Teachers’ College, which will equip future graduate Sisters with a teaching license.
A major undertaking this year has been the OP Motherhouse building project in Tynong, Australia. Our Lady of the Rosary Convent is only half completed. It is here where I reside and Novices are trained before making their Profession. As you can imagine, this major building project requires financial help.
How can people help support the Dominican Sisters of Wanganui?
We ask that you continue to pray for the Dominican Sisters of Wanganui so that we will be able to reach our goals.
We are currently in need of pantry items from our fellow parishioners in Tynong, Australia, but from the rest of the world we need money! Additional funds help to provide accommodation to house our sisters and educate them.
The Sisters pray every day for their benefactors, especially on Saturdays. A Mass is offered every month for their intentions. You will never be forgotten in the Sisters’ prayers. Your donations will help the Sisters to expand their apostolate in the English-speaking Catholic world, and keep Catholic Education and the flame of traditional Dominican spirituality well and truly alive.
HOW TO MAKE A DONATION
For some, the easiest way to make a donation is through our website under Contact Us: www.dominicansisters.net.nz
Others may prefer to donate by mail in their respective countries:
Cheques should be made out to “The Dominican Sisters of Wanganui” and sent to: OP Motherhouse Project, Attn: Loren Vaccarezza, 1590 Berryessa Road, San Jose, CA 95133
Cheques for the Convent Building Project must be made out to “St. Thomas Aquinas College Convent Building Fund Account” and sent to: OP Motherhouse Project, P.O. Box 50, Tynong. VIC. 3813, Melbourne, Australia. All donations for the Building of the Convent are tax-deductible.
Cheques should be made out to “The Dominican Sisters of Wanganui” and sent to: OP Motherhouse Project, 12b York Street, Wanganui, 4501, New Zealand.
Cheques should be made out to “Friends of the International Priestly Society of St. Pius X” and sent to: OP Motherhouse Project, SSPX, 286 Upper Thomson Road, Singapore 574402.