Sharon Mitchell

Being Dominican

My first experience of Dominicans was through one of the sisters who took time to get to know us as a family while we lived in Christchurch.  I later came for a retreat to Teschemakers in 1987, and did not want to leave!   When we moved here (Teschemakers) two years later, it felt like coming home!  We loved the climate, the small town, the rolling hills and the people who accepted us so readily.

We became part of the Dominican Community as it was then and we all worked together to run Teschemakers.  My husband Paul was happy to mow lawns and any other work that was required, after 30 years with the Railway!  My part was domestic, and what a great way to get to know everyone!  I especially loved the evening prayer times and the sharing of the gospel that our lives all linked into.  The variety of the times we all shared then is too much to mention, but it was a privileged to take part in many of the activities that made up the days of the sisters.  A time of self-discovery, being able to attend many of the workshops the sisters ran, i.e. personal development, women’s retreats, spirituality, art, permaculture, Co-operative development, and so much more, took me into a completely different world and I was educated me in ways I could never imagine!  I discovered how infinite God is, on the end veranda, facing the chapel – and that was an awesome, unforgettable experience!

Times moved on and things changed for us all, as life does, and we all went on to other adventures!  I did some study and eventually ended up as a Community Worker in the disability sector.  I also had the opportunity to do the Walk by Faith course, with Mary Horn as tutor, which opened me up to so much that is important in the way I lived life, broadened my thinking, and helped me make essential changes in my approach to life and love.  A time of great learning for me, who had so little in the way of education in my earlier years – and I managed to end up aligning myself with the Order of Preachers and Teachers!  So blessed!

The quiet one in large family, I learned to make things from scratch.  I liked to draw and taught myself to sew because it was quick and easy for me. I married young, and having five daughters gave me plenty of opportunity to develop those skills, especially when working with the school, which encouraged my art and shared it with the Catholic community I belonged to.

Each stage of life takes us down a different road.  It was after my mother died in 2005 that I began to explore the creative world of needle-sculpting figures. I found value in making something tangible as a reminder for the time I needed to work through my grief process.  Making figures in cloth gives me a creative outlet to express myself, to research and explore different aspects I had not thought of.   I discovered a thorough enjoyment of the design process, resolving the cloth figure problem, and a love of teaching others.  I have no attachment to what I make and I am happy to let it go, because there is always the next thing!

These days I attend a monthly Dominican Family Group and any other events that come my way.  I love my continued involvement with the Dominican sisters, who continue to teach me how to grow older with courage and great hope for the future.  They have been so loving, kind and inspiring to my family and me, which is what Dominicans all over the world have been doing these last 800 years, with people like me, and the families they have fostered.  I am so grateful to be part of this.

Images of Dominic’s family made by Sharon Mitchell: