Dominican Laity Newsletter #11


Newsletter #11

May 2010

Dear members of the New Zealand Dominican family


On 1-2 May, nineteen lay Dominicans from all around New Zealand gathered at the Home of Compassion in Island Bay, Wellington to discuss establishing a lay branch of the Dominican family in New Zealand. With pleasure, we welcomed Srs Judith McGinley and Margaret Butler representing the sisters, and (on Sunday) Bros Peter Murnane and Kevin Toomey from the friars.

It was a great venue for the occasion. What used to be the hospital is a most comfortable centre, the food (including the vegetables produced by the amazing 88-year-old Sister Loyola, New Zealand Gardener of the Year) superb, and the hospitality all you might expect from Sr Suzanne Aubert’s Sisters of Compassion.

And we met knowing that we had the prayerful support of so many people, both in New Zealand and abroad, including a graceful letter from Fr David Kammler, Promoter General of the Dominican Laity, based in Rome.

From the beginning, it was clear that there was a passion for the Dominican heritage and an enthusiasm for bringing the gifts of Dominic and Catherine to New Zealand. From born-and-bred Dominicans to newcomers captured by the potential offered by the Four Pillars, all showed a deep commitment to the concept of a lay branch of the family in New Zealand. Comments heard included:

There are many vocations – let’s treasure our diversity

We need to be grounded in prayer – contemplation for shared prophetic action

What does the Dominican charism mean to me?

Speak the truth to power, challenging injustice, and hold on to hope

We need to clarify for others what is behind prophetic actions

We can acknowledge and support the gifts of one another

Solidarity with the planet – our inte-rdependence with the earth

Being true to who we are


the Good News

Here is how the days’ sessions developed:

We began, as always with prayer, led by Mary Easton and Jenny Wilson. They invited us to reflect on Isaiah 2:2-4, reminding us that those who “come(to) the mountains of the Lord’s house” will “beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks”. It reminded us of the significance of our gathering.

Susan then led a session on the Dominican tradition and charism, which began with a brief overview of the Dominican history by Sr Judith, and a personal account by Mike Kelly on how he came to this place.

Teresa McNamara then had an innovative way of seeking to answer the question: How do we preach the Good News to the contemporary world? For many people, the thought of “preaching” is disquieting. Teresa helped us see a wider picture.

John Collins then brought us to thinking of what the aims and principles of a lay Dominican movement might consist of. This led to good discussion and an ongoing consideration of the initial vision that came from the first planning group. Norman Gray, Susan Frykberg and Mike Kelly will carry this forward.

On more practical matters, Susan Healey, Jenny Wilson and Mike Kelly asked: what kind of organisation does a lay Dominican need to have? It was agreed that this needed to be a flexible and open grouping, and one that comprised people from different areas of New Zealand. A small group was chosen to develop the concept further. Those in this steering group are: John Collins and Brendan Bergin (Auckland), Mary Easton and Mike Kelly (Lower North Island), and Maria Noonan and Norman Gray (the South)

On Sunday, we shared the Eucharist, led by Fr Kevin Toomey – almost his last act before leaving to accompany the annual pilgrimage to Caleruega and other places in the Dominican story.

Then Mike Kelly introduced the topic of formation – the need for such a process, and how it might best be developed in a way that is suited to the New Zealand context. There was agreement that what ever arose from this inquiry would not follow the highly structured programmes traditionally seen, but would meet the needs of our unique Dominican family. Brendan Bergin, Mike Kelly. Pat Neuwelt and Peter and Michelle Ness were nominated to explore this topic further.

Busy time? Yes, but it felt as if the Holy Spirit was with us.











One wonderful feature: We had invited Sr Margaret to be a rapporteur, one who listened and observed and at the end of each session reflected back to us the essence of what she had heard. It was a valuable, perceptive and sometimes humorous event, and we greatly enjoyed the dance, and the complicated model of reaching out to touch one another.

Our thanks are also due to Sr Judith, who assiduously kept a record of what was happening at every moment; and also thanks to the staff at the Home of Compassion , and especially the wonderfully hospitable Sr Cecilia, always there in case anything was missing (there never was!)

And thanks so much for Jenny Wilson’s practical common sense throughout – not only did she contribute much to the discussion, she also produced afternoon tea and supper, and kept us all on the ball to meet strict time controls.

Here are two reflections on the weekend by two participants.

Dominicans on a collision course of joy

Contemplation and action, two keystones of spiritual and professional life, inspired a recent gathering of Dominican women and men from around Aotearoa New Zealand. Our focus was the spirit of St Dominic and the four pillars of contemplation, community, study and preaching. Our aim was to flesh out a contextual response to being Dominican and to share the fruits of our contemplation and study within the context of life-giving relationships.

With the peaceful spirit of Mother Suzanne Aubert and the hospitality of her sisters at Island Bay Wellington, presiding over us we got down to work. We started by hanging words on thoughts, fears and hopes that had brought us forth, inspired by Dominican friars, sisters, healers, musicians, prophets, preachers, friends. Their inspiration came to us in letters written to our gathering and read to us in a later session. Bridge builders and breach menders of Church and society they remind us of Catherine prodding the pope in Avignon…Dominic actively listening to the stories of peasants in the villages of southern France, exploring truth together. People of faith speaking truth to the powerful, beyond comfort zones.

As the week-end unfolded I was moved by the spirit of unity and theological perspectives of inclusion and tolerance that were shared, rays of light bouncing off chapel walls, energetic bundles banging into one another, Dominicans on a collision course of joy. The language was instrumental and powerful. Ours is a vision seeking justice in partnership with tangata whenua, reflection following action following reflection at the service of the poor, in partnership with God’s Word.

In one activity we walked gingerly around the room, two circles walking in opposite directions, one encircling the other. Someone shouted out a concern or a doubt…(“But I’m no good at speaking out!”) another voice counter-attacked with a solution or pathway forward…..(“We will be with you, your community to support you.”). Like our forebears we were giving expression to a new way of ‘being Dominican community”…brothers, sisters, single, married, joined in civil union, professed, ordained, separated, divorced. We seek opportunities to dialogue with others about the concerns of our age, and although we may be weighed down by burdens, we are all fully alive in the Spirit of Dominic and Catherine, seeking to be faithful to our experience…of God, Church and one another.

Brendan Bergin

Growing into One

Mother, father, children

Finding oneness together


Adult, teen, child

Finding oneness in myself

Lifelong journey

Sisters, friars, single, civil union / married

Growing into one for the journey

We are church

Pat Neuwelt

Following the Gathering, there are two main tasks in hand: the steering group needs to meet and develop a way of organisation that suits the needs of the lay Dominican group in New Zealand, and the formation team needs to begin the task of seeking answers to the question: what do we mean by the term Lay Dominican?

Readers can be assured of regular reports on these and other matters!




This one-day workshop is to be held in 7 different places, and we do hope that you are able to attend this Dominican project.

It is presented by Rev NEIL DARRAGH, a theologian, author, formerly head of the Catholic Institute of Theology. Fr Neil is an excellent speaker with some challenging things to say about the future of our Church:

What would be our mission in the wider world?

What changes will we make to get there?

There is a workshop in a place near you:

AUCKLANDSt Columba Centre, Vermont Street, Ponsonby

Saturday 26 June 2010, 9.30am to 3.30pm

CHRISTCHURCHKnox Centre, Bealey Avenue

Saturday 14 August 2010, 9.30am to 3.30pm

DUNEDINSt Patrick’s Parish Centre, Macandrew Road

Sunday 15 August 2010, 9.30am to 3.30pm

INVERCARGILL St Patrick’s Parish Room, South Invercargill

Saturday 21 August 2010, 9.30am to 3.30pm

OAMARU Catholic Parish Centre, Reed Street

Sunday 22 August 2010, 10.45am to 4.30pm

PALMERSTON NORTH Diocesan Centre, 33 Amesbury Street

Saturday 4 September 2010, 9.30am to 3.30pm

WELLINGTONConnolly Hall, Guilford Terrace

Sunday 5 September 2010, 11am to 4.30pm

Bring your own lunch. Admission $10 or koha.


In January the sisters hold their General Chapter in Dunedin. The first two days of the Chapter will be devoted to the theme:

Dominicans – a Family of Contemplative Preachers

In attendance will be two superb Dominican presenters from USA – Ann Willits OP and Matt Walsh OP.

The Chapter begins with dinner on Friday 7 January 2011, and the theme will be explored for two days 8-9 January.

Accommodation will be available at St Margaret’s College in Dunedin.

If interested, please contact the newsletter co-ordinators Mike and Jenny and we can send you a, application form. Places may be limited, and bookings are requested by 1 November.

Remember: we would love to hear from readers of this newsletter – if you have any questions or comments to make about Dominican matters.

Blessings on this feast of Bl. Andrew Franchi OP – so tomorrow, lay Dominican Mary Bartholomea de Bagnesiis

Mike Kelly and Jenny Wilson


Ph 06 370 2084 Email: