Dominican Laity Newsletter #3


Newsletter #3

September 2008


Dominican Saints for September

Among the many Dominicans in the Church’s calendar of feasts, two whom we recall in September are:

Sept. 6 Bl. Julia Stanislava Rodzinska (1899-1945) This Polish sister and teacher was imprisoned by the Nazis in the Stutthof death camp. She volunteered to enter a hut where typhoid had broken out and nursed the dying women, mostly Jews. She was beatified in 1999.
Sept 18 St. John Macias (1585-1645) This lay brother was a friend of St Martin de Porres, in Peru. He worked among the poor, and was regarded by them as a miracle worker.


An interesting variety of celebrations around New Zealand for the feast of the Joyful Friar. In Auckland guests were treated to a talk by the Head Girl and Deputy at St Dominic’s College. Manawatu enjoyed a lunch together, with liturgy and a presentation about Transition Towns (see below). And from Dunedin we are grateful for a comment from Amy Armstrong:

The Dunedin Dominican Family gathered to commemorate St. Dominic’s Day

on Saturday the 9th of August. To honour the day, Mass was celebrated

and followed by a shared afternoon tea. The day was cold, but our

hearts were warmed by the Presence of God and each other. It truly

was a day of family celebrations as women and men, lay and religious

all came together. I particularly appreciated the lay participation

in the Mass as a married couple shared the Gospel and Homily with us.

As a lay woman in the Catholic Church, I am continuously touched by

the Dominican Spirit of inclusion. We continue to pray in

thanksgiving for the Dominican families around our nation and our



The world’s most massive physics experiment began Sept. 10, as the Large Hadron Collider becomes officially operational. The collider is a 27-kilometre ring constructed deep underground beneath the border between Switzerland and France.

Considered to be the world’s largest machine, it was built at a cost of $9 billion dollars to make truly groundbreaking discoveries in science. The collider took ten years to build.

Inside the collider, powerful magnets chilled to a few degrees above absolute zero (-271C) will zip beams of energetic protons in a loop at speeds close to the speed of light then collide them head on. The energy released will be so huge that the impacts will recreate conditions in the universe as they existed just a tiny fraction of a second after the “Big Bang,” the so-called instant of the universe’s creation.

Sr. Katarina Pajchel, a Dominican sister who is also a physicist from the University of Oslo in Norway, who works with CERN on collider projects, told NCR: “Today’s picture of fundamental particles and processes has become part of our common understanding of nature. The theories have so far been remarkably successful; however there are some key questions that remain open.”

The collider is designed to cover the energy range where we would expect new discoveries that answer these questions, she said. “We hope perhaps also to answer other questions: Are there, for example, more than three space dimensions? Can we understand better the small asymmetry between matter and anti-matter, which is the very reason that we and everything around us exists?

“It might sound like a science fiction scenario but it is not.” The laws of nature speak of an amazing order, creativity and beauty, she said. “Our current understanding bears witness to the power of human thought, imagination and curiosity. Through it we are given insight into God’s creative plan.”

However deep these discoveries go, Pajchel said, they do not threaten religion, “but rather firmly hold up the real mysteries of faith, more clearly and in a challenging way.

“Contact with sober science can make us less vulnerable and more balanced as well in meeting modern religious movements, like New Age, which are often quasi-scientific,” she said. “One can end up in the paradoxical situation of defending both rational scientific research and the real mysteries of faith.”


A number of people in the Dominican family have become concerned about the terrible damage we human beings have been causing to the planet we live in. Certainly the tragedies happening to people in so many parts of the world from conflict, famine, poverty, epidemics. But also the damage to the earth itself, through misuse of its resources.

In recent times we have become aware of the enormous threat to our planet, and to us its inhabitants, from two parallel and closely related sources: peak oil, and climate change. It is predicted that together, these phenomena will impose changes on human life of gigantic proportions.

Transition Towns is an initiative from the UK that has rapidly spread around the world. It is a concept that promotes a greater degree of self-sustainability in every local community. It is now well established in New Zealand, and a number of Dominicans are involved in it.

Patrick Doherty from Auckland is one such person. Here he tells his story:

Transitions Towns

I have been acutely conscious of the dark clouds looming on our horizon but I was even more gloomy about how little I was able to do to make a difference. I frequently felt despair about the 1 billion people who lived on less than $1 a day, that we were losing 2m tonnes of top soil a year and that the loss of habitat and deforestation was accelerating species extinction. Then there was Climate Change which would exacerbate all these challenges. Oh dear! Yet, when I looked into the eyes of my grand daughter, Isabelle, I was determined to find a way to make some change.

Initially I put my energy into teaching Sustainable living courses in churches and community centres. On one of the courses, one participant wondered aloud whether changing our light bulbs, riding bikes and turning down the thermostats would really make all the difference? What about the Corporations, Agribusinesses and China and India eagerly reaching for affluence? And how will all of this be affected by Peak Oil?

I knew that the way forward was to activate the power of community participation. After all the great social shifts in the past had been started by communities getting together, raising awareness and starting to act together in spite of the odds. This was certainly true for the end of slavery, the woman’s and civil rights’ movement, end of colonial rule, and the birth of the environmental movement. So my search was to connect up with a community movement and then Transition Towns (TT) came onto my screen. I researched it and in May 2008 I was able to complete a TT course in Dublin.

The course followed three overall themes:-

The Head – the challenges we face;

We covered topics as such as Peak Oil, Climate Change, unequal distribution of wealth, deforestation, pollution and top soil depletion.

As a group, struggling with a range of strong response feelings, we realised, that although the situation was complex and very fraught, this was a momentous time for humanity.

We all agreed that as long our human culture is based on the unsustainable assumptions and practices of the Industrial Growth System, the systems will fail.

A Sustainable Living system on the planet will have to align itself with how life works, so a reinvention of a sustainable human culture will have to be in alignment with the rest of life on the planet.

The Heart – how to cope with the challenge

We were then challenged to accept that with Peak Oil things are going to change and that it was still possible for us to choose. We recognised that it was up to us to accept real change and prepare now for the future transition or shy away and cope with the future unprepared. TT is strong on empowering people to vision a positive future for themselves, because if we can’t imagine the future we want we won’t be able to create it.

We worked with the reality that we are addicted to cheap fossil fuel and that as it becomes more and more expensive our communities will be faced with the pain of withdrawal symptoms, giving up our longings for an affluent lifestyle, which is trashing the planet.

Hope and the possibility of a more fulfilling and relationship-rich lifestyle underlined the course. We all developed and shared our visions for the future and talked about the opportunities that the lower energy life style would provide. We revelled in the possibilities of lower energy, more localised future community support, more localised businesses, more neighbourly interactions and swapping of seeds, more sharing of surplus veggies and skills and buying locally.

The Hands – how to put into practice our new awarenesses

The emerging TT community models that are springing up all over the world and are like the Base Communities in South America. The focus is to empower all people and businesses in the community to be involved, everyone is needed for us to build strong localised communities,.

We need good listeners, gardeners, people who like to make and fix everything, good parties, discussions, energy engineers, inspiring art and music, builders, planners, project managers. Each community group is encouraged to have the steering group run by the leaders of the various small working groups in the community e.g. leaders of the Seed Group and the Bike Repair group.

In a successful transition project every skill is valuable because there is so much happening. If we can source many of our needs locally we will be better able to weather the future global storms. Resilience is the ability of a community to absorb change and still function.

TT provides clear guidelines for communities starting up and moving through the various phases to the final Energy Descent Action Plan.

The transition model is simple yet powerful – and many communities of all sizes and geographical locations around the world are trying it for themselves. A town in Japan has just become the 100th Transition Town. TT have created continually evolving guide lines that are easy to follow.

TT have built in ideas of sharing resources an information from the start including the wiki website and a national network through a web page.

Here in NZ there are over 40 initiates and more and more are springing up all the time. Our web page is

I made contact with the people from Bristol, UK, TT who were also involved in the “Sound of many Waters” at the Catholic Cathedral. They were working to integrate Transition Towns with their faith journey. This is what we are trying to accomplish at St Benedict’s “Earth Care Auckland”


Patrick Doherty, Auckland, Sept. 2008

(There are many good books about what is needed to recover the goodness of the earth. One that Jenny has been reading lately, and recommends, is Cherishing the Earth: How to care for God’s Creation, by Martin and Margot Hodson, publ. Monarch)


In early January we again have a remarkable opportunity to spend some time in a Dominican setting and find out more about the Dominican call. What a great way to start 2009!

The Summer School is organised by the Dominican Planning Committee. The theme of the School this years is:

Communities of Hope in a Chaotic World.

Guest speaker is Dr Barbara Reid OP, who holds a PhD in Biblical Studies from the Catholic University of America in Washington DC, and who is currently professor of New Testament at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. She will give a number of talks, including

The gift of contemplation and contemplative presence

Biblical models of forgiveness and reconciliation

Pease building across boundaries of difference

Power of prophetic women

Part of the school consists of creative workshops, covering poetry, art and storytelling, conducted by great facilitators as listed below..

There are three schools:

Dunedin – from 2-5 January (Saturday to Monday), 9.00am to 5.30pm daily. At St Margaret’s College, Leith St.

Workshops: Prayer as prayer and prayer as poetry – Joy Cowley

Using art in the “God quest” – Mary Horn

Poetry and the Word – Bernadette Hall

Embodying the Word through storytelling – Jan Ogilvy

Costs: Live in – $200 ($180 early bird)

Live out with lunch and dinner $120 ($100 e.b.)

Live out, lunch only $100 ($80 e.b.)

Auckland – from 8 to 11 January (Friday to Sunday), 9.00am to 4.00pm daily. At St Columba Centre, 40 Vermont St Ponsonby. This is a non-residential event, but some accommodation may be available at the seminary.

Workshops:Using art in the “God quest” – Mary Horn

Ecology – Neil Darragh

Treaty of Waitangi – Susan Healy

Poetry- Anne Powell RC

Music – Sharon Fitzgerald

Costs: Full registration $120 (early bird $120)

Wellington – a short course, from Friday evening 16 January to Saturday 17 January (all day). At Connolly Hall, Hill St.

There are no workshops at this school.

Costs: $10 Friday, $20 Saturday (unwaged total $15).

The Summer School is probably the most important occasion for members of the Dominican family to come together under the mantle of Dominic and Catherine.

Further details and application forms from Anne Haines, 68 Tyne St, Mosgiel 9024, Ph 03 477 7577. Or email Mike at <>

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This month’s article is by Helen Bergin OP, who teaches at the Catholic Institute of Theology in Auckland. She has a Licentiate in Sacred Theology (STL) and Doctorate in Sacred Theology (STD) from the Catholic University of America, WashingtonDC. It is reprinted here by her kind permission.

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Thanks to all those who sent comments about previous newsletters. We really welcome your comments. The letter certainly seems to be serving a need.   If you have something you would like others to know about, or might be interested in contributing a piece to the next letter (November), please contact us.

Don’t forget to pass on this newsletter to others who might be interested – or let us know their name/address, and we can send a copy.


Blessings and peace

Mike Kelly and Jenny Wilson

Newsletter co-ordinators

PO Box 346 Masterton

Ph 06 370 2084