Dear members of the New Zealand Dominican family
We have come to the end of one year in the Church and begun another, and later in this letter refer you to a splendid reflection on the season of Advent by the Master of the Order, Carlos A. Azpiroz Costa OP. But before we leave the old year behind, maybe it is good to recall some of the events of the year.
This is the 4th newsletter expressly for lay Dominicans, although we recognise and treasure the fact that all of us – friars, sisters and lay – belong to the same family and share a history and the gifts.
In venues around New Zealand the feast of St Dominic was celebrated in joy and prayer.
We enjoyed visits from wonderful Dominicans from overseas – Bro Chrys McVey with his deep understanding of Islam and a message that we must become more pluralist in our thinking of other religions; Brian Pierce OP and Sr Ann Willits OP who helped run the parable retreat that some of us were fortunate to attend.
The house of prayer in Scotland St, Dunedin was established, and is already becoming a feature on the spiritual scene in Otago.
Bro Peter Murnane, with others of the Ploughshares group, made a strong statement about New Zealand’s involvement in American power games.
The Dominican preaching team, including friar, sister and lay people, was again active.
A course on scriptural preaching was run in Auckland – again, friars, sister and lay involvement.
Dominicans continued to supply excellent articles for the magazine Tui Motu.
And for the coming year, already two things of interest:
The Summer Schools in January – Auckland, Dunedin, Wellington – with Dr Barbara Reid OP visiting from USA and other talented Dominicans. For details see Newsletter #3.
Mike (from your newsletter team of Mike and Jenny) will attend a Dominican Family Conference in Taiwan as a lay representative with Sr Mary Anna Baird. This is a week-long event involving Dominicans from all over the Asia-Pacific region. He will report back in the first newsletter of 2009.
Mike says: “I am aware that the lay Dominican situation in New Zealand is very different from that of many other countries, and I would welcome comment from those who receive this letter about how to convey to other people, the New Zealand experience. If you have some thoughts, please let me have them!”
Susan Healy from the Avondale group, and Jenny Wilson from the Lower North Island group, report on the year:
Avondale Dominican Laity Group
May 2006 saw the beginnings of a Dominican laity group in Avondale. We were mainly from West Auckland apart from David Tutty from the diocesan Justice and Peace desk, Carmel Walsh as a link with the Sisters and Maria Tui’nukuafe who is an outreach member from the Far North. We met at Dorothy Coup’s place and continue to be grateful for the hospitality of her home.
Our meetings in the first year were a combination of somewhat formal and tentative as we adjusted to one another and what a Dominican commitment might mean. Each evening we spent some time where
one member presented some thoughts on the day’s Gospel and others shared their thoughts. We also discussed various issues and ended the evening with supper – usually enjoying some of Dorothy’s home baking!
In January 2007 we hosted a workshop on preaching by Patricia Juno op and Jude Siciliano op in our parish hall. Nearly 50 people attended and it was a wonderful success, thanks to Patricia’s and Jude’s skilled facilitation.
In the second half of 2007 we went into recess as a group but a small number of us have been meeting again through 2008, and maintaining the link with Maria in the North. Our last two meetings have been rather different in their format. This came about because some of our group attended the training sessions on preaching offered by the Dominican Preaching Team. After the second session we were keen to have some preaching practice. With approval from all, we agreed to make use of our laity meeting date for this. Each person offers a ‘four minute homily’ on the Gospel of the following Sunday and gets feedback from the group. This has been a very positive experience. It’s amazing how each brings their own life experiences, insights, personality and faith to the text.
It will be interesting to see how 2009 pans out.
Dominicans in the LowerNorthIsland
Just over a year ago, Mike and I bade farewell to our Dominican group in Auckland and moved to Masterton. We had been with that group for about eight years, and for me it was a major upheaval and I took quite a while to settle. I missed everything I was familiar with in Auckland and longed to return. That feeling of being lost and adrift was difficult to deal with.
How fortunate we were to make contact with the Dominican sisters in both Palmerston North and Johnsonville. We discussed the possibility of a family group, and before long had gathered a small group of interested people from Palmerston, Feilding and Wellington.
We met first of all at Rongopai St in Palmerston, and over a shared meal were able to meet and talk to Chrys McVey, who was visiting New Zealand. From that meeting, we decided to meet on a fairly regular basis, and have so far met twice in Feilding at the home of Mary Eastham. We gather at 11 am have a cup of tea catch up with each other, and decide on the shape of the day. It is evolving to a format of socialising, including a shared lunch, prayer and discussion of an issue which has relevance at the time. For example at the meeting on 8 November we discussed the letter Elizabeth Mackie had printed in the Otago Daily Times on 13 October, entitled More in your pocket may come at a cost. This resulted in some robust discussion, and we were starting some very useful structural analysis, which could be taken much further at a later date. I note that Elizabeth’s letter is printed in the latest copy of Tui Motu.
Discussing the letter
Our focus is always on the four pillars of Dominican life – Prayer, Study, Community and Preaching. This seems to me to be a good recipe for living a full and productive life, given that preaching can take many forms. Affirming the prophets of our day, packing food parcels for the foodbank, visiting hospitals and prisons, are all as legitimate preaching as standing at a lectern to deliver a homily. The group is a wonderful source of spiritual nourishment as well as a touchstone for understanding justice and ecological issues in other areas. It will probably take a while to discern what voice we are to project in today’s world, but meanwhile we all, in our own ways, preach the gospel of Jesus Christ where ever we can.
Our next meeting is in March, possibly in Johnsonville, and will have plenty to discuss after Mike’s trip to Taiwan in February for the Dominican Family Leadership Conference.
AN ADVENT LETTER
For this year’s Advent reflection by Carlos A. Azpiroz Costa OP, Master of the Order, please click on this website:
DAVID TUTTY – RESEARCH
David has for 12 years run the Justice and Peace office in the Auckland Diocese. He is moving on, to an astonishing research and study regime. David’s strong Dominican links are well recognisable in his plans.
After 12 years as the Justice and Peace worker for the Auckland Diocese, I am preparing to embark on more study. I have enrolled in a doctoral programme in missiology at the University of South Africa and will resign from my position at Christmas. The provisional title I have come up with for this thesis project is Mission as conversion to justice.
What I am most interested in is how to better educate and conscientise people of a dominant, privileged group that working for justice is at the heart of Christian mission. So I want to look into:
What contributes to members of a dominant, privileged group recognising that there is injustice and that they are the beneficiaries of the way things are structured? What contributes to these people being willing to let go some of their privileges and putting their skills and resources at the service of work for justice? What contributes to relatively affluent people being willing to begin the journey to take seriously the option for the poor? And what contributes to a conversion journey that basically is about taking risks, being less secure and being regarded by other privileged people as a traitor to their values, priorities, agenda and group?
Essentially I want to look at the conversion journey of Christian people who are from the dominant socio-economic group and have moved from a more personal and possibly pietistic faith to one that sees actions for justice as central to their sense of mission. I want to study this so that I – and others – can intentionally better contribute to this journey. In having a better grasp of the sorts of contexts that are most conducive, and the sorts of experiences, insights and learnings that contribute to seeing the world through a different set of lenses and values and thus acting more and more for justice, I hope to be able to point to deliberate respectful strategies to better educate for justice.
This thesis work has arisen out of my own attempts to raise awareness of comfortable middle-class Päkehä: that the present constitutional arrangements are not just and that Mäori have a right to self determination – both political and economic; that the affluent lifestyle that we collectively enjoy is not only based on a historic dispossession but is also unjust in global terms (for while we enjoy comfort more than 850 million people around the world go to bed hungry each night); and that this very lifestyle is not sustainable in ecological, planetary terms.
Through my attempts, I have come to suspect that there are a number of interconnected factors that contribute to a movement towards taking justice issues more seriously. Firstly, for Christian people, how we perceive or image God is a significant contributor. The qualities, characteristics and perspective we attribute to God, either consciously or not, shape what we see God wants for us, and of us, and how we are to relate with the rest of creation. Secondly, our sense of what is justice and what horizons we apply this to is also a contributor. Biblically the phrase right relationships underlies the concept of justice. What is seen to be the right level and how far these relationships extend is critical to the level of engagement in work for justice. And thirdly, our cultural sense of what is normal and appropriate is also a significant contributor. How we see the status quo, how open we are to alternatives and how active is our imagination of alternatives, are all shaped by some deeply held, unconscious and unquestioned assumptions that critically impact upon the movement towards taking justice more seriously.
I am naming this movement toward greater commitment to action for justice as a conversion journey. I am also naming it as a necessary part of responding to missio dei – to God’s mission that we are called to share in and contribute to. In fact, I see responding to God’s invitation to share in this mission of establishing just and right relationships is a life-long conversion journey that needs to be an intentional and deliberate combination of thoughtful action and prayerful reflection and surrender.
I am not suggesting that there are any simple answers. Conversion and conversion journeys are not what most people actively seek. My hope is that I learn more creative ways of encouraging people to risk a conversion journey to justice.
David TuttyCatholic Justice and Peace Office.
In 1997, the CODAL (Conferencia Dominicos AmericaLatina) invited Dominican Sisters to
participate in regional reflections on Dominican life and mission. The conference for the Andean countries was held in September, 1997, in Lima, Peru. There, 28 Sisters and 4 lay women from eleven Dominican congregations theologized and reflected from their life and mission experience around the four pillars of Dominican life: preaching, study, contemplation, and compassion.
This paper is the product of the reflections of those who attended this meeting. We invite you to enter into their spirituality and share their points of view as a way of understanding the directions of Dominican life in other cultures.
Days of Dominican Grace: summer schools
Dunedin – from 2-5 January
Auckland – from 8 to 11 January
Wellington – a short course, from Friday evening 16 January to Saturday 17 January (all day).
Mike and Jenny pray that our Dominican brothers and sisters may find rewards in this gifted season of advent as together we look to the time we celebrate God-among-us. Enjoy the summer, enjoy the Christmas season, enjoy the sharing.
Mike and Jenny
Mike Kelly and Jenny Wilson
PO Box 346 Masterton
Ph 06 370 2084