Dear members of the New Zealand Dominican family
As winter grips us, it is worth remembering that this is also the time of Matariki, the rising of the stars (sometimes called the Pleiades) that signal a change of season. Matariki can be translated as the Eyes of God.
It is also, this week, International Refugee Week. (You may be interested in listening to Mike’s preaching on these two events, on the website http://word.op.org/2009/06/21/whats-important/ for Sunday 21 June. Check out the site – Srs Judith Anne O’Sullivan and Joan Hardiman regularly preach here too!)
The topic was discussed at a recent meeting of the Dominican Family Mission and Formation Committee. Refugees, and migrants in general, enter New Zealand with great hope, and so often that hope withers as they face the realities – the indifference, sometimes the hostility, the misunderstandings, the unfamiliarity. If you wear the hijab or a turban you are likely to be stared at and sometimes abused. Your halting English may be dismissed. Getting a job is often extremely difficult.
Fatima is a Palestinian Muslim who wears a headscarf. She has been in New Zealand for 5 years and is a New Zealand citizen – as are all her family. She has a happy smiling face. She has studied hard to learn English and to upskill herself in clerical subjects. She has applied for many, many jobs. But every time she thinks a job is there for her, it vanishes. Her husband, a well-qualified engineer, also cannot find work. At times Fatima cries with frustration because she so wants to become a good Kiwi and she feels ignored and rejected at every turn. At the supermarket, no one smiles at her. Driving a car, she faces rude gestures at the lights. Seldom does she hear a friendly word. Yet she is so hospitable herself, and so open to others (every year she sends us cards at Christmas and Easter!)
At this time of International Refugee week we invite our Dominican brothers and sisters to make a commitment to one step in hospitality. Having an open mind is not enough. What our migrant brothers and sisters need is not an open mind, but open hearts, open arms, open homes. Over the next month or two, let’s invite someone into our home for a cup of tea and a chat. Someone from another culture, another faith. It’s no big deal – it doesn’t have to be a lifelong commitment. Just a small welcome and a few moments of friendship.
Does it sound challenging? Perhaps, But let’s make the effort to overcome our “fear of the other”. Let’s take a step to becoming agents of welcome in a society that is too often cold.
And then – and here is the interesting bit! – we invite you to write to the newsletter and tell us how you found that experience. In the next newsletter (September) we shall print all your responses. Write to Mike and Jenny, email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or PO Box 346 Masterton. We look forward to hearing from you!
We already have stories from four Dominicans in New Zealand who have taken the first step. September’s will be an interesting newsletter.
NEW ZEALAND: CHANGES FOR GOOD OR BAD?
A number of people have expressed concern about the direction recent government decisions and policies appear to be taking us. There are indications that decisions are being taken that would erode the common good of all New Zealanders. A couple of current examples:
The budget decision to withdraw funding from post school education such as nightschool.
The decision to transfer prison management to the private sector.
The proposal being floated to increase the age of retirement to 67.
None of these in itself is a critical event, but taken together they point to a conscious movement towards a world where democracy is gradually worn away and the common good is ignored.
As the world struggles to find its way out of the global economic crisis, we need to be vigilant in seeing that decisions are made that are to the advantage of everyone, not just of a select group.
With this in mind, the Dominican Mission and Formation Committee has undertaken to compile a file of media cuttings that relate to decisions that affect the common good of New Zealanders. You are invited to assist in this work. We would like to have a team of people always on the lookout for news items about issues that affect the common good. It will not all be negative: one recent decision of significant benefit to New Zealanders was the budget allocation of money to help insulate cold homes.
Over a period of time the file of cuttings will clarify the direction being taken by New Zealand and provide material that can be used to raise the issues of concern.
If you would like to help with this, collect the items you notice in your reading from newspapers, magazines, websites, and send them to:
Fr Kevin Toomey OP
10 Scotland St
LAY DOMINICAN GET-TOGETHER
In the last newsletter we introduced the concept of a national get-together for lay Dominicans in 2010. The date has now been clarified:
30 April-2 May 2010.
The venue is definitely Wellington, but the exact location is to be decided (we are seeking somewhere convenient and modest).
The agenda is still being developed, but it will involve discussion of such things as: Why a lay Dominican group? Is it needed? What does it mean, being Dominican? What kind of vision is behind it? And so on.
In the meantime, please do write the date in your diary. Would you like to be part of this initiative to develop the Dominican charism in New Zealand?
Many readers will know, or know of, Dr Jenny Collins, a lay Dominican who has done invaluable research into the history of the Dominican sisters in New Zealand. Jenny is now teaching at Unitec Institute of Technology in Auckland. She has kindly made available to us the attached article, which she describes as a reflection on the changing nature of Dominican mission with an historical focus on the issues facing the Sisters in the early years of their foundation in NZ.
It is attached as a PDF file because it contains an interesting photograph. If you are unable to download it, let me know and I shall send it to you as text.
Blessings to you all.
Mike Kelly and Jenny Wilson
PO Box 346 Masterton
Ph 06 370 2084