Newsletter #1


Newsletter #1  May 2008

Greetings to all in the spirit of Dominic and Catherine. And may the gifts of the Spirit infuse us.

Following the message we sent out on 16 March, we have been delighted at the large number of people who expressed themselves keen to be a part of this new venture. Some of you wrote thoughtfully about the importance of Dominican traditions and spirit in your lives. Some expressed thanks for the gift brought to them by the friars and the sisters. For some, the important concept was that of a lay Dominican contribution to the Dominican family in Aotearoa/New Zealand for the future. We are sure that with such determination, and with the help of the Spirit of Pentecost whom we invite into our lives again this week, the Dominican charism will remain strong in our country.


We need a suitable title for this newsletter. “Dominican laity” seems ordinary. Jenny didn’t like Mike’s idea “DOMINZ. We also thought of PILGRIM/KAIRANGAHAU but we need to consult a Maori advisor before we go any further with that. Your comments would be welcome.


We acknowledge with sadness the recent death of Maura Toomey in Dunedin. Maura was quintessentially Dominican, and her passing leaves a gap. It is hoped that a tribute to her will be available in the next newsletter. In the meantime, our sympathy goes to her family. May she rest in the bosom of Dominic and Catherine.


All Dominicans will know of the brave and significant action taken by Fr Peter Murnane and two friends at the Waihopai surveillance base near Blenheim. Headline in the New Zealand Herald told us: “Spy base priest’s history of trouble”, and quoted the symbolic spilling of his own blood on the carpet of the American consul to protest American actions in Iraq, and his willingness to offer accommodation to Ahmed Zaoui as an alternative to the prison he had endured for 736 days. How odd, that a man whose acts have always been ones for the Prince of Peace, should be labelled a troublemaker.

As Peter called in on his way home to Auckland (travelling “by thumb”, as he says – with a plastic bag holding all his goods) we talked about the thinking that led him to his actions. He stressed the Dominican pillar of STUDY, and how that had led him to the conclusion that Waihopai was part of a global wrong. He insist that Christians must not take things at face value, must not simply accept the information most readily to hand – we must, he says, be “sharper” , “more alert” to what is going on around us. It is a Christian responsibility to put into operation the Church’s option for the poor. In particular, we need always, on all matters dealing with ecology and justice, to be asking questions – especially the question, WHY?

Further information about the Ploughshares group that Peter belongs to is at the website There is also here a bank account number, for those who would like to contribute to the legal defence of the group.


Chrys spent 40 years in Pakistan, where, among Muslim friends, he says he “learned to see another face of God.” He is now based in Rome, where he is a part of the dialogue between the Church and the Muslim world. He points out that Islam is now the largest religion in the world, and growing very fast in Europe (and in New Zealand – a 74% increase since 1996!)

The talks he gave here were all to do with pluralism – the fact that we are already aware, and will become increasingly aware, of the “other” from all points of view. “The ‘other’ can no longer be peripheral to our faith; it is, instead, a part of it……(it) requires a new awakening, basesd on otherness and plurality, instead of on subjectivity and an identity with claims to exclusive universality and absolute uniqueness.”

Fr Chrys’s talk is profound and enlightening. If anyone would like a copy of it, contact Mike (details below) and I shall send you a copy.



At the beginning of last Advent a group of interested sisters, friars and laity from the Dominican family gathered in Christchurch to discern a perceived movement of the Spirit for bringing to birth a new way of living the Dominican charism of prayer, preaching, study and community. Following this meeting feedback was sought from a wider group. The results of this were positive together with encouragement to make the dream a reality. Very soon a small group of around six, representing the laity, sisters, and friars expressing desire and a sense of call to form a core community began more in depth communication. Many others saw that they would like to have the opportunity to join the community for short periods of time, others saw they may be interested at a later point and many who were unable to be part of the community expressed a commitment to pray for the community. What was important was that a strong desire for deeper contemplative prayer lived within the context of community emerged. The other strong position taken by those in the discernment was that contemplation for Dominicans always leads to preaching for justice and truth to prevail in our hearts and in our world. For this reason the daily rhythm that will be lived in the Community will be an expression of our motto “to contemplate and to give to others the fruit of our contemplation”

From this point there has been ongoing prayer, reflection and discernment amongst the core group and on 24th February they committed themselves to the journey with each other towards establishing the community. For each, there was recognition that for their individual commitment to flourish, they must receive the encouragement and sanction of their respective groups, be it sisters, friars or marriage and family which have received their primary vocation. In this context we have continued our discernment.

In terms of place we had begun to search for possible places in Dunedin, when the Dominican sisters Leadership Team offered the house in Scotland Street, for a period of two years. We have experienced this as great gift as it gives us the time to live the reality of a Dominican contemplative preaching community without the pressure of needing to invest in a property before we discover what it is that we will need to live out this dream more fully. The idea of growth happening in an organic way means trusting the journey and each other knowing we will be led by the Spirit. Scotland Street is a house that is warm, welcoming and spacious giving places for prayer, study, and community living. The date for the community to begin this stage of the journey in Scotland Street is on May 24th the European feast of the translation of Dominic and the day we celebrate Mary as Patroness of New Zealand.

We ask for the prayers of all the Dominican Family that this dream inspired by the Spirit of God will be lived in this same Spirit.

Maria Noonan & Judith Anne O’Sullivan

For Core Community


The basis of Scriptural Preaching: a four –part course led by the Dominican preaching team. In Auckland, the first day Saturday 24 May, from 11.00a, to 4.00pm.

Inquiries to:

Judith Crimmins or Ph 09 376 5767 or

Susan Healy, Ph 09 817 6464

Parable retreats – with Judith Anne O’Sullivan and Kevin Toomey from New Zealand,

and Ann Willits and Brian Pierce from USA.

22-28 August (Holy Cross College, Mosgiel), and

2-8 September (El Rancho, Waikanae).

Inquiries to Maureen O’Hanlon, Ph 06 355 0272

Dominican Summer Schools January 2009

Theme: Creating Communities of Hope

St Margaret’s College Dunedin 2-5 January

Columba Centre Ponsonby Auckland 8-11 January

Connolly Hall Wellington 16-17 January

Barbara Reid, Dominican scriptural scholar, will give presentations in the mornings.

Creative workshops in the afternoons. Details to come.

NB We do hope that Lay Dominicans will try to get to one of these summer

schools – they are the best way we know of to build our Dominican family and to develop our New Zealand Dominican spiritual character.


Erik Borgman is a Dutch i

layman, and a theologian. Among his many writings is Dominican Spirituality, an Exploration (Continuum, 2001). It is, alas, now out of print. Such a pity, since it is a superb account of how “the Dominican way has something exceptional to offer people of all Christian traditions today”. It is in fact a book for lay Dominicans.

The group that met in March and which initiated this letter, was greatly taken by an extract from Borgman’s book. The book has just 5 chapters. We are attaching Chapter 2 to this newsletter in the hope that others too may find it useful. We would appreciate your comments.


Some people have asked, how can I contribute to the people suffering as a result of the flooding, and know my donations will reach those in need? Avaaz is a reputable international organisation – you can read about them on the web at They have written as follows:

Dear friends,In the wake of a massive cyclone, a shocking 100,000 Burmese may be dead. More are missing. A million are homeless.But what’s happening in Burma is not just a natural disaster–it’s also a catastrophe of bad leadership.Burma’s brutal and corrupt military junta failed to warn the people, failed to evacuate any areas, and suppressed freedom of communication so that Burmese people didn’t know the storm was coming when the rest of the world did. Now the government is failing to respond to the disaster and obstructing international aid organizations.Humanitarian relief is urgently needed, but Burma’s government could easily delay, divert or misuse any aid. Yesterday the International Burmese Monks Organization, including many leaders of the democracy protests last fall, launched a new effort to provide relief through Burma‘s powerful grass roots network of monasteries–the most trusted institutions in the country and currently the only source of housing and support in many devastated communities. Click below to help the Burmese people with a donation and see a video appeal to Avaaz from a leader of the monks: to the monks is a smart, fast way to get aid directly to Burma’s people. Governments and international aid organizations are important, but face challenges–they may not be allowed into Burma, or they may be forced to provide aid according to the junta’s rules. And most will have to spend large amounts of money just setting up operations in the country. The monks are already on the front lines of the aid effort–housing, feeding, and supporting the victims of the cyclone since the day it struck. The International Burmese Monks Organization will send money directly to each monastery through their own networks, bypassing regime controls.Last year, more than 800,000 of us around the world stood with the Burmese people as they rose up against the military dictatorship. The government lost no time then in dispatching its armies to ruthlessly crush the non-violent democracy movement–but now, as tens of thousands die, the junta’s response is slow and threatens to divert precious aid into the corrupt regime’s pockets.The monks are unlikely to receive aid from governments or large humanitarian organizations, but they have a stronger presence and trust among the Burmese people than both. If we all chip in a little bit, we can help them to make a big difference. Click here to donate: hope,Ricken, Ben, Graziela, Paul, Iain, Veronique, Pascal, Galit and the whole Avaaz team


1. We hope to send out a newsletter similar to this one every two months. To do so, we are dependent on you, as individuals and as groups of lay people, telling us about your journeys, your activities, your thoughts, experiences. The next letter will come out in July. We would love to hear from you – articles, poems, letters, recommendations, contributions of all kinds. And perhaps you can suggest future items for the newsletter.

2. It would be good to build the Dominican family in New Zealand. If you know of others who might be interested in receiving this newsletter, you are welcome to pass it on to them, or to give us their names and contact details so that we can add them to our records. Help us spread the Dominican word!

Blessings and peace

Mike Kelly and Jenny Wilson

Newsletter co-ordinators

PO Box 346 Masterton

Ph 06 370 2084