Dominican Laity Newsletter #19


Newsletter #19

December 2011


Dear Friends



A daily dose of Dominican preaching

Today our parish priest, preaching on the beginning of Mark’s gospel which begins with the challenge that John the Baptist gave to the people of his time, made the point that whereas Lent is an easy season to know what to do with, Advent is much ore demanding. Because if we are to celebrate the coming of the Son of God into the world of creation and into our lives, we have to prepare ourselves – not in a wishy-washy way but making a real effort. He asked if we could really expect to celebrate Christmas while we look about us and see poverty in our midst, and people without faith to support them, and children dying from famine.

John’s message to the people who flocked to see him at the Jordan was: Be prepared to change things, to make this world a better place, so that we can respond generously to the coming of the Messiah.

In this Advent season may we recall our baptism by water and open ourselves to the baptism of the Spirit. And may we celebrate the time of Christmas with our families, our communities, our world with joy and hope.



It has indeed been a year of sadness for the sisters, who have seen seven loved members of their congregation die Some reflections on the lives of departed sisters follow. Our thanks to the contributors.


Sister Clare loved life.

She loved people. She loved dancing. She loved God. She loved her family and all her Dominican Sisters.

She loved birds. She loved swimming. She loved praying. Children, animals, going places, being with people, laughing and enjoying them all, was wonderful for her.

Where ever she was, whatever she was doing she became completely involved in it, and thoroughly enjoyed it. She loved making people happy and went to no end of trouble to do so.

Clare grew up in Invercargill and when she was twenty she joined the Dominican Sisters, who had taught her throughout her schooling.

She was a born teacher, and after training at Loreto Hall Teachers’ College in Auckland Clare taught primary school in many parts of New Zealand. She was often Principal and those who taught with her are loud in their praise of the skill Clare had in leading them on to teach with confidence and joy.

For many years Sister Clare worked in St Benedict’s Parish, Auckland as Parish worker. Everyone was made welcome and a special spot was found for each and every one. Then she finally retired to Waiheke Island with her sister Joan who was a Home of Compassion Sister. Together they became involved in all that the Island offered. Their home was a place of hospitality to all; a place of prayer, a place of fun, encouragement, support and empowerment.

Sister Clare died peacefully on 20 August at the age of 86. We will all miss her. May she rest in peace.


Sister Mary Louise Timpany was born in August 1920 to a Southland farming family of Longbush. She was the eldest of six children and attended Longbush Primary School. St Catherine’s College Invercargill provided her secondary education and at twenty-one years of age she joined the Dominican sisters in Dunedin.

At this time the Bishops of New Zealand were aware of the need for Catholic education for Deaf children. In 1944 St Dominic’s School for the Deaf opened in Island Bay, Wellington and Sister Louise began her life’s work. The children were confused by all the vowels in her name and she would often receive letters addressed to Sister Lousie! The ex-pupils remember her as patient and caring. They respected her for always being just and fair and not having favourites.

But Sister Louise did much more than teach Deaf children in school. She supported the call for a National Body for the Deaf to speak with one voice – now the Deaf Association of New Zealand. In 1970 she was awarded the M.B.E. for her work with the Deaf. Together with Daniel Beech, Ken Brain, Lilian Walton and other strong Deaf leaders she was fighting to improve opportunities for Deaf people in New Zealand. She contacted members of Parliament requesting: social workers for the Deaf, qualified Counsellors, recognition of Sign Language and the training of Interpreters.

She died in the Dunedin Hospice on Sunday, 26 June 2011 in her 91st year

We give thanks for the life of Sister Mary Louise – A strong gentle woman.


Sister Gemma Finlay who died 15 November knew better than most of us what Dominican Family was all about. She herself had lived the professed life of a Dominican Sister for over 60 years, but was always aware that Dominican life was an all embracing life which incorporated all manner of people. Her first encounter with Dominicans was when she left the little Windsor school in North Otago to become a pupil of Dominican Sisters at St Joseph’s, Oamaru and later a pupil and boarder at St Dominic’s in Dunedin.

As she had received the Dominican charism throughout her schooling years so she imparted it as a teacher. This was especially evident when she became a teacher and carer of deaf children at St Dominic’s School for the Deaf, and later extended her ministry to adult deaf. When I came to live with Gemma in her retirement it never ceased to amaze me that the deaf who came into our home to visit, came in as if they belonged. They did belong in a beautiful relationship with the sisters who not only taught them but cared for them lovingly 24 hours each day. The sisters in their turn knew they were enriched by their special pupils and families of their students.

Gemma was associated with the men’s side of the Order all of her Dominican days. Firstly she would have known Friars from Dominican retreats. Then when she helped to establish the primary school in Blockhouse Bay she worked closely with the Friars.

Gemma also had a good grasp of Dominican life at an international level. For some years she co-edited a news letter for the Asia- Pacific Dominican women. She came to know the stories of many of the congregations in this region.

She was also fortunate to be a representative of the Aotearoa New Zealand Dominican Congregation at a gathering of Dominican women in Dublin. Throughout Gemma’s religious life she was associated with Dominican ex-pupils and Dominican Tertiaries. In her retirement in Palmerston North another form of Dominican life began to happen, about which she was very excited and enthusiastic. A group formed which wanted specifically to be Dominican. We often called it the “Mary Group” for the simple reason that three of the members were named Mary. We met regularly to pray, to eat and to reflect on scripture and things Dominican.

This group has now extended, and has taken on a much wider membership and vision. Until Parkinson’s disease invaded Gemma’s body and she chose to go into care in a rest home in Oamaru, she would never miss a Dominican Family gathering at which she simply knew she was loved by each member, where she was interested in each individual and where she felt stimulated by the members, enriched by the prayer and enlightened by programme of the day.

Her favourite saying from Eckhart, the German mystic was “God and I we are one”. May that be the truth of Gemma’s dying.


Sister Mary Teresa Geoffrey, known as May to her family and Sister Basil in religion, was born in Central Otago in 1918, one of 4 children to her devout parents Mary and Joseph. Travel to school and to Sunday Mass was by horse and trap. She loved hockey and ice skating.

When she was 10 she visited the South Seas Exhibition in Dunedin, where she first met a Dominican sister and told her mother that was what she wanted to be. The parents decided to let May and her sister Eunice board at St Dominic’s in Dunedin. On matriculation she applied for Teachers College but before she could get there she heard the call to join the Dominican novitiate. She entered the convent in 1937.

Sister Basil taught in many schools in her 40 years of teaching, in Otago, Southland and in Auckland. She was a much loved teacher, remembered not only by her ex-pupils but by parishioners and others for her compassion and kindness.

After retirement she worked as a hospital chaplain, and then as a pastoral worker at Henderson. In 1999 she celebrated her Diamond Jubilee of religious Profession. In 2001 her deep concern for the unborn child led her to join “Operation Rescue”, which campaigned vigorously against abortion – even on one occasion, being arrested with 11 others for gathering to pray outside an abortion clinic.

As her health declined she took up residency at Marian Rest Home,, Mission Bay, where she spent 5 happy years. The in 2007 she moved to St Joseph’s Home in Ponsonby, where she continued to attend daily Mass and Rosary in the Chapel. Her lifelong fidelity to daily prayer and the Eucharist, and her devotion to Our Lady, St Therese of Lisieux, and St Martin de Porres, continued to the end.

In May this year she enjoyed her 93rd birthday.

Well done, good and faithful servant! REST IN PEACE!


Deaf Dominicans lead celebration of All Dominican Saints

On a more cheerful note, the Auckland celebration of the feast of St Dominic this year had a special feature. The obituary on Sr Louise (above) mentions the long association the Dominican sisters have had with the deaf community. In November this association was celebrated. Here is a report of the gathering.

On Sunday November 6 we had our Dominican family celebration of the feast of All Dominican Saints at St. Dominic’s parish centre, Blockhouse Bay.

Sister Helen welcomed us all and led us in prayer to remember Sisters Clare and Basil who had both died since our last gathering. She then asked Sister Dominic to introduce the presentation by Mary Johnson, MNZM, and her three deaf companions.

Mary led us in a prayer she especially composed (printed below) and introduced Dorothy, Elizabeth and Beth, all four being ex-pupils of St Dominic’s School for the Deaf,

which started in Wellington and later transferred to Feilding.

Mary came from Dunedin along with four to five other students, all from the South Island. Their mothers took it in turns to accompany them in the long journey to the North Island. Dorothy’s family moved to Feilding so she could go to St Dominic’s. She attended as a boarder. Dorothy explained how her parents were Chinese and spoke in Chinese at home. Since they learned in English at school this was a challenge for her. Elizabeth is from a Dutch family, who also moved to Feilding so she and her brother could go to St. Dominic’s. Her parents spoke Dutch at home. She went to school as a day pupil. Beth came from W(h)anganui and attended as a boarder.

Each of the women told us the story of their time at school and their life afterwards. It was very moving to hear their stories. We also laughed a lot because they told us about many funny incidents. It was lovely to hear how much they loved and enjoyed their time at St. Dominic’s and their deep appreciation for the teaching and care they had from the Sisters. As Sister Joan said at the end: “Your teachers must be very proud of each one of you and what you have achieved”.as a day pupil.

Opening Prayer

Heavenly Father

We ask you to bless our Deaf friends who have been to School for Deaf at St Dominic Wellington/Feilding Education by Dominican Sisters.

We give thanks for our teachers who taught us to learn, grow and share loving friendship with others.

We pray for our faith to be true, supportive and strong.

Thank God. Bless us and others.




Dominicans in the Americas this year celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Order. The coming of the Europeans was in many ways a disaster for the inhabitants of the American continent. Exploitation and genocide were rife. Among the Dominicans who spoke out strongly against the vicious behaviour of the conquistadores was Antonio Montesinos, who in 1511, on behalf of his Dominican community, gave a sermon that has become famous.

You can see a presentation of the event at this website, of the Sinsinawa congregation of Dominican sisters. The program focuses on the past and present issues challenging the Dominican Family in America. It includes: James Barnett OP as Fr. Montesinos; Joaquina Vilar OP, as a Native Woman from 1511; Panel of Preachers:  Marcelline Koch, OP, Margaret Mayce, OP and Chuck Dahm, OP; a presentation by Toni Harris, OP. Lucianne Siers OP will serve as MC

500 Years: Dominican Preachers in America – the homily of Antonio Montesinos.



In their many different idioms the classical spiritual writers have attempted to throw light on the eternal question of union with God. Here is St Catherine.


Open the eye of your understanding and look at my hand, and you will see that what I have told you is true.

So in obedience to the most high Father, she raised her eyes, and she saw within his closed hand the entire world.  And God said:

My daughter, see now and know that no one can be taken away from me…. They are mine; I created them, and I love them ineffably.  And so, in spite of their wickedness, I will be merciful to them because of my servants, and I will grant what you have asked of me with such love and sorrow. 

Then the soul stood before God as if intoxicated and, unable to restrain herself, she said:

O eternal Mercy, you who cover over your creatures’ faults!  It does not surprise me that you say of those who leave deadly sin behind and return to you: “I will not remember that you had ever offended me.”  O unspeakable Mercy!  I am not surprised that you speak so to those who forsake sin, when you say of those who persecute you: “I want you to pray to me for them so that I can be merciful to them.”  What mercy comes forth from your Godhead, eternal Father, to rule the whole world with your power!

By your mercy we were created.  And by your mercy we were created anew in your Son’s blood.  It is your mercy that preserves us.  Your mercy made your Son play death against life and life against death on the wood of the cross.  In him life confounded the death that is our sin, even while that same death of sin robbed the spotless Lamb of his bodily life.  But who was conquered?  Death!  And how?  By your mercy!

Your mercy is life-giving.  It is the light in which both the upright and sinners discover your goodness.  Your mercy shines forth in your saints in the height of heaven.  And if I turn to this earth, your mercy is everywhere….`

O mad lover!  It was not enough for you to take on our humanity: You had to die as well!  Nor was death enough: You descended to the depths to summon our ancestors and fulfil your truth and mercy in them.  Your goodness promises good to those who serve you in truth, so you went to call these servants of yours from their suffering to reward them for their labours!

I see your mercy pressing you to give us even more when you leave yourself with us as food to strengthen our weakness, so that we foolish forgetful creatures should be forever reminded of your goodness. Every day you give us this food, showing us yourself in the sacrament of the altar within the mystic body of holy Church.  And what has done this?  Your mercy.

O Mercy!  My heart is engulfed in the thought of you!  For wherever I turn my thoughts I find nothing but mercy.

Blessings and peace.

Mike Kelly and Jenny Wilson


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