To celebrate the Feast Day of St Dominic Auckland members of the Dominican Family gathered on 4 August. It was an afternoon of prayer, receiving from students from St Dominic’s College and of course time to catch up with other family members. We share below the speeches given by Merciana, Shaina and Dan-Yel. We appreciate their willingness to share with us something of their time as students at St Dominic’s College. We publish these speeches with their permission.
SPECIAL CHARACTER ANGLE
Good afternoon. My name is Merciana Fernandes and I have been a student at St Dominic’s Catholic College in Henderson for six years. This is my final year at the College and I’ve been given the amazing opportunity to lead within the school as a Special Character Leader. For those unfamiliar with the term, ‘Special Character’ refers to the faith, more specifically, Dominican aspect of our school that sets us apart from state schools. Today, I am here to give you all some insight as to how our school keeps our Special Character values alive, and what it means to belong to a Dominican school like my own.
As a student who previously attended a state primary school, I know how blessed I am to attend such a unique, diverse and faith focussed College such as St Dominic’s. I believe that it is because of our Christian values, our school is able to foster a great sense of community. These core values of excellence, reflection, integrity, service, assurance and truth are seamlessly incorporated into the daily school routine. We have prayer and reflection at the start of assemblies and form time, open liturgies or Masses held every Tuesday, and whole school singing practices as well as Eucharists. Some of you may have even attended our annual Foundresses’ Day or St Dominic’s Day Masses.
At St Dominic’s College we focus on learning about the Bible and the Traditions of the Catholic Church within our Religious Education programme otherwise known as R.E. Every student at our school takes R.E. and it provides a great opportunity for those, religious or not, to learn about the life of St Dominic and our origins and founders, as well as encouraging students to ask bigger questions and have open debates. For example, last year in R.E. we looked at world religions and even visited a Church, a Mosque, a Hindu Temple, a Synagogue and a Buddhist Temple – all in one day.
Another thing we do at St Dominic’s to help strengthen bonds is have each year group attend an annual retreat. Our senior retreats take place over two days and involve the whole year level going away to a retreat centre. There we take time to reflect, thank God and reconnect with one another and our surroundings. This aligns with our Veritas in Action programme where we aim to respect God, ourselves, others and the environment.
We also uphold our Veritas in Action values through the many ways girls are encouraged to serve the community. At our school students can serve through roles such as Eucharistic Ministers, form class Special Character promoters, peer mentors and Liturgy Band members. Year 12 students also spend an hour each week out in the community volunteering at local schools, rest homes, gardens and non-profit organisations like Hospice.
As a school, we work closely with Caritas and the St Vincent de Paul group. This year, I had the opportunity to help run our annual ‘Caritas Challenge Sleepout’ where over 100 students slept in cardboard boxes to fundraise for the South Sudan Refugee Crisis. Our Young Vinnies group also works with Liston College and Zeal, a West Auckland youth initiative, to cook meals for the community every week and hold food drives. So as you can see, our school is not just focused on teaching about the faith but also living it out through service.
As the only fully Dominican College in New Zealand, we try our best to keep in contact with the wider Dominican community in Australia too. In fact, last year I had the privilege of attending the biannual On Common GroundDominican Leadership conference in Adelaide, Australia.
I cannot explain to you the feeling of meeting the students from nine Australian Dominican Colleges. We all instantly bonded over our shared heritage and knowledge of St Dominic. It was fascinating to see how they kept their Dominican charism alive and in turn share with them a bit about my own school here in New Zealand. Over the course of the three-day conference, we had a chance to learn even more about the Dominican Tradition (which I didn’t think was possible) from Sr Shirley Macklin and Sr Bernadette Kiley from Australia, and Michael Petro and Patrick Spedale from the USA. The conference equipped me with knowledge about the Dominican Pillars andLaudato Si which I was able to take back and share with my College. On a more personal level, it enabled me to create friendships with my Dominican brothers and sisters over in Adelaide, many of whom I still talk to and am currently preparing a St Dominic’s Day well-wishing video with.
All of this would have never been possible if I did not attend St Dominic’s College. I would have never been able to bond with students in Australia over our building names, or stand out amongst the other 14 schools within the Auckland Diocese, or have the chance to grow in faith with my friends – but most importantly I would never would have had the opportunity to learn about the difference one man born in Spain could make on the other side of the world.
Good afternoon everyone,
My name is Shaina Caballero and I’m one of two Cultural Leaders of St. Dominic’s Catholic College.
Nearing the end of my 7 year journey through this school, I have learned many things in terms of my academic and spiritual self. I feel that these lessons have occurred in tandem with each other, and is largely due to our Dominican Charism.
What does the Dominican Charism mean for me as a student at St Dominic’s College? I want to talk in particular about how today’s Catholic youth like myself views our faith with reverence whilst also upholding our respect and acknowledgment of science.
I, for one, am a science geek. I absolutely love how physics, chemistry, and biology tend to hold hands and share their information with each other; now that I am a year 13, I see more of those connections and become all the more fascinated and awestruck by the beauty of our world.
From what I’ve been seeing at school, more and more of our female students have been gaining in interest towards the sciences. As we grow older though, speaking from experience, we tend to question ourselves about what we have attained throughout the years. Such as “how do we know that God made our world?” and “How do we know whether the big bang theory is true?”. Overseeing these big questions in the eyes of a young Catholic has definitely made me question my faith, and as well as the sciences. After all, everything in science is based on theory. Whereas, everything in our Catholic faith is based upon our many Traditions; which came from the Bible and Church History. The Bible is a book that holds the key recordings of the teachings and life of Jesus which we proclaim today. But for a young adolescent teen, who studies both the sciences and Religious Education; it is difficult to not think that one is more correct than the other.
Although, I understand that within the path of seeking the truth, there will be hardships that make us assume the possibility that not everything that we read or preach may be true. But that is when our stronghold comes in, and that stronghold is our faith. Just as Albert Einstein had once said: “Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind,” no matter how we choose to follow our faith, science tends to weave into it. Almost harmoniously at times. Such as the moment when the astronauts, Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and William Anders from Apollo 8 had recited bible verses from the book of Genesis, due to being so moved and honoured to see the view of our wonderful planet Earth from the moon.
This reflects on the little moments that the students of St. Dominic’s Catholic College show the preservation of Dominican values, to strive for Veritas through our studies. Such as our perseverance of choosing to never shy away from the educational opportunities that are laid before us, like Enginuity Day, our science fair, Brain Bee Challenge, science scholarships and even having the pleasure to meet Brother Guy Consolmagno SJ, Director of the Vatican Observatory. Not to mention our love for the ever-so-popular Education Perfect championships which leads to a diverse range of learning, whilst competing against thousands of other students worldwide. It is through our pursuit to the truth, that leads each of our girls to seek out challenges which may enhance our perception of the world around us.
Nevertheless, the journey of having the Dominican faith and the sciences intertwining with one another has been a 7-year-long journey for me. The quality of my academic progress and the progress of becoming the young woman that I am today has been a slow uphill climb. However, I would not have made it to where I stand today, without my teachers and peers that have guided me to strive higher than I could ever physically reach. The teachers from my school have had such a great impact on my life, that I am sure that many of the students in St. Dominic’s College would say the same. Even though, I do not personally believe that the sciences and religion go constantly hand in hand; having one without the other is almost on par with only half a photograph. You only have half the information that life has in store for you. Therefore, I personally believe that understanding both perceptions of the world is essential to have a wider view of the world itself … And being a student from St. Dominic’s Catholic College has definitely helped me to develop my genuine love for both my faith and the sciences.
Good afternoon, my name’s Dan-Yel James and I am the Deputy Head Girl at St Dominic’s Catholic College. Merciana and Shaina have both talked about their own faith and some really key areas our school is involved in that tie to that, and today I would be honoured to speak to you about what we do for our environment as a school in the Dominican tradition .
We learned that there are four pillars of Dominican Life (prayer, community, service and mission), two of which slot in perfectly with our calling as Dominican’s and Christians to steward the earth. These two pillars are community, and service and mission. Our college is excellent at creating a sense of community through not only celebrating the diversity in our college but through the high number of groups and clubs that bring people with common interests together. We also feel as a Dominican school that it is our calling, our mission to find practical ways to care for our earth.
There are several ways in which our school educates us to value the earth. At the many Masses we host throughout the year we have one prayer of the faithful which is based on our environment. As a school, we pray for God’s guidance and protection over our earth, and we pray that we might become the best stewards we can for our earth. Through our celebration of our faith, we learn right from year 7 to value our earth and know that we are the key to making better choices for our environment.
We also have a programme in school known as Veritas in action. Each term we are given a goal, something to work and strive towards as a school community, with the aim of respecting ourselves, others, God and the environment. This term we have been looking specifically at what we can do as a college to respect our environment. For us that meant picking up any litter around the school, making sure we are using recycling bins and even taking part in plastic-free July by not wrapping lunches in glad wrap. All of these practical actions we can take as a community, make a colossal difference and take little to no effort. Imagine how much better off our entire nation and world would be if we all made little changes like that.
Through our school’s passion for the environment, we are able to also encourage girls to practice and develop their leadership abilities. In every form class, we have an environmental leader who makes sure that their class empties their bins, does the recycling, picks up any litter in their assigned area and some classes are also assigned gardens to water. These form class enviro leaders often attend meetings with our Enviro student co-leaders, Breanna Kelly and Isobella Turenhout who unfortunately weren’t able to attend today’s meeting to address you. I assure you that they do an amazing job in our school. They oversaw a successful event known as Sea Week at our school, where many fun activities were held during lunchtimes including the chance to paint the drains in our quads with beautiful sea creatures.
Not to mention we also have a large veggie garden and we participated in the Anchor Bottle Cap Challenge where we had to recycle milk bottle tops. We have had Steve Hathaway from Young Ocean Explorers come and speak to us students about our impact on the ocean.
I continue to be blown away by our school’s effort to educate students about our earth, and encourage them to be the change they want to see. I am so encouraged to see that St Dominic’s College uses the Dominican Pillars to bring our community together and to help us develop our own personal values on the earth.
I am a firm believer that we need to care for our earth and I have certainly come to see its true beauty. Through school, I have been on multiple tramps around New Zealand and I often catch myself looking at our beautiful scenery, and my breath is taken away. I can’t believe that we live in such a scenic country, with vibrant wildlife and magnificent landscapes. When I look out at our ocean and the bush line I can’t help but be amazed by God’s creation. Just by looking at the nature around me I can feel God’s love as if God is smiling down at me. I think that I have a slight obsession with nature and I truly believe that part of that love for nature comes from the values and things I have learnt through my school and the Dominican charism.
St Dominic’s Catholic College is really one big family. We are all developing our knowledge, we are all growing spiritually and we are all certainly learning about our wonderful earth and what we can do to make a difference. Being at a Dominican school really is special, and St Dominic’s is developing our student’s into women that are set apart to create a generational echo.