Palmerston North celebration of Dominican 800th Jubilee and Year of Mercy

Bishop Charles Drennan was accompanied by Bishops Peter Cullinane and Owen Dolan at the 9.30am Mass in the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit on the 31st of July to celebrate the Dominican Family’s 800th Jubilee in the Churches Year of Mercy. At the beginning Sr. Maureen O’Hanlon OP welcomed everyone particularly Dominican Family and Catholic Deaf community visitors who came from throughout the Palmerston North and Wellington Diocese.

Bishop Charles noted that the Dominican Family held a special place in the Palmerston North Diocese through their Catholic Deaf education at St. Dominic’s School for the Deaf and also their work with the adult Deaf community.

St. Dominic’s, New Zealand’s only Catholic Deaf School, had opened on Dover Street in Island Bay in 1944. It moved to Feilding in 1953 where it stayed until its closure at the end of 1989. At that point the Dominican Sisters continued to be involved in Deaf education through the establishment of a Deaf Unit – the ‘St. Dominic’s Wing’ at St. Joseph’s School in Feilding. Sr. Maureen O’Hanlon OP was the last Sister to teach there, retiring at the end of 1999.

As befitting the unique Dominican contribution to the Palmerston North diocese, a large group of Deaf people were present at the Mass, with a good many also involved in the liturgy. Two Sign Language Interpreters interpreted proceedings.

Highlights of the liturgy included: the use of large colourful flags accompanying the procession in at the beginning and out at the end; the homily by Sr. Margaret Butler OP; the intercessory prayers by representatives of the various groups in the congregation; a PowerPoint display of Dominican Family History going back to 1216; and the Deaf Sign Singers leading the congregation in the Communion song: ‘Sing of Dominic Joyful Friar’.

The importance of ‘joyfulness’ for St. Dominic was one of the aspects Sr. Margaret covered in her reflection that was well received by an enthusiastic congregation. Sr. Margaret explained that ‘joy’ was “different from just laughing and singing. It is a deep happiness that stays with us even when life is very tough.” Something of this joy certainly seemed to pervade the gathering, and remained long afterwards as people stayed to mingle and enjoy the refreshments kindly provided after Mass.

Thanks to David Loving-Molloy, Catholic Deaf Centre, Palmerston North for this sharing about this celebration.

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