Two Presentation Sisters in Taita, New Zealand share their stories of the celebrations of 70 years of Presentation Presence in New Zealand. At a special Mass in honour of the occasion, Cardinal John dew described the purpose of the Presentation Sisters was and still is to help guide others home to God. They brought hope, and they still do in many varied forms of service and education at all levels – medical and social work, catechetics, community development, pastoral and ecumenical work. You can read the full Homily given by Cardinal Dew here
As I reflect on our wonderful celebration of 70 years of Presentation in New Zealand, my first feelings are full of gratitude to the Presentation Sisters in Tuam for responding to the call of faraway Taita for Sisters to come to New Zealand. The first five Sisters who left their homeland, community and families were so much a part of my formative years and brought Nano alive for me. Their lives, the lives of all the Sisters and the story of Nano stirred in my heart and called me to be a Presentation Sister today.
We had our special Miracle when, on Thursday, the Prime Minister told us we would go to Covid Level 1 on Friday – this meant the full celebrations of our 70 years of Presentation in New Zealand could go ahead on Sunday 21 March. Thanking God plan ‘P’ (Prayer) worked and alive with relief, joy and enthusiasm we quickly got it all sorted and ready to roll.
I was just three years old when the first five Presentation Sisters arrived in Taita and they played a large role in my growing up in Taita. In those days, the people of Taita gathered around and supported the Sisters. Seventy years on, the people of Taita, the staff and children of St Michael’s School and many of the people whose lives the Sisters touched through the seventy years came and made our celebration incredibly special!
My heart is full of thankfulness to Paul Davidson and Barbara Gibb for the amazing documentary movie “Furthest Lantern” which captured the past and the present so beautifully; to Bernard Gresham who spent much time and energy and used his many connections to raise funds for making the movie, arranging the ticket selling, getting the Lighthouse to premiere the movie etc.; our St Michael’s Community and school. We have been truly blessed – it was a wonderful celebration. You came and blessed us with your presence and worked hard in many ways to make this happen. There were so many special moments in the day. I reconnected with many people and friends from childhood days that I had not seen in years and made new connections. We have grown by seventy years since we first met the Presentation Sisters. As we celebrated Mass the changes over the years were reflected in our multicultural community adding richness – a big change from a mono cultural community to now Pacifica.
It was time to remember, to reconnect and to thank God for the wonderful gifts we have received over the years. I feel in my heart that our Sisters, my parents and brother, and all the past pupils and parishioners who are deceased and of course Nano enjoyed celebrating with us and continue to walk with us into the unknown future.
Submitted by: Sr Fran Nicolle, pbvm
“The Furthest Lantern”
Our celebration of seventy years in Taita spoke of such courage and patience of our founding Sisters. Arriving in a foreign land with no place to call home and no school either must have been daunting for them. Their first glance of their new home and school was an empty paddock covered in thistles, gorse and briars. It is said that when they saw the reality, the looked at each other and smiled.
They just took it in their stride with the welcome they received from the Mercy and Mission Sisters who opened their hearts and homes to them. The Cardinal and Priests of Wellington gathered to welcome and support them and finally the people of Taita welcomed them with open hearts.
“Take down your Lantern and let your vision guide your feet”
It was heartwarming to see the fruit of our first Sisters ministry among the people displayed in the coming together of past pupils from all parts of New Zealand where they are now living, to watch the way they connected and were so happy to be in each other’s company. A seed was planted deep within them. Many stories were shared and friendships reborn. The Sisters’ presence was very real in our midst and they were present with us from another realm enjoying what was said about them now.
Throughout the movie which was premiered on the same day we got a real insight into how the pupils who are now adults treasured what they received during their years in school naming the Sisters who had influenced their lives. They proudly recalled how it helped them through the rough times in their lives. It also highlighted the transition to newness and evolution of Presentation that has taken place down the years in responding to current needs. The movie reminded me that we do not move away from childhood, but we move towards it in a new and emerging reality daily. We proudly stand on the shoulders of those who went before us and now our shoulders are there for those who come after us.
Ireland’s first Ambassador to Aotearoa, Peter Ryan from Dublin and his wife, Teresa and their daughter were present for the Mass and movie. After the Premier Peter shared how moved he was and that he was brought to tears – “I am convinced that the reason why Ireland is highly regarded in New Zealand today is because of the extraordinary contribution of Irish women and men to the people who have made their home here.”
Life is our spiritual guide and I am very happy to continue in the footsteps of those who planted the seeds of our charism here in Aotearoa New Zealand in 1951. Today we say;
Our hearts burn like desire
while here we seek
the dream of God alive today
in our small corners
of the yearning world.
∼ Sr Raphael Consedine, pbvm
Submitted by: Sr Noreen McGrath, pbvm