125 Years Celebration at Temuka, NZ

Thank you to the 125th Jubilee committee for gathering so many good people – students of years gone by and students of today, people of Temuka and Sisters.

On behalf of the Sisters of Saint Joseph I would like to refer to the beginnings of our story here, some memories from along the way and express the gratitude of the Sisters for these 125 years of living among the people of Temuka and the surrounding districts.

Back in Sydney we received an invitation some months ago to come to this weekend’s celebrations. Many years ago Mary MacKillop received an invitation from Temuka also – to send some sisters here. Our invitation this year was warm and inviting. Mary MacKillop’s invitation in 1881 was also hard to resist. That invitation read:

You will see that those of your daughters who may come to Temuka will have a pretty nice church where to pray and worship God. Besides, Temuka is one of the nicest and healthiest parts of NZ. We are in the beautiful plains of Canterbury at 4 miles from the sae and at 25 miles from the long chain of mountains which are covered with snow the greatest part of the year; it never snows here; both cold and heat are very moderate: the climate is something like Taumaruni climate. Bishop Redwood says it is the best in the world.

Letter from Fr Fauvel to Mary MacKillop May 3 1881

From the harsh dry land of the colonies on the other side of the Tasman, how could anyone refuse that invitation but as we know it was to be to be another two and a half years before the Sisters finally came to Temuka.

And how warm and appreciative was their welcome. After travelling by ship and train, from Adelaide to Melbourne via Hobart, Dunedin and Lyttleton, the three sisters finally arrived in Temuka. Sister Calasanctius Howley described that welcome in a letter to Mary MacKillop (November 3, 1883):

I felt like the poor man who was made the Lord Mayor of Dublin. I could only wonder was it myself there…the bells were chiming, the harmonium playing us a welcome and prayers of thanksgiving for our safe arrival were said in the church.

In the same letter Sister Calasanctius remarked that there were also amidst the welcomes exclamations of only three: we expected five! In another letter to Mary MacKillop a few days later Sister Calasanctius begins: Our good Pastor is urging me to write every day and to impress upon you the necessity of sending two or at least one more Sister as soon as possible.(November 8, 1883)

With the school opening only 11 days after the arrival of Sr Raymond, Calasanctius and Immaculata, the Sisters of Saint Joseph were well and truly settled in Temuka and within six months, Father Fauvel had his persistent calls to Mary MacKillop answered when more sisters arrived and the school in Kerrytown was opened too.

He must have been a charming Frenchman!

As we know young women very quickly joined the Sisters of Saint Joseph from this region and the story of Temuka and the Josephites went from strength to strength.

Mary MacKillop finally got to Temuka herself eleven years after the sisters arrived here. She was pleased that the sisters in the community are happy and united; they could not be otherwise under Sister Raymond.

Some lovely snippets from the letters of those first three sisters to Mary MacKillop

You would be delighted with the scenery etc and there are such a lot of Catholics….. They are all such bright looking children…Sister Raymond is the best looking of the three so on the strength of it she got a present today. It is such a misfortune we all have such ugly noses..be sure and send a good nose, whatever you do

Sr Immaculata November 8, 1883

The children are well advanced here

Sr Calasantius November 9, 1883

Oh dear Mother General send us good sisters soon,a good teacher and a good singer. It’s a heart of stone that would resist so much pleading

Sr Calasanctius November 12, 1884

And someone who knows decimals!

And so the Sisters of Saint Joseph became embedded in the Temuka story.

125 years have passed and stories of the sisters and children have been told all through those years. Some of those stories concern the annual coming of the sisters from the South Island for their retreat and some concern the boys in the gully and the view from the convent balcony!

Today we give thanks to the people of Temuka and the surrounding districts for 125 years of caring for our Sisters, supporting them through good times and hard times, enjoying their company and forgiving their shortcomings.

Thank you to you dear people and all your ancestors who have been part of the lives of our sisters here. Thank you to the priests of Temuka past and present. Thank you to the Principal and staff of the school who keep catholic education alive in Temuka today.

Thank you to our sisters too, past and present, who have generously and courageously, carried on the work, the spirit, the vision of Blessed Mary MacKillop.

We hope that in this coming year the canonisation of Mary MacKillop will be announced. When that day comes the Sisters and people of Temuka can truly be proud because the first canonised saint of Australia has been part of the 125 years we celebrate today.

Congratulations to all on this happy occasion of the 125th Jubilee of St Joseph’s School.