Lay Dominicans hold second national gathering

Mary Johnson, left, and Judith Mason were two women at the Dominican Laity weekend before Christmas.

Who are the lay Dominicans? And what attracted 40 of them, from Panguru to Invercargill
and places in between, to attend the second national gathering of Dominican Laity in Auckland from November 21-23?
They came to build connections with others, share how they live out the four pillars of Dominican life — of prayer, study, community and preaching — and to look to the future.
The first national meeting of Dominican laity was in 2010, in Wellington, and this second
gathering is likely to be another milestone for the New Zealand branch of the Dominican family.

Mary Johnson, left, and Judith Mason were two women at the Dominican Laity weekend before Christmas.

Also at the Auckland gathering were several Dominican sisters and Fr Kevin Toomey, who
celebrated Mass on the Saturday evening.
“I have loved the Dominican charism since I was 12,” said Mina Pomare of Panguru. The
principal of Te Kura Taumata o Panguru, she said a Veritas symbol hangs in her area school. Its Maori equivalent, pono, means a beacon. “It is a symbol for me as a mother, a Maori woman and a wife,” she said.
A former boarding pupil of St Dominic’s College, she was, like many of the participants, someone with strong Dominican connections through attendance at Dominican schools and a continuing friendship with former teachers.
Others said they had been part of a Dominican parish, had family members in Dominican orders, had met Dominican chaplains at university or knew Dominican sisters.
Maria Tu’inukuafe of Moerewa said she became a Catholic while at university in Auckland. “I found the Dominicans there to be open, accepting, and liberal and thought all Catholics were the same.” Now a mother of four children, some at university, she continues to read about Dominicans and keep in touch with a former chaplain.
Angela McRae of Arrowtown recalled that her first teacher was a Dominican religious, but she had no further Dominican connection until an invitation from Sr Maryanna Baird, OP,
encouraged her to attend.
“She dropped a flyer about the weekend in my hand and said: ‘This will be good for you.’ And it has been. It has been a welcoming, comfortable experience,” said Mrs McRae, who is keen to be part of a Dominican lay group.
Mary Johnson, a pupil since childhood at the Dominican schools for the deaf, said she has
been “Dominican for a long time”. She was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit
(MNZM) five years ago for her work with the deaf community. Also involved with the deaf community was Auckland pastoral worker, Judith Mason, who attended Dominican schools in
South Africa and, when she emigrated to New Zealand in 2005, wanted to be involved with the
Dominican laity movement.
Another first-timer was Cecile Pilkington, an Auckland university administrator, who had
lived in a Dominican parish and attended Dominican schools in Dunedin, continuing a family tradition.
“I still remember the homilies in our Dominican parish. They were very theological and I
didn’t appreciate them fully until I experienced other parishes,” she said.
Participants shared their group activities, including study and prayer groups, special preparations for Dominican saint feast days, the Dominican Laity newsletter and work in soup kitchens and mission shop. There was time for meditation and prayer, and discussion
follow-up on the 2010 priorities.
Discussions were also held about possible activities in 2016 for the 800th anniversary of the establishment of the Dominican Order.

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