by PAT VELTKAMP SMITH
With a cast of hundreds the Dominican book Windows on a Women’s World by Susannah Grant was a sell out on the night of its southern launch at St Mary’s Basilica in Invercargill.
Phillippa Duffy, general manager of the University Book Shop in Dunedin brought dozens of copies of the Otago University Press publication with her, but they had all gone before supper was served, so she took names for orders.
The hour-long launch attracted many ex-pupils of the Dominican sisters in the south and several sisters too; among them Southland born Sisters Carmel Walsh and Cecily Sheehy who travelled down from Auckland with the author — Sr Carmel to speak at the launch and Sr Cecily as always to provide the music.
They were joined by other city Sisters Raewyn Benzie and Judith Robinson who organised the function, and Sr Genevieve O’ Rourke who represented fellow Calvary centre resident Sr Marie Eugene.
Fr Chris O’Neill welcomed people to the basilica, blessing the book which is wonderfully well indexed so nuns of yesteryear hidden behind religious names emerge as sisters of today using their baptism-given names and family surnames too.
We found nuns who’d been twins and who knew? And long-ago nuns who’d been sisters but never lived in the same religious house and girls we knew who’d become Dominicans sisters and nuns who had taught us turned out to be decades younger than we had been led to believe.
And some beloved sisters we found gone and we hadn’t known, such was the anonymity of an enclosed teaching order.
All changed today, not through change imposed, rather through change accepted as sisters find their own niche following the charism of St Dominic.
Ms Grant’s research is thorough, scholarly in a work that is written thematically.
There is no personality cult but on every page the reader will find a gem and in every photograph, others.
What Ms Grant has produced is the second half of the invaluable Dominican Bible.
Sr Mary Augustine’s well researched “Old Testament’’ was published in 1971 coinciding with the centennial celebrations of the arrival in New Zealand of Irish Dominicans from Sion Hill.
This “new Testament’’ takes up the tale and carries it forward through dramatic changes first envisaged by the1 Second Vatican Council of the mid-1960’s.