This year our Bethlehem studies started with an intensive course up in Tauranga at the end of January. We had a very stressful beginning as the accommodation which was promised us fell through at the last minute. As always, Mother was quick off the mark and managed to organise an alternative lodging at the Marist community in Te Puna. The Fathers there were overwhelmingly lovely and allowed us to stay in the Parish hall, while Father Laisney stayed in the Priory. They also gave us the use of their Church. We had a little crisis on the first day when Father was without any traditional Mass vestments. It was quite funny when he walked out of the sacristy wearing what can be considered “conservative” novus ordo vestments but still very odd. Father did not suit them at all and we had to control ourselves from laughing.

Fathers Cranshaw and Jackson managed to secure lodging in Omakaroa, about 15 minutes away from where we were. A lovely retired couple have a very nice little cottage at the back of their property and kindly allowed the priests to stay there for the duration of our course. Usually we stay in the bach next door which is owned by a relation of our novice but it was unavailable at this time. We have spent many a happy day there walking along the beach, going on a barge and going out on boats to a little island on previous occasions when we had to go up last year for intensive courses.

Kayaking at Omokaroa

Sister Mary Madeleine and Sister Marie Therese left Wanganui on an early Monday morning on January 26th to drive all the way up to Tauranga while Sister Rose had to stay for her Grandfather’s funeral and so flew up later that day using her leftover airpoints. Sister Catherine flew in on the Wednesday from South Africa, and arrived in class just at the right time (we were in the middle of “introducing” ourselves for the millionth time).

The intensive course itself was not too bad and we did learn a lot of interesting things about the Maori people and land wars etc. We were told that later on this year, as part of the Diploma, we will have to spend a few nights on a Marae. At the moment this will be included in our next intensive course here in Wanganui in May. We are busy learning a little of the Maori language as we will be expected to give a little speech in Maori. We are all also going on our second and last practicum. Sister Catherine, Sister Therese and Fr Laisney will be teaching at St Dominic’s, Sister Madeleine, Sister Rose and Fr Jackson will be on section at Collegiate and Fr Cranshaw has opted to go to Auckland Grammar. It will be a very interesting and a very busy time for all.

What we really look forward to is the end of year. Sister Madeleine and Sister Rose will graduate – God willing – in May with their Bachelor degrees, and then again in November with the rest of our little group when we finish our Diploma in Teaching. After that it is 2 years of provisional registration before we can be considered as fully-registered Teachers in New Zealand.