Pilgrimage to the South Island: Day One: Across the Seas

One book which will always have a special place in our
convent library is Star of the South by
Sister Mary Augustine O.P.  
reading it in the refectory on more than one occasion, it inspired us to take a
voyage this September to the South Island during our recent school holidays.
Our mission: to visit all the places which were once upon a time, not so long
ago, hives of Dominican life and fruit for NZ. We wanted to re-trace the steps
taken by our Holy Foundress, Mother Mary Gill O.P. who at the age of 16, left
the world to eventually come to Dunedin in 1886 as the first superior and plant
the first Dominican seed under the guidance of the saintly Bishop Moran. From
Dunedin many other convents, schools, boarding schools and hostels were
established in other parts of the South Island and it was to these places that
we wished to visit.
Early Monday morning, 2nd September, saw us all
lined up in a big red transit van to take the rather impressive looking ferry Santa Regina to cross the Cook Strait.
Our thoughts turned to what it must have been like on the voyage all those
years ago for the pioneer Sisters, some of whom were very young, and who ventured
from Ireland across unknown and dangerous seas to a foreign country considered
to be full of cannibals. What must they have suffered? What delights must they
have seen? For the nature–loving Sisters it was a trip of a lifetime as many a plea
was sent up to Heaven during the three and a half hour voyage to ask for
something to come out of that vast ocean – perhaps a whale, or a dolphin, or a
great white shark or an orca. God’s choice – ONE PLAYFUL SEAL. But, never to be
outdone in generosity, He kindly acquiesced by providing us with a whole colony
to admire along the East Kaikoura Coast.

Safely on land again, we were directed to the Selby residence in Blenheim where we enjoyed a gourmet dinner, which gave us more than enough strength to reach Christchurch and meet Father Bochkoltz, who was to say a 7pm Mass for us and accompany us on our journey as our Chaplain.