by CARMEL COLE
AUCKLAND — Celebrations throughout New Zealand marking 150 years of the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of the Mission continued in Pukekohe on September 8.
Euphrasie Barbier brought the congregation to birth in France on Christmas Day, 1861, and four sisters arrived in Napier in 1864 to establish the first community in New Zealand.
Celebrations started in Christchurch in April, followed by Nelson, Petone, Napier, New Plymouth, Hamilton and finally in Pukekohe.
Pukekohe was the first community the sisters founded in the Auckland area. In May, 1885, four sisters accompanied by Euphrasie Barbier (Mother Mary of the Heart of Jesus), arrived in Pukekohe where they were soon involved in opening a select school (which was a fee paying school that helped the sisters run the other schools), teaching in a parish school and caring for orphans.

At the celebrations were, from left, Sr Elizabeth Beeler, Sr Geraldine Donovan, Fr Brian Fletcher (Wellington) and Sr Bernadette Fletcher.

This was the seventh foundation of the sisters in New Zealand. In 1904 the sisters opened a community in Panmure and, in 1912, they opened a community in Ellerslie.
More than 500 sisters, parishioners, friends, associates, pupils and past pupils gathered in Pukekohe for a joyful celebration.
Maxine McCort, who is a niece of the late Sr Mary Martin McCort, RNDM, welcomed Bishop Patrick Dunn and guests with a karanga. Sr Josephine Kane thanked people for attending the celebration and gave a short history of the sisters in the area.
Bishop Dunn spoke about the mission of the sisters and their foundress, which is carried on today by the sisters and many people who keep the mission spirit alive in schools the congregation once staffed.
Symbols of the sisters and their mission were carried up during the presentation of the gifts at a Mass, by pupils and staff from schools staffed by the congregation in Auckland.
Sr Susan Smith, RNDM, also presented Zeal for Mission, a congregational history which she has just completed.
St Joseph’s School, Pukekohe, performed a liturgical dance after communion and the school kapa haka group entertained in the foyer of the church after the celebration. Those present enjoyed refreshments in the parish hall.
There were many stories shared and friendships renewed.

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