by Sr COLLEEN EDGECOMBE, RNDM
On Wednesday, February 25, the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions celebrated the 150th anniversary of the arrival of their first sisters in New Zealand.
Four French sisters left France in December 1864 and arrived in Napier on February 25, 1865. Marist vicar-general Fr Poupinal, who travelled with them from Sydney, describes their disembarking: “Finally we left the Lord Ashley. It was not easy, as the sea was surging. Sr Mary Jean did not relish the thought of transferring to the smaller vessel, especially as she watched the boat leaping and plunging in the heavy surf. However she put a brave
front on and, seizing the arm of one of the Fathers, she took the plunge. We reached
the shore without incident. Fr Forest was there to receive us and Mrs Murray, the harbourmaster’s wife, welcomed us kindly.”
A group of lantern-bearing parishioners at the port welcomed the missionaries.
After they exchanged greetings, the sisters climbed into a carriage and were driven
to the little church at the foot of the hill.
On February 26, our Napier sisters gathered on the shore near Port Ahuriri in Napier to recall this story, and pray in thanksgiving for these women. Varying in age, they had braved the unknown to spread the message of Jesus and extend the Kingdom of God with a special commitment to educating young women. We were accompanied by members of other congregations, friends, past pupils, principals and students from Sacred Heart College, St Joseph’s Maori Girls’ College, and St Patrick and Reignier schools.
Following a karanga and song, we went to Sacred Heart College to continue the story
of the sisters settling into their convent on “Holy Hill”, as it was then called. Prayers
were offered for them and the people who have helped us continue our missionary work in New Zealand and Samoa.
A fitting conclusion was the song Missions Divine, composed by Fr Chris Skinner, SM, in 2011 for the 150th celebration of the founding of our congregation by Euphrasie Barbier in Lyons in 1861.
Colleen Edgecombe is a member of the RNDM leadership team.