by JEFF DILLON
How can a book about a man who lived about 800 years ago be of interest to modern children? Quite easily if that man happens to have been St Dominic and his story is told in the manner of a grandparent reading to attentive grandchildren. Author Michele Ness from Paraparaumu wrote the 23-page book titled If Dominic Came to Visit and her daughter, Hayley Ness, produced the whimsical illustrations that capture aspects of Dominic’s life as well as Dominican involvement in modern New Zealand.
Mrs Ness had the book printed earlier this year. Its first public airing was in April to some 80 school children at St Brigid’s in Johnsonville when it was read to them.
Imagine the excitement when the children realised that two of their peers featured in the story. Two of their classmates, Benni-Rose and Caitlin, are grandchildren of the author.
On that occasion the children extended their hands with Sr Judith McGinley, OP, to help bless the book.
The book has been distributed to the main centres and particularly to those areas where the Dominicans have been involved with staffing schools in the past.
The latest unveiling of the book came at a school Mass at the end of the second term at Sacred Heart church in North East Valley in Dunedin.
It was a very appropriate location as, when the Dominican Sisters first staffed the school back in 1895, the church also functioned as the school during the week.
It was not until 1904 that a dedicated school building was opened a few doors down from the church.
At the end of the Dunedin Mass, Sacred Heart School principal Paul Richardson and the officiating priest, Fr Aidan Cunningham, IC, read together the prayer to St Dominic set out on the last page of the book, following which Fr Cunningham blessed the books that he had available.
At the end of the blessing ceremony, Fr Cunningham drew the mainly young congregation’s attention to a wooden sculpture at the back of the church. He pointed out that it depicted St Dominic being given a set of Rosary beads by Our Lady.
For Mrs Ness, who had 1000 of the books published, her wish was to produce a story that could be read to children by a trusted adult or have children read themselves. It was to provide them with real heroes to whom to relate.
The story links into many of the aspects of modern New Zealand with which the Dominicans are involved, including material help, education and resettlement assistance to refugees and migrants.
All those principally involved in the production of the book gave their efforts and skills voluntarily. Mrs Ness has recommended a payment of $10 for the book with all proceeds going to the work of the Dominicans. Recently she has sent on a payment of $1400.
The response to her book about St Dominic has encouraged her to continue to produce relevant stories of saintly heroes and her current project is titled What Made Albert Great.
Mrs Ness was involved with the L’Arche Community in the Kapiti Coast area; a community to which Sr Judith McGinley, OP, provides assistance.