Sunday, November 18, at Tuakau saw a large gathering of Marist Brothers, former brothers and old boys assemble at the Tuakau Hotel for a reunion luncheon on what promised to be an historic day for this “Marist family”. The occasion was to commemorate the return of the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary to the restored grotto at La Valla, formerly the site of the Marist Brothers Juniorate (1922-1974).

It was extremely pleasing for the organizing committee, that so many made the effort to come and renew old friendships with people who hadn’t seen each other in many years – in fact for some since their days as juniors or as teaching brothers.

The brothers had a conference in Auckland on November 17, so, for those that had stayed, the extra day this had special significance. Several hadn’t returned to LaValla for a long time. The presence of Bishop Denis Browne also reminded all present of their Catholic roots as brothers and juniors, when all gathered at the grotto for the blessing of the statue and the newly rebuilt grotto.

Br Colin Divane, (the MC) did a tremendous job, both at the grotto and back at the Function Centre (known as the gymnasium in juniorate days), in setting the tone for the day. The speeches were brief (and to the point) firstly from Br Colin and Bishop Browne at the grotto, then from Br Colin, followed by Bernadette Jackson (on behalf on the family which now owns LaValla), then Phil McLaughlin on behalf of the former brothers and old boys.

Following afternoon tea, the brothers and numerous old boys sang Salve Regina with great gusto, much to the great pleasure and applause of those there. Then it was time for some group photos. Social time was a chance for a catch up for those who hadn’t attended the luncheon and also a chance to thank those who had helped make this day possible.

To my co-helpers who organised this special day – the Jackson family (what a special family we have looking after our former “home”), Jim Donald (the main driving force determined not to let the “Marist Family” disappear), to Michael Feek for his efforts in helping update our database and get everyone here. David Kenney worked tirelessly over the last few weeks helping to “set the scene” down at the grotto, making sure the place looked as good as it was found and assisting in replacing “Mary” back in her rightful place- a place as many commented, of peace and reflection – so quiet, so tranquil – so very much in the Marist spirit.

A special thanks goes to Br Colin Divane for a “job well done” as MC. Without these people the day would never have been possible.

Finally, but by no means last, a very special thanks to Br Anthony Walker who has recorded the day with some great photos. It truly was a special day for all those present.