‘I have to tell you standing before you today is far less daunting than facing the bunch of bright-eyed, bushy-tailed third formers when I was a newly professed nun,’ said former teacher, Sr Catherine Ryan to a reunion gathering of the class of ’54 in Whanganui last month.
Some 40 classmates of Sacred Heart College, Whanganui, met at the racecourse for lunch on a sunny, show day, 10 November 2007.
Many hours of diligent sleuthing had gone into tracking down long-lost classmates. Eleven had died and four couldn’t be located. Patricia O’Brien and Myra Cook travelled from Australia especially for the occasion. Others had come by bus, car and plane, from north of Auckland to Wellington. Of 69 classmates, 40 attended, plus four former teachers. Messages and memories were read out from some of the 14 apologies. Many a girlish incident and laugh was shared.
The day brought up 50 years of memories, change, and sharing of old and precious values instilled by the nuns. Youthful photos and memorabilia were displayed.
Patricia McKenzie was MC, and Barbara Smith told how the reunion came about.
‘Domine patri, et filio et spiritu sancto’ Rosalie Henaghan said Grace. Then she told of how her ‘Et cum spiritu tuo’ had opened doors in France.
Patricia O’Leary proposed a toast to the SHC class of 1954 and Mariea Schimanski led the singing of the school song, composed by Mary Gullery (deceased).
Sisters Catherine Woodcock and Barbara Cowan had prepared a moving liturgy at the now de-consecrated SHC chapel; made more poignant when the candle in memory of those who had died remained unlit: Their light was surely shining elsewhere. Everyone received a coaster with a photo of the SHC chapel, prepared by Sister John Bosco.
The aroma of burning incense wafting heavenward, the lit candles, Barbara Cowan’s organ playing, and the singing of ‘Immaculate Mother’ and ‘O Salutaris’, awakened memories of the sounds that had once echoed through the chapel.
The group then visited Mt St Joseph’s, planted a snowball tree as a reminder of the beautiful floral carpets that featured on the Feast of Christ the King, and placed a dedication plaque. As they said ‘farewell’ golden girl, Beverley Henderson, played the piano with gusto, and songs resounded through the evening air.
Photos: top: The class of ’54 from Sacred Heart College, Whanganui, gathered at Mt St Joseph’s for a tree-planting ceremony.
centre: Mariea Schimanski placing the dedication plaque by the snowball tree.
bottom: At the luncheon at the racecourse: Rosalie Henaghan, Waiheke Island; Eileen Nesdale, Feilding; Leonie Bragg, Auckland; and Doris Smith, Wellington.