Brigidines mark bicentenary year with sacred garden

Many of the schools the Brigidines founded in the Wellington Archdiocese have commemorated their founding order in some way and a prayer garden at Chanel College, Masterton, is the ‘icing on the cake’.

The Brigidine Sisters say they have had a marvellous year celebrating the 200th anniversary of their founding and a prayer garden just opened at Chanel College, Masterton, is ‘the icing on the cake’.

Brigidines mark bicentenary year with sacred garden Archdiocese of Wellington The Brigidines were founded in Ireland on 1 February 1807. Bishop Daniel Delany gathered together six women to form the nucleus of the new congregation dedicated to meeting the needs of the people by providing educational opportunities. St Brigid was their patroness. To mark the founding, Bishop Delany planted an oak sapling which has grown into a great tree.

So it is significant that the prayer garden which was opened at Chanel on 9 October is dominated by an oak tree which is now girded by a wooden seat.

Sr Monica told the gathering of Sisters, teachers, students, parents and friends of the Sisters’ gratitude to Chanel College principal, Jo Matthews, and her staff, ‘for dreaming up the wonderful idea’. She also thanked Margaret and Kelvin Biggs for the site suggestion, design plan and the layout of the rose gardens.

Kelvin said he hoped people would be drawn into the sacred area to sit on the seat. He was touched and honoured to be creating a special dwelling space for the God of all creation.

Brigidines mark bicentenary year with sacred garden Archdiocese of Wellington The Young Vinnies choir opened the dedication ceremony with a hymn and Sr Suzanne asked God to bless the garden and make it a place of peace.

Sr Maura unveiled a plaque marking the bicentenary and telling of the student DVD production team whose prize money paid for the garden’s construction.

The team won the competition which began the year of celebration with a rendering of the Brigidine story. They used animation, commentary, interview, documentary and drama.

During a liturgy on Catholic Schools’ Day in the Masterton Stadium, in the presence of 800 students, teachers, parents and Catholic Education representatives, the Sisters were presented with an oak tree sapling that was later planted in an established Oak Grove at Henley Lake. A plaque commemorates the occasion.

The Brigidines have taught thousands of children in the Wairarapa, Wellington, Kapiti, Manawatu and Auckland regions in the more than 90 years since the first group came to settle in Masterton in 1898. The Sisters stopped teaching in the 1990s.

Brigidines mark bicentenary year with sacred garden Archdiocese of Wellington Holy Family School, Porirua East, also performed a dramatisation of the Brigidine story on Catholic Schools Day, 2 May. This began with Brigid weaving her cross, the long sea journey of the pioneer Sisters from Ireland to Australia and later on to New Zealand and Porirua.

St Brigid’s School, Johnsonville, marked the bicentenary with a floor to ceiling mural in its foyer recording the school’s history from 1929. At the end of last term, the more than 150 children from St Francis Xavier School, Tawa, presented the Brigidine story in song, dance and drama to full house audiences at Bishop Viard College. St Brigid’s crosses have been etched in glass on two sides of the school’s new administration block.

St Mary’s, Carterton, has had mounted in wood on two outside walls, one-metre-square St Brigid’s crosses and St Patrick’s, Masterton, is planning to fix a large St Brigid’s cross on the north-facing wall of its school.

The St Bride’s Old Girls’ Association celebrates its reunion this weekend, 3 and 4 November, beginning with a Liturgy of Remembrance at the cemetery to honour the Brigidine Sisters who have laboured and died since 1898.

Pictures: Top: Brigidines supporters in the prayer garden at Chanel College.

Middle: The Vinnies choir entertain at the opening of the prayer garden.

Bottom: Two ‘Sisters’ in a dramatisation of the Brigidines’ founding in New Zealand by St Francis Xavier School, Tawa.