Almost 142 years ago the first Catholic Missionary sisters trudged up Bluff Hill in Napier to lay claim to the first Sacred Heart school in the world founded by the sisters.
Last month another sister made her way up the hill to the school site, not this time on foot. Sister Marie Benedicte Ollivier, who lives just outside Lyon in France, travelled to Napier to launch the biography she wrote on one of the founding sisters of Sacred Heart College, Euphrasie Barbier.
Sister Marie spent years researching and writing her book, all in French. New Zealander Sister Beverley Grounds translated the 680-page manuscript into English, and she, too, was on hand to launch the book.
The cultural centre at Sacred Heart College was the focal point for the launch. Two distinct groups formed at the entrance to the centre, young girls dressed in the uniforms of their respective colleges, Sacred Heart College and St Joseph’s Māori Girls’ College, and the older members of the clergy there to support Sister Marie and to show their loyalty to Euphrasie Barbier. A powhiri welcomed the visitors before Sister Marie spoke, describing how she came to write the book and the importance of Napier in the history of the Missionary sisters. She outlined Euphrasie Barbier’s life, including her travels to New Zealand and the setting up of the Sacred Heart schools in other parts of the country following the founding of the Napier school.
She spent time in Samoa and Tonga, but found it difficult to set up missions in those Pacific nations.
The launch culminated in a blessing by Bishop Peter Cullinane.
Photo: Sisters Valerie Lawson RNDM, Raewyn Hogan RNSM, Marie Andre RNDM and Catherine Jones SMSM at the launch.