WelCom October 2020
Filming is underway for a new documentary celebrating 70 years of the Presentation Sisters in New Zealand –‘The Furthest Lantern’.
The Presentation Order of nuns was founded by Venerable Nano Nagle, whose vision was to provide a sound Catholic education for children, especially young girls and the down-trodden of eighteenth century Ireland. The first five Presentation Sisters in New Zealand arrived in January 1951 and set up a school at St Michael’s, Taita, in the ‘baby-booming’ Hutt Valley.
Filmmaker Paul Davidson, who recently completed the award-winning ‘A Test of Faith’ about the rebuild of St Mary of the Angels Church in Wellington, was one of their first students. He remembers fondly the strict but thorough early education the nuns gave their pupils. But the biggest influence on him personally was the music they brought with them. ‘There were no waiata in those days,’ says Paul. ‘It was all passionate Irish hymns and ballads – and I can still sing them all today!’
A number of nuns and past pupils have already been interviewed for the documentary, with more to come. A re-creation has also been filmed of the 1950s’ railway turntable at Taita, where St Michael’s children would help turn the huge steam locomotives around.
Another special part of the film features well-known writer Joy Cowley reading a poem relating to the closure of the old St Michael’s convent in 1995. ‘It was a joy – both literally and figuratively – to have her come on board for the project’ says Paul. ‘We’re very proud that such a deeply spiritual person would support us in this special way.’
Fund-raising to complete the filming and post-production of the documentary is continuing. Full details of the project, and an opportunity to donate, can be found at the PledgeMe website at: www.pledgeme.co.nz/projects/6595-the-furthest-lantern-documentary-film