Presentation Sisters feature on film

WelCom May 2021 Seventy years of the Presentation Sisters in Aotearoa New Zealand was celebrated with a special Mass and film premiere on Sunday 21 February. In February 1951, five…

WelCom May 2021

Presentation Sisters feature on film Archdiocese of Wellington
Pictured after the celebration Mass for the Presentation Sisters 70th anniversary (l-r) back: Sr Fran Nicolle, filmmakers Paul Davidson and Barbara Gibb, Srs Veronica Casey and Ruth Coleman; front Srs Noreen McGrath, Mary Tait and Regina Daly.
Photo: Supplied

Seventy years of the Presentation Sisters in Aotearoa New Zealand was celebrated with a special Mass and film premiere on Sunday 21 February.

In February 1951, five Sisters from Tuam in Ireland began teaching at St Michael’s School in Taita, Lower Hutt. It was the start of a faith-based education for New Zealand children that endures to this day. Cardinal John Dew celebrated the Mass at St Michael’s, which was attended by all the Presentation Sisters still in New Zealand. The Ambassador for Ireland, Peter Ryan, was also among the guests.

Later that day, the film The Furthest Lantern had its world premiere to a full house at the Lighthouse Cinema, Petone. The 90-minute documentary tells the story of those first nuns and the legacy they created, together with early Taita history and entertaining tales of growing up in the baby-booming Hutt Valley. 

Cardinal John said The Furthest Lantern is an excellent representation of the Presentation Sisters’ arrival in New Zealand in the early 1950s. ‘Their rapport with the parishioners is captured well in the film, which shows how they met struggling families where they were, attending to their most pressing needs. It is a well-told and inspiring story.’ The audience at the premiere certainly agreed, and the screening ended to much acclaim.

There are only a few Presentation Sisters working in the community today, and some may wonder if the sacrifices of the pioneering nuns were worth it? ‘Absolutely’, says Mary-Ann Greaney, New Zealand co-ordinator for friends of Nano Nagle. ‘Those nuns had a remarkable fidelity to their founder Nano and her charism – and they shared it with us. We owe them a great debt of gratitude.’

More screenings of The Furthest Lantern are planned, and the film is available on DVD direct from the producer Paul Davidson. Paul was in the very first class taught by those Presentation Sisters. Paul can be contacted at paul@bytesize.co.nz