Beginnings in Aotearoa : New Zealand 1951
‘If I could be of service in any saving souls in any part of the globe, I would willingly do all in my power.’ Nano Nagle
How that desire and charism burned in the hearts of the Presentation Sisters who formed community around the globe in the name and charism of their foundress Nano Nagle. How evident was that desire in the Sisters in Tuam, Thurles and Kerry when they responded so willingly to the invitation of Bishop McKeefrey (Wellington) and Bishop Kavanagh (Dunedin) to come to New Zealand to establish Catholic schools in the two Dioceses.
The first group of Sisters brought the Presentation flame to Taita (Wellington) arriving in 1951. They were willing to risk all, to move from the familiar to the unfamiliar, the known to the unknown, security to insecurity. Nano’s heart burned to embrace the world: as she predicted, this desire was fulfilled after her death with the growth of the Congregation in response to the needs of the world. The pilgrim hearts of the Sisters who founded the Presentation Congregation in New Zealand urged them one pace beyond and love of God was their lantern flame.
The group that arrived in Taita paved the way and through their experience in these uncharted waters was able to help and encourage the other 2 groups in 1995 for their journey when they came to Green Island and Paraparaumu.
The New Zealand these pilgrims arrived into was recovering from World War Two. It was a time of growth with the beginning of the baby boom and a significant rise in immigration. Urban areas were struggling to accommodate this growth in population. The growing young population was putting a strain on existing schools, health and housing. Most New Zealanders were enjoying increased prosperity and unemployment was largely unknown. However as it seems in any society with increased economic prosperity, social inequalities were becoming more obvious with the concentration of state and cheaper housing in some areas. Also Catholicism has always been a minority in New Zealand and in 1956 those professing to be Catholic comprised 14.3% of the population with Anglicans making up 35.9% and Presbyterian 22.3%
‘The best works meet with the greatest crosses.’ Nano Nagle
One thing that the three groups had in common was the promise of a new school and new convent. Imagine the response when they each arrived to find that the promise appeared as a patch of dirt. They were however hosted by other congregations and were able to watch the development of their new lives take place all too slowly.
When the schools opened they were soon full to overflowing and the Sisters became very innovative in the way that they were able to deal with all the children: just as Nano had in her day with the huge demand for education.
The Sisters were mostly teachers. Some taught music, speech and singing and this supplemented the little income from the schools. The local people who saw the Sisters’ efforts, enthusiasm and courage supported them generously.