Life and mission in Aotearoa / New Zealand

This is a great opportunity for me to share a little about our life as Little Sisters in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

At present we are a “Community” of 5 sisters. Two sisters live alone in the Wellington area – Barbara Gibbs in Petone and Veronica Hackett in Upper Hutt. Wellington is situated in the south of the North Island of New Zealand. Barbara and Veronica live out their life and mission within their local area and alongside their neighbours. Barbara’s mission centres around supporting some elderly and people who suffer from a chronic or terminal illness in the neighbourhood; and Veronica is very much involved with young families, supporting and accompanying them in their spiritual life journey. Barbara and Veronica try to meet up whenever possible and support each other with regular phone calls.
 
Eleni, Leiola and Manusiu live in South Auckland (in the north of the North Island), an hour’s flight from Wellington. We have two houses but are one community. Eleni lives on her own at the moment in Papatoetoe, until Alapina returns from 2 years leave. Alapina was granted compassionate leave to look after her mother who she was very sick – her mother died in July 2011 but her illness had affected the health of Alapina’s father so Alapina has stayed on to help her father. 
 
Eleni works with the Refugees for Auckland and continues to participate in the Ecumenism Commission for New Zealand Church – the Methodist/Catholic Dialogue Group for New Zealand Church. 
 
Leiola and I are living in Otara, 10-15 minutes away from Papatoetoe. Leiola has been trying to find paid employment but at the same time she is visiting people in our area and doing odd jobs around the house. I have been working as a Community Health Worker in the Respiratory Department in Middlemore Hospital, for over 10 years now, with a year off in 2008/2009 for a sabbatical. In the past 5 years we have been running daily clinics, setting up overnight studies to find the best treatment for those who suffer from OSA (Obstructive Sleep Apnoea) which is a very high-risk health problem for our people in South Auckland. We have treated over 1,200 people – this is in South Auckland only. The three of us in Auckland come together as community twice a week for prayer and a meal – including Sundays. 
 
Each one is involved in her own way of expressing the LSA charism. We also come together for our meetings and Barbara and Veronica participate by email and/or telephone and share on the issues that we are discussing. When we have our local chapter we always try to travel to Wellington to join Barbara and Veronica, which also gives us time to be with one another. Distance does separate us, but we do try to make the most of modern technology to stay close and support each other.
 
 
Veronica shares something of her mission in Upper Hutt City. 
 
I have been asked to share something of my ministry in this multicultural, working-class city with a population of approximately 40,000.
Since coming here in 2001 at the age of 75 years, many families and groups have become part of the fabric of my life. I am hoping that you will pray for a young family that I am currently supporting – I will confine myself to telling their story. 
Scott and Susie Bentley left America for New Zealand a few years ago. As they have three young children, age 6 and under, Susie wanted to take care of them at home. In answer to an advertisement, her husband found work in Upper Hutt, and we were privileged to welcome a devout Catholic family into our parish. Our parish of St Joseph is noted for its hospitality. Masses are followed by refreshments, when we mingle together, and get to know one another. 
Soon I became friendly with this young family. It was not easy for them, as they had no relatives in New Zealand. Susie asked if she could come to see me on a regular basis for spiritual direction etc. It was then I found that her husband has an incurable spinal condition. Susie is pregnant with her fourth child, which is due in January 2012. Recently tests have shown that her unborn child has a condition called: “anencephaly”. Infants with this condition usually die in utero. None survive longer than two weeks.
Hospital authorities automatically suggested termination of the pregnancy. Susie refused, stating that she was a Catholic. Much support and encouragement will be required for this family during the next few months. We have told Susie “you are carrying a saint in your womb; your fourth child, who will intercede for the family in heaven”. Daniel is the name they have chosen for their son.
We have organised a “prayer chain” for this family. Please join us if you will. What a beautiful vocation is ours, caring for the family, the Domestic church!
 
 
Sr Veronica, Little Sister of Assumption
09/12/2011
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