Week in the Capitol!

Last week Renee and I went to our third and last destination of our fellowship, Canberra, which is the capitol of Australia! Like all weekends here, we had another fun-filled weekend before we left for Canberra. On Saturday evening, which is the same day we came back from Newcastle, Sister Rose Mary picked me up in the evening, and I attended a talk with her held at Santa Sabina that was given by one of the Dominican sisters who just came back from Palestine, Israel, Jordan. I learned more about the work she did with the Dominican sisters in those countries and also the hostilities between Palestine and Israel. Also, her presentation gave me a good idea for when Renee and I have to present to PC about our fellowship this upcoming semester. After her talk, I went to Mass at the covent at Santa Sabina. I met Father Dan before the Mass who was familiar with my hometown area since he attended Boston College. At the end of Mass, he introduced me to the other sisters and thanked me for coming and how he is familiar with the Canton area (small world!) After Mass, I went out to a Chinese food restaurant with Sister Rose Mary and three of the other Dominican sisters. Sister Veronica drove me over who also received her Master’s from BC and is also familiar with the Natick/ Framingham area (a very small world!) Also, she had just come back from the Camino de Santiago which she talked about during dinner. This is something that one of my good friends at PC and roommate Maryssa and I have talked about doing ever since we saw the Martin Sheen movie during DWC freshmen year. Sister Veronica gave some tips on how to train and what to pack that I have passed along to Maryssa.

On Sunday, Elizabeth and I went into the city to go to Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney (guess I was extra holy that week since I went to Mass twice!) The cathedral is breathtakingly beautiful both inside and out and the Mass we attended was the singing Mass. Also, since it was a beautiful day on Sunday we walked around Hyde Park which is right outside the cathedral and around the city a little bit.

On Monday, Sarah and I walked around Newtown which is an artsy suburb of Sydney and I finally made myself try kangaroo in burger form (sorry roo!) Also, that night we had a special going away dinner for Renee and I at the Pooley-Pow house since while we were in Canberra, Elizabeth and John left for South America and Louise left for her backpack adventures through Europe. It was hard to say bye to members of a family we had become so close too and basically our home away from home while in OZ:(

On Tuesday morning, Jane and Sister Rose Mary drove us down to Canberra. We stopped at a cafe about halfway there where we were told they had also stopped at when they brought Emily and Joe to Canberra two years ago. I ordered pancakes off the menu just like Joe had and took a picture of a scarecrow outside the cafe I was told like Emily had- have to keep some traditions ya know? Once we got to Canberra we noticed a temperature difference- it was cold cold cold and actually did feel like winter compared to Sydney. We first went to the Australian Catholic University campus in Canberra, which is also a Dominican university like us, and met Professor Patrick McArdle, the Dean of the Signadou campus. Professor McArdle had visited PC two years ago and he had met Fr. Robb as well. He told us how he was most impressed by the student involvement at our Campus Ministry compared to other American Catholic schools he visited, and he wants to emulate ACU’s campus ministry program to be more like ours- go PC! We then went over to Catholic Life and met Greg Jeffrey who helped to coordinate our program in Canberra. Also, at Catholic Life we met our host mom, Sandy, who brought us home to her house where her and her husband Wayne live. Later that night, we went to a “Guiness and God” event that are talks put on monthly by Catholic Life and feature different speakers and topics in a pub setting. We actually had dinner with the speaker that night, Patrick Langtrell, and he is one of the people who founded the “Theology on Tap” talks that PC sometimes hosts in McPhail’s- same idea!

On Wednesday, Renee and I went into work with Sandy and Josh, one of the workers at Catholic Life, brought us over to ACU where we met up with Sister Rose Mary and Jane who stayed overnight at a Catholic house in the area. We met Richard Jameson at the Indigenous Center which reminded me of the Campus Ministry chapel basement hangout- kitchen and all. We stayed there longer than we anticipated talking to him. We learned that he is from Aboriginal background and was not recognized as a full citizen of Australia until he was 7 years old! After getting lunch at the ACU cafe (like Alummni but no take 3 option), Jane, Renee, and I walked around the school grounds which is a lot smaller than PC because it has a total enrollment of 750 students compared to ours which is between 4000-5000. The campus is very quaint except it was like a ghost town when we were there since students were on holiday. After, we met up with Sister Rose again and her and Jane brought us to the National Art Gallery of Australia where we looked at Aboriginal art.

On Thursday, Sandy brought us into work again and Jane and Sister Rose met us there to bring us back to ACU. We met Dr. Jo Brady, a Josephite sister, who is actually visiting Providence in September! Dr. Brady is very involved in the education program at ACU which I was very much interested in hearing since I am considering a career in education post-grad. We took a picture with her Sister Rose could send to Father Robb so he can put a face to the name. Sister Jo hopes to visit PC while she is in Providence and we hope we get to see her again! Later that day we went to the Australian National Museum and saw a special exhibit of Aboriginal art. After getting a lunch at the museum cafe, where I tried my first flat white (similar to a latte except milkier) Sister Rose and Jane dropped us back off at Catholic Life where we said our goodbyes before they drove back to Canberra. Later that evening, Gabby, a student at ACU who we met previously at Guiness and God, picked us up from our homestay and we attended pasta and prayer with the Marist Youth. They have a dinner every month for the Marist Youth, which is mostly boys who graduated from the Marist high school where the dinner is held. Every month they have a featured guest speaker, which we learned only a few days before is us! We were a little nervous about what we would talk about, but us talking was very low key and we talked about our fellowship, what we have been doing in Australia, and other service work opportunities we have done at PC. I talked about my spring break trips with Habitat for Humanity and my volunteer work with S.T.O.P. Hunger. After we talked, we hung out with the youth and it turned out to be a fun night!

On Friday, was our 4th of July! We were greeted by people at Catholic Life that morning telling us happy Independence Day! Josh, Anna (Greg’s fiance), and Ellen (a Youth Ministry group leader/ uni student) took us to do touristy activities in Canberra. Our first stop of course it being the 4th of July, was the U.S. Embassy. Although we were not granted access to go inside (boo) and the security guard said we could only take a picture in front of the sign, I guess we at least got to see it! We also saw Parliament House, the War Memorial, went to a cool hands on science museum called Questacon, drove to the top of Black Mountain, and went to a cute tea shop that had every tea flavor you could imagine (it is hard to believe a year ago I did not like tea at all since it’s all I drink here!) Oh and did I mention we passed about 50 kangaroos while on the road- and being me from outside the country asked if we could stop, which we did but when we walked up all 50 kangaroos were starring at us…and then all hopped away (well at least it was a sight to see!) Later that night, Josh and Stuart decided to make a good old 4th of July barbeque for us so it did not feel that we were missing out- a meal of hotdogs and grilled chicken! We played board games that night with some of their friends (which quickly got competitive) but was still a lot of fun!

On Saturday, after going out for breakfast with Wayne, Sandy, their son Matt, their daughter-in-law, and their baby grandson, Patrick, we were dropped off to meet Josh, Anna, Ellen, Stuart, some of the boys from the night before, and Josh’s youth group for a bush walk (very Australian!) I love going for walks and hiking so I enjoyed the scenic walk! The walk ended up being 10K (6.2 miles) and at the end we enjoyed a barbeque. Also, again we saw 2 kangaroos on our walk! After the walk, we went back with Josh to his place and relaxed and watch the “Lego” movie with Josh and Stuart (they tried to tell us the Lego movie is better than Toy Story but I beg to differ…) We then said our final goodbyes to Josh after he dropped us off back at Wayne and Sandy’s for dinner. After dinner, Wayne showed me some of is photos from Pearl Harbor since they had just come back from a big trip to the U.S. and Canada about a month ago.

On Sunday, we went to Mass in the morning before heading back on a bus to Sydney! Despite the cold and some foggy mornings (I could even see my breath on some cold mornings!), Canberra was a good time! So long! Cheers!

Night Patrol and Newcastle!

Hi all! I just wanted to fill you all in on a re-cap of my week with Renee in Newcastle (June 23-28.) The weekend before we left for Newcastle was a busy one! On Saturday, Renee and I met up with Sister Rose Mary for morning tea/breakfast. After, we took a train into the city and from there took a ferry over to Manly Beach. Despite it being winter, it was a perfect day to sit on the beach!  I even stuck my feet in to test the water- not bad at all! The memorable part of our trip was running from the place we had lunch to make it on the ferry ride back to Sydney…and we missed it (whoops..)

Manly Beach- still beautiful in the winter time!

Manly Beach- still beautiful in the winter time!

We walked the island a little bit.  Like Martha's Vineyard with a California feel!

We walked the island a little bit. Like Martha’s Vineyard with a California feel!

On Sunday, Renee and I spent part of the afternoon making sandwiches to prepare for “Night Patrol.” Night Patrol is run by St. Vincent de Paul and operates 364 days of the year (the only day it does not operate is New Year’s Eve because of First Night in Sydney.)  Volunteers load up a van filled with sandwiches, chip bags, granola bars, fruit, sweets, and drinks that makes three stops in Sydney to distribute dinner meals to those in need. Jane picked us up from the Pooley-Pows and we drove over to where the St. Vincent de Paul is stationed.  There we met 3 other Year 11 girls from Santa (and all 3 girls I went on the retreat with a few days previously) and one of the girl’s father was our driver for the night. I had never done anything like this before, but loved every minute especially since I am involved with S.T.O.P. Hunger at PC. My job for the night at the 3 stops was asking the next person in line which sandwich they would prefer and whether they would also like a chip bag, a Measly bar, a piece of fruit, and/or a Tim Tam (one of my favorite chocolatey biscuits in Australia!) My favorite part was talking to the different people who came by the truck to receive a meal and most of the people I encountered were very grateful for what we were doing. Also, Night Patrol allowed us to talk to the people whom we were serving and get to know them more. The men and women I talked to were friendly and asked me about different places in the U.S. and also places we have traveled to in the past. Serving both at Matt Talbot and Night Patrol in Sydney was both a positive and a eye-opening experience for me and I am excited to share my experiences with S.T.O.P. Hunger this upcoming school year!

Our ride for the night!

Our ride for the night!

The next day, Renee and I boarded the train for Newcastle, another Australian city on the East Coast located north of Sydney. Our train ride was very scenic since Newcastle is located right on the water. Sister Jenny, O.P. met us at the train station and during the week we got to know each other very well! Renee and I had our own apartment located in the Dominican Sister community in Newcastle that Sister Jenny brought us too. On our first day in Newcastle, Sister Jenny brought us around Newcastle and she showed us the coal mines, the shoreline (although it was still a cloudy day the beaches looked pretty), and an old Anglican church where the man at the front desk gave us a special prayer for travelers to keep with them. Later that evening Renee and I joined the sisters for prayer and then we had our first of many dinners together with Sister Jenny for the week!

Inside of the Anglican Church we visited!

Inside of the Anglican Church we visited!

Despite it being overcast, Newcastle is still very scenic!

Despite it being overcast, Newcastle is still very scenic!

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On Tuesday, Renee and I met Sister Diana who is another Dominican sister. She picked us up at our apartment.  Sister Diana together with Sister Betty, a Josephite sister, run Penola House which is a center for refugees. I have learned while overseas in Australia that Australia has a huge refugee problem and Penola House strives to help refugees who have come over to Australia for a better life by providing services such as English classes, a day care for young children, and even a driving school to help refugees be able to attain their license. On Tuesday, staff members from Catholic Relief Services came over to visit Penola House so Renee and I sat in on the orientation and learned more about the good deeds that Penola House does. After our day at Penola House, we went out to dinner with Sister Diana and Sister Betty.  Then we went to their house where we got a tour of Sister Diana’s greenhouse (she even has her own chickens so she never has to buy her own eggs!) Not only is Sister Diana really into social justice, but she is also very environment friendly!

Just continuing the fellowship holder tradition of taking a picture of Sister Diana's car!

Just continuing the fellowship holder tradition of taking a picture of Sister Diana’s car!

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On Wednesday, Renee and I went with Sister Jenny to the Corpus Christi Primary School, a Dominican school years K-6, which is the school Sister Jenny works at. Sister Jenny introduced Renee and I at morning assembly to all the students and told them how we are from America. The students got to be out of uniform that day so there seemed to be lots of excitement at school especially it being the last week of the term. Sister Jenny told us how she is leaving for the Solomon Islands the following week to work with the Dominican sisters there (and has been there for nearly a week now!) Renee and I sat in on some of the presentations she gave to each class year which was a slideshow of what the Solomon Islands is like and she answered any questions the kids had for her. At the end of the presentation, students could donate money if they wished. Also, another fundraiser for the Solomon Islands Sister Jenny organized was the Junior World Cup soccer tournament which occurred during the school day. All the students were hyped up and waving the flags of the country they were representing. I walked around from team to team talking to the students. Spending the day at Corpus Christi and talking to the staff reaffirmed my thinking of pursuing a career in education. Also, Wednesday evening commenced our Australian movie watching club. Sister Jenny had asked Renee and I if we had seen any Australian movies (apparently Finding Nemo doesn’t count) so for the rest of our stay in Newcastle we watched a new movie each night: Red Dog, Rabbit-Proof Fence, and The Sapphires. Also, that night we enjoyed a yummy Australian dinner of fish on the barbie (a.k.a. fish off the grill!)

Sister Jenny, O.P., talking about the Solomon Islands!

Sister Jenny, O.P., talking about the Solomon Islands!

A welcome message for Renee and I in the staff room!

A welcome message for Renee and I in the staff room!

Sister Jenny's garden at the school that she lets the kids help her with!

Sister Jenny’s garden at the school that she lets the kids help her with!

Australia has cool birds!

Australia has cool birds!

A successful Junior World Cup Tournament! Renee and I helped count the donations after which Sister Jenny will use towards buying items people in the Solomon Islands need!

A successful Junior World Cup Tournament! Renee and I helped count the donations after which Sister Jenny will use towards buying items people in the Solomon Islands need!

The Dominican shield!

The Dominican shield!

On Thursday, Sister Diana picked us up from our apartment again and we went to Penola House. In the morning we brought over bikes to an Afghan family, and later were invited over their home for a lunch. I enjoyed my first Afghan and Middle Eastern meal! Thursday is community day at Penola House.  I enjoyed meeting the people who came that day and hear their stories. I talked to one lady, Acha, who came from Cameroon to earn her Master’s degree in Australia and while she was over in Australia found out she was pregnant. Even though she is far away from her family right now, the services at Penola House have made it possible for her to earn her Master’s and help her take care of her baby daughter, Ariel, who I also got to meet. It was inspiring to hear Acha tell me her story and I learned not many women in Cameroon are fortunate to earn their master’s degree or even receive an education like Acha has. I now have had an eye-opening experience that there should never be a day where I take my education at PC for granted. Both the people who come to Penola and the volunteers are special in the type of work they do. Later that day, we had our last evening prayer with the Dominican sisters. Each Thursday a different sister takes a turn hosting afternoon tea (dinner), so Renee and I were able to join this week at Sr. Anne’s!  The sisters were wonderful and so funny and I could not stop smiling the whole time!

My first Afghan meal (very tasty I might add!)

My first Afghan meal (very tasty I might add!)

Me with the Dominican sisters after our meal!

Me with the Dominican sisters after our meal!

On Friday, Sister Jenny took Renee and I down to Nelson Bay where we went whale watching. This was also my first time going on a whale watch (yes I know and I am from New England…)  We had perfect weather and were able to see dolphins, seals, caves, and some whales jump up (although three-fourths of my pictures where I thought I got shots of whales is just of the Pacific Ocean), but it was a magnificent site to see! Also, Sister Jenny showed us around the Dominican sisters’ beach cottage which is right on the water and must be beautiful to be at during their summer time!

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A dolphin!

A dolphin!

You can sort of see a whale here!

You can sort of see a whale here!

The scenery was cool!

The scenery was cool!

 

On Saturday, before we left all of the sisters came by to wish us good bye and safe travels for the rest of the trip. Sister Jenny brought us back to the train station to head back to Sydney. Newcastle, very different from Sydney, was still a great experience. I feel that after living with the Dominican sisters and getting to know them, I have a better grasp of what it means to be Dominican and live a life according to the four Dominican pillars (prayer, study, community, and ministry.) Also, I found interesting to learn more about the sisters’ involvement in social justice issues such as immigration and health care that sisters stand up for and also their involvement in current events. I can take back everything I learned this week from the sisters about the Dominican tradition with me entering my last year at PC.

 

A Reflection on My Time at Santa Sabina

I am a little behind in my blog posts because of being so busy here and the lack of wifi in Newcastle last week (that blog post is coming up next!), but I just wanted to give a reflection on my time spent at Santa Sabina College.  It is difficult to put into words the impact this school had on me. During my three weeks spent at Santa Sabina, I had the opportunity to work with students from kindergarten (or “kindie”) up until students from Year 12. 

On two of the days, I went over to Del Monte (the co-ed primary school) with Jane.  On one of the days I helped her sub a kindie class, where we spent the morning learning about the letter “U” for their English lesson and learning to write sentences and draw a picture of what they see at Mass for the religious education lesson.  I spent the morning walking around from table to table helping the students spell out words (and tying many shoes and hair ribbons before morning tea), but enjoyed every minute.  During all four years of high school, every Sunday at my parish I volunteered as a preschool/ kindergarten CCD teacher’s aide, so working at Del Monte brought back nostalgia and I was pleased I was able to work with this age group again!  Also, that same day after spending the afternoon with the Year 5 girls (I was impressed by the topics they were researching for their independent project!), I went over with Jane to St. Joachim’s Catholic Primary School to an after school homework help program that Jane started.  Students from both Santa Sabina and St. Patrick’s (the all-boys school) participate in this program by serving as tutors.  Walking through the courtyard, I noticed most of the students were minorities, but I found very encouraging that the school has after school sports activities to keep the students active (and provide fruit for healthy snacks!)  When I walked into homework help a Year 4 girl named Sandy walked right up to me and told me her name is Sandy and that she does not like to do homework.  In order to get to know her a little bit more I suggested we play a couple of board games.  Sandy chose for us to play Connect 4 and checkers (she had more fun moving my pieces too to make sure she would win every game we played which still makes me smile thinking about while writing this)  I then suggested we try to do some of her homework sheets, and eventually I was able to have her sit down in a chair and start her English homework sheets.  She told me she loves doing word searches so she completed those first. For her other homework exercises, we then made a game out of it where I would count slowly (1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi…)  to time her and see how long it would take her to complete her fill in the blank sentences.  She had fun doing homework that way (except when I told her at the end of homework help that homework could be fun she still was not too convinced.)  I learned the trick to tutoring younger students is to get to know the student she will be working with a little first and just make their homework seem like less of a chore!

When I was at the secondary school, I mostly shadowed religious education classes.  I remember a Year 12 class that I attended, the girls broke out into groups working on finding evidence from the Bible and their assigned readings on issues such as “Justice” and “World Peace.”  I walked around from table to table to see how the girls were doing and if I could offer any guidance (but I think my table hopping resulted more in having the girls getting off track with their work since I answered questions about my fellowship and America thrown at me but the teacher did not seem to mind!) 

One of my favorite parts about my experience at Santa Sabina was working with the Year 6 girls at the St. Martin de Porres Middle School.  During my first week, Dominique assigned me to shadow a Year 6 class not really knowing what to expect.  I then found myself going back to Mrs. Quinlan’s Year 6 class since I really made a connection with the girls.  I enjoyed talking to Mrs. Quinlan during our morning tea and lunches and she treated me like I was just one of her fellow colleagues.  Also, I loved being able to participate in a student teacher role by reading to the girls their weekly “Math Mentals”, reading to them parts of a book they were reading for their English unit, and also I was given the opportunity to give the big standardized Year 6 religion education test orally to one of the girls.  I even attended some of the girls’ specials such as drama and art (where they kept telling me that I am such a good drawer and I have that “art teacher look.”)  I will never forget one weekend when I was at Saturday evening Mass with my host family and it was just right after Communion when everyone kneels and one of the girls out of no where came running up to me while Mass was still going on yelling “hi Elizabeth!  I saw you and told my mom I had to come over and say hi.”  She even reached over the pew to give me a hug while I was kneeling.  After she left my home stay family couldn’t stop laughing and told me I am a celebrity since during the kiss of peace another Santa Sabina girl (who is also named Elizabeth) from Year 3 remarked “hey I know you!”  It’s the little things that cannot stop you from smiling! 

It was hard to say bye to the girls and some of them even took turns taking individual pictures with me on their iPads.  After I came in the afternoon from the Year 11 retreat, I decided to swing by Mrs. Quinlan’s class to say my final goodbye which resulted in hugs, a gift of Lindt chocolates from one of the girls, and Mrs. Quinlan and I exchanged emails and Skype names so next term I can skype the girls!  I will admit it was hard to leave Santa Sabina that day knowing that would be my last day attending classes.  After my time at Santa Sabina, I am now seriously considering a career in education.  I have Santa Sabina to give the utmost thanks too for helping me find my possible career niche and this beautiful campus and its even more beautiful people will always hold a special place in my heart.

 

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Me reading the girls their “math mentals.”  Do I look like a teacher here :))

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Me with the Year 6 girls!:)

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thanks for everything Mrs. Quinlan!

“Be Still and Know I Am God” (Psalm 46:10), A Reflection on the 2014 Year 11 Retreat

Hi all!  I apologize for taking over a week to make a new post, I have been having some technical difficulties with my blog posts not uploading but *knock on wood* I figured out that my laptop was in need of updates (whoops.)

Two Fridays ago, I came back from the three-day Year 11 Retreat at Kiah Ridge.  Although these past few days were more geared toward the Year 11 girls and I was considered a student teacher leader, this retreat could not have had come at a better time for me. I am typically not a huge retreat person, but this retreat has given a whole new outlook and I can say now that I have caught the “retreat bug.” Also, I am proud of myself to say I did not check my phone even once while on this retreat (which also was in part because of the lack of WiFi) and instead I took the time to appreciate the beauty and the people around me and also reflect on both my relationship with God and my relationships with others.

We had an early start on Wednesday morning and after arriving at Santa Sabina for a check-in, boarding the Coach buses (we arrived to Kiah Ridge in luxury style), and settling in our cabins/cottages we kicked off the start of the retreat! We started off the retreat with some icebreakers.  One of my favorite icebreakers was this activity where we had to find a partner and sit back to back and then try and stand up.  Trying to do the activity with two people and four people was fine, but it got a little trickier when we had to attempt to stand up with twelve people back to back.  We failed at twelve people, but we still had lots of laughs from all of our attempts!  After we lit the retreat candle and the theme was introduced, we broke off into our first small group session which is always my favorite part about retreats!  One of our first small group sessions that day involved taking a personality test to see what personality type I am.  I learned that I am 1, 6, and 9, and after reading the descriptions of all three, I recognized a lot of myself so maybe this test is pretty accurate! I then looked at the enneagram sheet distributed for a personality type process for self-discovery and transformation of the three major centers- heart, head, and gut- and I was surprised to learn that I am mostly gut (but this may make sense because sometimes when I know something is not right I feel sick to my stomach.)

Then, we watched the movie Mona Lisa Smiles which stars Julia Roberts, Kirsten Dunst (from Spiderman) and Julia Stiles (from The Prince and Me).  The movie takes place at Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts which is only about 10 minutes away from my house so it was a little reminder of home!  I had never seen the movie previously, but I recognized a lot of the scenery from going to Wellesley College with my mom and friends from home for runs, walks, and hang outs by the Charles River.  It was just interesting to see how different Wellesly College was back in the 1950’s. Women were not seen as independent and after they graduated “uni” (throwing in some Australian lingo where I can), they were expected to fulfill the social roles of becoming a wife and a mother. The next day we had an unpacking of the movie and used the enneagram sheet to discuss what personality type each female character in the movie might fit into.

Later that evening we did a “life graph” session. One of the teacher leaders gave an emotional presentation on the ups and downs of her teaching career and ended with her time at Santa Sabina saying there is not one day that she wakes up and does not want to come into work. Her talk was empowering and I would like to have a job like that someday too- a job that I love so much and where I never work a day in my life. We then took some quiet time to create our own life graphs. We split into our small groups to share one point on our life graph either a low point of struggle or a high point of happiness. Many tears were shed and we ended our small group session by exchanging a big group hug. The life graph session taught that we all have our own struggles and low points of life and that we are never alone.

The first day of the retreat ended with some free time and the girls had the opportunity to watch Game 2 of the “State of Origin” football (or as they call it in Aussie “footie”) game between Queensland and New South Wales (which is the state Sydney is in and where we are right now. We will be going to Queensland when we travel to the Great Barrier Reef.) The State of Origin is a huge deal in Australia and the best players from each state come together to form a team to compete (similar to the Probowl with the AFC versus the NFC.) The “State of Origin” is a three game series and a team needs to win two games to become the new title holder. I learned that New South Wales has not won in the last eight years (ever since the iPhone first came out) and that they were currently ahead since they won Game 1. Actually Renee, Sarah, and John were at the game that evening! It was awesome to see the girls all fired up and showing so much spirit for NSW! Some were wearing their favorite player’s jersey (one girl even had on a NSW onesie! While on this retreat I learned that onesies are a very popular way to stay warm especially animal onesies!), and others girls had blue and white face paint on. It reminded me of watching the Superbowl at school and last fall semester watching the Red Sox clinch the World Series with friends in the common room of my suite. The girls explained the rules to me while watching the game (it reminds me of American football (do you think I could get the term “footie” trended in the U.S.), but with less pads worn and less whistle blowing and more violent tackles.) The girls went crazy when NSW won Game 2 and the “State of Origin” (hey maybe I brought them good luck!) One of the girls even told me after the game that she was glad she got to watch the game with all of her friends while on retreat rather than alone at home I am glad I got to witness such a great game!

Day Two of the retreat started off after breakfast with me introducing myself to all of the girls and then leading us in “morning prayer.” After “morning prayer” and a debriefing of the movie, we then broke off into small groups and wrote letters to ourselves about our current proudest moments, struggles, and hopes for the future. I even wrote a letter to myself and put my address on the envelope. Dominique told me to look for a surprise in my mail box in the next year! After morning tea, Dominique incorporated one of my ideas from the retreat planning meeting, a partner walk which has always been one of my favorite activities on retreats I have been on at PC. The best part about partner walks is getting to know someone who you do not know too well and getting to know them on a whole new personal level by confiding to your partner how you are doing at the current moment.

Our next activity involved masks. First the teachers and I (my very first retreat talk!) went down the line and talked about a mask we sometimes wear in certain situations or have worn before. I talked to the girls about my first couple of months at my first year of university and adjusting to living away from home for the first time and making new friends and how important it is to surround oneself with a strong support system involving family and friends both old and new. , The girls then had the opportunity to decorate their own masks—the Year 11 girls are both very artistic and creative! In our small groups we then shared our masks and explained why we decorated it the way we did. The girls then had an allotted amount of free time. I spent the first half watching the repeat of the Australia versus Netherlands World Cup soccer game (and also learning some more Aussie lingo. I now like to say “awkies” for awkward.) Also when I was outside during the second half of free time, I saw my first family of wild kangaroo. The girls even insisted that they take pictures of me with the kangaroos in the background (definitely not something you see every day in America!) After free time, another of the teachers gave a talk on finding God and being still in our “sacred space.” The girls then designed our own “sacred space” using either clay or water colors.

After dinner and some impromptu dance-offs (some of the teachers even participated and showed us their moves!), the girls were given a task to work together as a group and make their own liturgy. The girls divided themselves into groups based on interests and talents that were all important components of the liturgy: sacred space, candles, music, readings, gospel and reflection, and prayers of the faithful. The teachers stepped out of the room and I walked around from group to group to check-in. The liturgy was a very moving experience. The sacred space was created with a small table in the center covered in cloth bearing a cross and the girls put their masks and sacred space art pieces around the table. We did the liturgy in the dark and walked in two by two with lit candles that we then placed outside the circle around the sacred space to a few of the girls playing the piano and singing “Fix You” by Coldplay. Also, at the end of the Liturgy, some of the girls brought their instruments so a trio of flutists ended the liturgy with their beautiful harmonious sounds (hearing them made miss playing the flute and making me want to pick it up again when I come back home.)

Our final day of the retreat, after breakfast and “morning prayer”, we did an affirmation circle activity (which I was told was the idea of the PC 2013 Fr. Smith Fellow Kate Mulvihill!) where all the girls sat in a circle facing the outside of the circle with their eyes closed. One of the teachers would call up the members of each small group and she would say “tap a shoulder of a person who has made you smile” or “tap a shoulder of a person you are glad you have met.” You would sometimes feel one, two, or even more than three taps which was heartwarming to know that someone recognizes these traits in you. We then broke off into our small groups and took the time to write affirmations in each of our journals. After reading my journal, what the girls wrote really touched me and I will also treasure my journal from this retreat. As cliché as this sounds, the girl who I went on the partner walk with wrote that she hopes to grow to be like me someday which made me tear up as I was reading it.

I believe the last three days helped me grow as a person. During all meals and morning and afternoon teas (I will have to continue my own tea times once I am back home!), I tried to sit with a new group of girls. It was also really cool to see girls not just stick with their group of friends from meals, but mix it up for every dinner. From answering questions about America and talking about our favorite music, places we have traveled to, and of course boys, I feel that I have known these girls much longer than only three days! I enjoyed all the laughs and hanging out in their cabins with them while they made sure I tried one of each Australian candy—the caramel Koalas are my new favorite! I hope I made a positive impact on all the girls I met over this retreat. I even received Facebook friend requests after the retreat and one of the girls messaged me to tell me that she hopes I enjoyed the retreat and that we should stay in touch. If you are reading this, thanks for everything Dominique, all the other teacher leaders, and Year 11 Girls. <3

 

Kiah Ridge is very picturesque!

Kiah Ridge is very picturesque!

My cottage that I shared with Dominique!

My cottage that I shared with Dominique!

Me giving morning prayer!

Me giving morning prayer!

Wild kangaroos! #soaussie

Wild kangaroos! #soaussie

The girls insisted that they get a picture of me with some wild kangaroos!

The girls insisted that they get a picture of me with some wild kangaroos!

Some of the lovely girls I met!

Some of the lovely girls I met!

Could not have asked for a better small group!

Could not have asked for a better small group!

Dominique and I!  Thanks for organizing everything over my past few weeks at Santa Sabina!

Dominique and I! Thanks for organizing everything over my past few weeks at Santa Sabina!

 

 

Santa Sabina’s Hidden Gem

When I have a free period at Santa Sabina, I have been helping Sister Rose Mary with a book inventory at the Las Casas Center for Justice Book Collection. Back when I was writing my fellowship proposal, Sister Rose Mary asked me if I like books. After I emailed her back with my expressed interest, Sister Rose Mary graciously set-up an opportunity in which I would work at this small library at Santa Sabina College. There is an established rule that books not borrowed for ten years are shed, and Sister Rose Mary believes that the library possesses scripture, theology, and other books that are not available for access on the web and may not be regularly borrowed. Both Sister Rose and I have spent some time doing an inventory of the books in the library since the books are important to the faculty and the students’ learning.

The Las Casas Library is located in a beautiful room at the school called the Red Parlor Room. The book are placed on the shelf based upon subject area. While doing the inventory with Sister Rose, I have come across many subject areas I want to learn more about such as Interfaith (I enjoy learning more about other religions in addition to Catholicism and want to read more books on this topic) and the Aboriginal People. As we were going through the list and checking books off, Sister Rose knew many of the authors (many of the books in the library were written by Dominicans!) and she pointed out to me when one of the books we came across was written by an American religious person.   Any book that is not on our list or a book we come across that Sister thinks could serve a special purpose, she puts aside.  Two sisters from Vietnam are currently staying at the school’s convent to work on improving their English so that they can further their studies in theology. If we come across a book Sister may think would be helpful for this, she puts it aside to give to the sisters later.  As my title suggests, this library has come to be one of my favorite places on Santa’s campus- hence the school’s hidden gem!

The Las Casas library I have been helping Sister Rose with!

The Las Casas Library I have been helping Sister Rose with!

A sample of what is in the library collection (just a little light reading!)

A sample of what is in the library collection (just a little light reading!)

Week 2 Re-cap!

It’s hard to believe I have been in Australia for exactly 2.5 weeks!  While the first week seemed to go by slowly (most likely due to the jet lag), our time here is now whipping by and I am not sure how I feel about that!  After coming back from the long weekend that involved trips into the city and hiking the Blue Mountains on the Queens’s National Birthday, I spent the rest of the week back at Santa Sabina shadowing classes and getting to know more of both the staff and the students.  Even though I have not spent a full two weeks at Santa, I already feel that I am part of the community that demonstrates the values of the Dominican tradition to the utmost capacity just from talking to the people here and attending Thursday 8 am Mass in the school’s chapel.  Service work and helping others is very important to me and I am blessed to have had the opportunity to take part in doing something that I love outside the U.S.  I feel the most at home and comfortable in my own shoes participating in the work that I have been doing here.

Before I left for my fellowship when I told people I was going to Australia on a service fellowship, I got many raised eyebrows with people probably thinking, a service trip to Australia?   Australia is one of the top ten affluent countries in the world, but that does not mean there is no service work to be done. Because Australia is in need of service this means that the ones who need help are more visible. This makes sense since the United States is also one of the top ten affluent countries in the world, but as from my experiences with both Habitat for Humanity and My Brother’s Keeper, I have seen poverty first hand and that poverty does exist in a world of iPhones and plasma screen televisions.

Last Tuesday night, I was able to share more about my Australian service fellowship with the elder Catholic community at a special Veritas dinner.  This dinner was held at Santa Sabina College and I attended this dinner with Renee and Elizabeth.  This dinner is held only four times a year (and I was also told very exclusive) so I am fortunate to have been able to attend while here in Sydney.  Before we went to dinner, we were asked to read a piece by Elizabeth Johnson titled Part one, Jesus and women: ‘You are set free’ that was featured in this past April’s Global Sisters Report.  The piece is about the inequality of sexes in the Catholic Church and the women’s response and perspective of theology.  When we walked into the dinner for hor d’oeuvres, we were greeted with hugs by Sister Rose Mary (she really does give the best hugs!)  At the beginning of the dinner we each took turns randomly picking a card which were all names of important biblical figures.  Based on the card you picked you were then assigned to that specific table for the dinner.  The card I picked was Mary Magdalene which one of the men at my table nick-named the “table of sinners.”  At the table we were given questions based on the assigned reading.  Although my table’s conversation did not have a whole lot to do with the reading, it was interesting to hear the perspective of Australian Catholics who lived during the pre-Vatican II era.  In my history seminar this past fall semester on American Catholicism, I had to write a paper on whether the changes made during Vatican II were evolutionary or revolutionary (I took the stance on evolutionary), so I was able to understand when members of my table talked about changes made to the specifics of the Mass such as from Mass being said in Latin to the vernacular and later in time allowing lay women to participate in different capacities of the Church.  Also, the people at my table were interested to hear about what the Catholic Church is like in America (and when I told them I was from outside Boston they were interested to hear how the sex scandal impacted people’s perceptions of the Church.)

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The Mary Magdalene “table of sinners” at the Veritas dinner!

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Me, Sister Rose Mary, and Renee after the dinner!

Last Thursday was an especially busy day!  As previously mentioned, I started off the day by attending Mass at 8am at the school’s chapel and then I spent a typical day at Santa shadowing classes at the middle school and the secondary school.  Also, I attended a presentation by Jane on homelessness she gave to one of the school’s houses (I don’t know if I mentioned before but upon entry into Santa Sabina all girls are divided into one of six houses that all have an Aboriginal name made up of all different year levels.  Kind of like Hogwarts) since Jane does a lot with social justice for the school which is a topic I am very much interested in and do service work with through PC Campus Ministry.   After school, I went back with Jane to volunteer at the soup kitchen at the Matt Talbot Hostel since I loved it last week.  One of the hostel residents recognized my accent being from America and started asking me if I had been to all of these different places…which I hadn’t been to any of them (I really need to start seeing more of the U.S.!)  The volunteers workers are so friendly and it’s amazing to see how successful Matt Talbot operates 364 days of the year made-up mostly of volunteer workers.  The hostel even has a physician on site.  Matt Talbot is a special place and reaffirmed my love for serving at soup kitchens.

On the ride home, Jane pointed out her alma mater, the University of Sydney, which is Australia’s first university and has a huge campus that stretches down a good portion of the street and has iron gates to enclose the campus  Also, Jane told me (since we could not drive in) that many of the buildings are in the Gothic style that was inspired by the architecture at Oxford.  Fun fact about “uni” or university in OZ is most students do not live at school, but commute which is the complete opposite of many schools in the U.S.  Also, in their last year of secondary school instead of individually applying to each school with their SAT scores, GPA’s, transcripts, etc., they take a big test during year 12 on subjects they have chosen to pursue and they receive a ranking which they then indicate which universities they want to send their scores to in their order of preference.  I can’t decide if I still prefer the U.S.’s way of applying to schools.

Also, on our ride, Jane and I talked about some of the differences in Australia versus the U.S., such as Australia’s universal health care, stricter gun control laws, and tighter immigration laws.  It was interesting to hear an Aussie person’s perspective especially since these issues have been currently stirring up much controversy in the U.S.

Jane then dropped me off at the St. Bakhita Centre where I met up with Elizabeth.  This center is a place of welcome and hospitality for the Sudanese Catholic Community of Sydney (Australia has a large Sudanese refugee population.)  I helped Elizabeth tutor a man named Longar who she has been tutoring to help improve his English for the last few year  Longar is trying to receive a grant to have a community culture day event.  Elizabeth asked him details about his event and I took notes for her.  Then, while Elizabeth was typing up the proposal, I tutored Longar in English and I helped him complete some exercises in his workbooks.  This was my first time teaching English and I found it to be both challenging (such as my trying to explain seasons and months to him involved lots of pointing to pictures in his dictionary.)  I found the experience to be very rewarding and it requires extreme amounts of patience.  My tutor session with Longar has made me more excited for when Renee and I go to Newcastle next week to volunteer with the refugees.

I had another fun weekend in Sydney!  On Saturday, Renee and I went to Glebe Markets which only operates on Saturdays which had many clothing and jewelery stands with good prices. Later that evening after Mass, Elizabeth, Renee, Sarah, and I went into the city to first go out to eat at a Chinese restaurant (we ate outdoors-yes outdoors during the winter-and had an incredible view of the Sydney Harbor Bridge), and then we attended an Aboriginal Modern Ballet show at the Sydney Opera House- so yes I can say that I have been inside the Sydney Opera House now!  The modern ballet piece told the story through flowing movements and powerful music of the Aboriginal people whom originally inhabited Australia and their first contact with the British settlers who came over.  There was even a love story between an Aboriginal woman and an English settler- similar to Pocahontas and John Smith! On Sunday, John, Elizabeth, Renee, Sarah, and I took a ride out to Hunter Valley wineries and vineyards for a day of beautiful scenery and wine tasting (I can now attest that Australia does have really good wine!)

And in other news, Australia may have lost their first game of the “football” (a.k.a. soccer) World Cup, but because of Spain’s upset loss, Australia is ahead of Spain in their group ranking (thanks Netherlands!)  Oh and the U.S.’s first game is tomorrow at 8 am (Australia time) and I unfortunately will not be able to watch it because I will be at school, but go America!  Beat Ghana!Image

A night out after our show at the Sydney Opera House and posing in front of the Sydney Harbor Bridge!

me, Elizabeth, Renee, and Sarah at one of the wineries!

me, Elizabeth, Renee, and Sarah at one of the wineries!

Santa Fest and Some Long-Weekend Fun!

I was told I started volunteering at Santa Sabina during one of the most fun weeks of the year- Santa Fest! During Santa Fest week, the girls help raise money to donate to their sister school in South Africa.  It is awesome to see the whole school community get excited for a wonderful cause! During the lunch period each day which takes place outside (even during the Australian winter it still feels nice to get outside), there was a music table set-up where the girls would play the current top hits which were surprisingly mostly songs I recognized and it was fun to see the girls sing and dance around (the Biebs is popular among the Aussie girls.) During the lunch period, I sat at a table helping sell the special of the day and collecting money that would all be donated to the school (by working at the table I was able to learn more about how to use the Australian currency.  The Australian dollars are more colorful than the American dollars!)  Also, I learned some more Australian lingo.  One of the days the special was a sausage on a roll and my responsibility was to pour ketchup  which is actually called “tomato sauce” and pronounced toe-MA-toe and not toe-MAY-toe so when I asked the girls if they would want any toe-MAY-toe sauce I got a lot of smiles from the giveaway of my American accent. The girls at the table were really nice and helpful and I will be attending the Year 11 retreat with some of them next week!

Some of the girls who I assisted with working at one of the tables during lunch!

Some of the girls who I assisted with working at one of the tables during lunch!

On Thursday was the annual Santa Fest concert which is a big school talent show.  After spending the morning at the Del Monte primary school, I headed over to the secondary school to help out backstage.  I got to see the show from behind the scenes (and even meet some of the student performers!)  The male teachers opened the show with a boy band number which got the audience pumped and every single act- whether singing, dancing, acting- was so good!  Santa Sabina has a group of talented girls!  The concert also featured two celebrity acts: the Aussie rap group called “Horror Show” and one of the finalists of Australia’s last season of “X-Factor.”  Also, one of the student performers, who was also named one of the winners, is a student from year 10 who was on a reality television show in Australia similar to “Star Search.”  After the concert, Renee met up with me at Santa Sabina and we went along with three other Santa Sabina students and two teachers into the city to the Matt Talbot Hostel.  I found out on the train ride again that two of the girls will be traveling to South Africa in September with other Santa Sabina girls to do service work there.  I enjoyed helping out at the Matt Talbot Hostel since I am very much interested in social justice and homeless communities and it reminded me of the work I do with S.T.O.P. Hunger at PC.

Friday was a professional day at Santa Sabina so there were no classes.  Instead I took a trip into the city (I am becoming good at navigating the Sydney train system) and I met up with Anna McHugh, a former professor at Oxford University in England!  We walked around the New South Wales Art Gallery.  Before meeting up with Anna, I accidentally went out the wrong exit of the train station where I was supposed to meet her (whoops) since it was pouring rain and hard to see, but when I was trying to find Anna I found out after that I walked through Hyde Park which is Sydney’s replica of the Hyde Park in London.  Even in the rain it looked very pretty! Sydney has a lot of English influence which is evident from a lot of its architecture and the name of its streets (after members of the royal family.)  After the museum we walked around the city a little bit and Anna pointed out Parliament, Sydney Hospital, and the St. James Anglican Church.

The weekend was a very busy one especially since it was a long weekend because Monday was the Queen’s Birthday which is a national holiday (thanks Queen Elizabeth!)  Also, this weekend involved many trips into the city.  We had gone into the city on Tuesday evening for a “Sydney Idea Bombing” event.  Emily’s husband, John who is a town planner, was one of the people running the event, and it was interesting to hear different speakers give short five minute talks on what ways can improve.  The venue was held on the top floor of the modern art museum so we had a fantastic view of the city from the balcony especially since the Vivid Festival, a festival of lights, was going on (great photo op!)  Also, after all the speakers were finished we could write down our own ideas on how we should improve the city.  At first I thought it would be hard since we have not even been in Australia for 2 weeks, but I was able to write my idea on a paper lock and hang it up with the others.

Not a bad view!

Not a bad view!

The Vivid Lights Festival!

The Vivid Lights Festival!

The weekend involved lots of photo taking between taking pictures with kangaroos (or more like chasing kangaroos to try to get in a picture with them) and scenic photos of the Blue Mountains.  Also, I walked through my first rain forest (in the rain!)

On Friday, one of our host sisters, Louise, turned 20 (Happy birthday Louise!)  In the evening, we went for a family dinner into the city at a French bistro restaurant!

Pre-birthday outing.  Happy birthday Louise! :)

Pre-birthday outing. Happy birthday Louise! :)

On Saturday, Sarah, Renee, and I went into the city and did the Sydney Sky Tower Walk!  Also, that evening we saw The Fault in Our Stars (I recommend to bring a box of Kleenex.)

Sarah, me, and Renee on top of Sydney Tower which is Sydney's highest building!

Sarah, me, and Renee on top of Sydney Tower which is Sydney’s highest building!

Our tour group was fun!

Our tour group was fun!

I say jump and you say how high.

I say jump and you say how high.

On Sunday, Elizabeth, Renee, and I took a trip to the Featherdale Wildlife Park.  I have now fulfilled my dream of feeding a kangaroo and petting a koala!

animals are not always the most cooperative when trying to take pictures with them

animals are not always the most cooperative when trying to take pictures with them

 

kangaroo jack!

kangaroo jack!

Sleepy koala!

Sleepy koala!

And we ended the long weekend on the Queen’s Birthday by taking a trip out to the Blue Mountains and seeing the Three Sisters!

The 3 sisters at the scenic Blue Mountains!

The 3 sisters at the scenic Blue Mountains!

Elizabeth and I with the 3 sisters in the background!

Elizabeth and I with the 3 sisters in the background!

The mountains are beautiful!

The mountains are beautiful!