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Ruby Jubilee is celebrated in New Zealand



Ruth and I celebrated 40 years as Presentation Sisters – our Ruby Jubilee – on 4th June in St Michael’s Church, Taita.  We wanted to celebrate with our Sisters, Families, Parish, Associates, other Religious and especially the St Michael’s Church Community.  The church was packed on the night and the presence of each person made it a wonderful alive celebration. 

Sr Frances Nicolle and Sr Ruth Coleman with members of the
Parish Group

Taita is special to the Presentation Sisters.  It was the first foundation of Presentation Sisters in New Zealand.  Ruth and I entered together in Taita and together were professed there on 5 June 1976.  We have both lived and ministered in numerous communities over the 40 years and while the old convent no longer exists we are again have a house in Taita where we both now live.

 St Michaels is a multicultural parish and has many traditions and music groups and when there is a big celebration they work together each group participating in their special  way.  We were blessed when the Parish Group, Tokelauan, Samoan and youth group said they would all be part of the Liturgy on the night.   It added a special flavour to the celebration from the Tokelauan Paddle Dance at the Offertory Procession, the Samoan and Parish Music Groups leading the singing and the Parish Youth Group singing Nano’s Song after communion .

As part of the homily Ruth and I each shared our reflections on the readings in the light of our 40 years.

Ruth reflects:

“When I reflected on my 40 years as a Presentation sister in the light of the readings we chose for today, each one spoke to me of a different aspect of my life.

The Gospel tells us about some disciples on a journey – actually they were running away - when they were joined by a stranger, who knew all about them and what had happened to frighten them.  He was able to explain things in a new way and left them excited and full of enthusiasm for the future. 

I too have been on a journey.  A journey that reflects not only the disciples from the gospel but also the words from the first reading, “I know what plans I have for you. Plans for peace not disaster.”

In the second reading, Paul prays... may he give you the power for your hidden self to grow strong… And further on, Glory be to him whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.

These words speak to me of my life’s journey from the beginning, my life in the Coleman/Plimmer family and how that family was built on an inclusive faith and love, no matter who you were, what you did, or what path you chose – a welcome was there, and still is always there just because you belonged to the family - even if that belonging was tenuous to say the least, you were and are included in all the celebrations of life and death and the in between times. Of course later on that family grew to include the in-laws, but for me it was the Presentation community that I was drawn to and over the 40 years that choice I made has grown through the up and down of life.

The local parish group performs a Tokelauan Paddle dance to
honour Frances and Ruth’s contribution to the local community 

Our foundress Nano Nagle once said, my schools will never get me to heaven as they give me so much pleasure; I too would have to say that about the various schools and places I have served and lived in.  I have been supported on this journey, especially by my mum, sister and of course Aunt Nell, and the extended family; the Union of Presentation Sisters, which also celebrates 40 years this month; especially the members of the New Zealand Unit that I have been privileged to live with and know as my family.  The list goes on as I have experienced both here and overseas through the opportunities I have been afforded through sabbatical, meetings and by being the Justice contact for the Unit for the last 14 or so years.

Jesus left the disciples excited and full of enthusiasm for the future.  I feel that today and continue to believe if I can follow that which I love and be open to others on the journey then I will truly follow the call of Jesus and Nano “to love one another” and be all that I was meant to be whatever the future may bring.”

Frances reflects:

What I would like to share tonight is my thankfulness for 40 years as a Presentation Sister.

Thankfulness to God for calling me.  Thankfulness to the Taita Presentation Sisters who recognised my call and welcomed me with love into their community.  And a special thankfulness to my wonderful family, our sisters and all the many people in the ten Parishes I have been called to live and minister over 40 years.  I’ve been so blessed with their love, support and friendship.  I was blessed to be called to work in so many different places and each one had its special challenges and its great rewards.  I feel that I received and continue to receive so much from the people I minister among.

“The first reading tells us that God knows what plans he has for us “Plans for a future full of hope.”  When I entered Taita Presentation Convent 43 years ago it was with hope and joy and a desire to be like Nano Nagle.

Sr Bridie, or John Bosco as some of us remember her from our school days at St Michaels, was the person I went to talk with about becoming a nun.  I didn’t know what order God was calling me to.  Sr Bridie gave me a little book on the Life of Nano Nagle.  I couldn’t put it down.  That little book sparked a fire within me that has kept growing and deepening over the years.  It also decided me – I wanted to be like Nano and join the sisters she had founded.

 My Profession Day 40 years ago was very special to me.  Here I was at last after three years training really going to be a Presentation Sister.  I was full of enthusiasm, hope, joy and idealism. 

Of course over the years there were ups and downs. My relationship with God and especially Jesus deepened through prayer, and the wisdom of the sisters who were my friends and mentors.

The story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus speaks to me of my life journey.  The disciples were unsure of themselves and Jesus walked with them sharing his wisdom and opening their eyes.

Jesus has walked with me through my years and often it was in hindsight that I came to see he spoke to me through my family, sisters, friends and the people who I ministered among.

 “Glory be to God whose power working in me can do infinitely more that I can ever ask or imagine. Glory be to God in Christ Jesus and his Church”.

Over my 40 years God has been working in my life.  God’s power working in me has done infinitely more than I could have ever asked or imagined.   Christ has walked with me and today, as on the day 40 years ago when I committed my life to follow Christ in the Spirit of Nano Nagle.  I look forward with a grateful heart, full of enthusiasm for the future plans God has in mind for me and us as Presentation Sisters”.

Ruth and Frances cut their jubilee cakes at St Bernadette’s Hall
in Naenae, New Zealand

After the Liturgy we all went to St Bernadette’s Hall in Naenae to continue our celebration.  To share food and stories and catch up with all our friends and family and just enjoy the evening together.  It was a special occasion for both of us.

We look back with grateful hearts.  It was an amazing experience from the Opening Hymn of the Mass to the final clean up in the Hall at St Bernadette’s, Naenae.

We were so blessed with the love, support, time and help of Father Pat and the many different groups of St Michael’s Church Community who helped bring our celebration to life.  And all the family, sisters, associates who willingly took part in the various ministries.

My sister in her speech said:

“In the recent News from the Nano Nagle Commission we read – ‘Mary and Nano allowed the dream of God, the Spirit and the Gospel Jesus, to transform their very beings.  Because they had the dream of God for our world, they, in turn, became carriers of the dream in their day and time.’ We believe this epitomises Frances and Ruth’s lives as Presentation Sisters.”

What a compliment to both of us.

Frances Nicolle & Ruth Coleman