‘All … is harvest’: 150 Years of Dominican Sisters Cabra in South Africa

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Fifteen decades – a familiar phrase reminding us of a much loved prayer and reminiscent of the long beads we wore on our cinctures. What we are celebrating this week is fifteen decades of Dominican life and ministry here in Southern Africa – fifteen decades that carried all the elements of joy, sorrow, glory and light that we celebrate in the Rosary – for all this we give thanks.

It was June of last year – 2012 – when the Region Council decided it was time to begin plans for a fitting commemoration of these 150 years. One thing that was suggested was a photographic display of all the convents founded over these years. Bernie (Flinter) and Caroline (Geoghegan) invited me to help them sort archival photographs – and that is where the idea for this book was conceived. As we looked at the photographs and they began to remember incidents associated with the convents, we became excited by the notion of asking the Sisters to reminisce about their time in these convents.

The buildings of themselves were inanimate – their importance lay in the lives that were lived in them, the prayers prayed in them, the communities which supported one another in them, the ministries and service given in them, the living out of the dreams which brought these courageous Sisters to the Dominican way of life, either from across the sea or in their own native land. And so, we sent out an invitation to the Sisters in the Region to write those very memories – and were amazed at the enthusiastic response. Where we could not find a Sister to reminisce about a particular convent, we took extracts from the Annals of the Region. In this way, we used the framework of history without the discipline of history to pay tribute to the part played by generations of Dominican Sisters in the development of this wondrous and troubled land over the last 150 years.

We chose the title ‘All … is harvest’, translating it into the four main languages used by the Sisters – English, Afrikaans, isi-Xhosa and se-Sotho, recognising, that though we may be in harvest time now, from the harvest comes the seed for new sowing and who knows what that new crop may be? May we have the courage to scatter this seed into an unknown future, secure in the knowledge that as we have been held in the palm of God’s hand over the last 15 decades, so we shall be into the future.

As you glimpse the courageous, warm, fulfilled, enriched and humorous lives of the women who answered the myriad calls to ministry in Southern Africa with an inspiring generosity, Bernie, Caroline and I hope that you will enjoy reading ‘All…is harvest’.

(3 Setpember 2013)