Marist Fathers’ Novitiate,
Private Bag,
Palmerston Nth.
Sat. 15th March ’69.

Dear Mum & Dad,

I was pleased the hear about Francie’s party I walked down “Highden’s” drive on the Friday night (the drive’s over a mile long) but could not hear any singing! Perhaps I was too early.

Also, congratulate Leo on being Class Captain. You have to be pretty good to be a Class Captain in the 4th form because that’s when College students start to think that they own the place (being far superior to 3rd formers and all that!)

The 10 days retreat went off very well – I didn’t think I could last that long without speaking. Everyday I had to bike down to the gate to collect the mail, & always felt the mail in the bag, wondering if there was a letter from home about Francie’s 21st.

About the retreat – nothing much happened. The first few days were spent asking ourselves why we existed, the next few days were spent terrifying ourselves thinking about Hell and mortal sins, the next few days were spent in thinking about God’s mercy, & the last few days were spent about thinking about His love. After all of which we were supposed to be “converted” to a better way of life! I celebrated my conversion with Robert Devlin by eating peaches between meals behind the car shed! Nevertheless – deep-down, everyone is converted.

One “interesting” thing we had to do was to prepare and make a General Confession of our whole lives, so now we never have to look back & worry past March 1969. I went in with a great long list (which I latter ceremoniously burnt!) to Fr. O’Connor. We’re all quite convinced he’s a saint! – he just laughed all through our Confessions – “Is that all? Bit of the devil in that perhaps… etc.” You always come out of confession feeling quite holy after you have been to him.

Retreat ended at Breakfast last Friday with a “Deo Gratias” which meant we could talk henceforth. Blowed if anyone could think of anything to say, so we just laughed, and said “Lovely weather for it isn’t it?” – which is the usual saying when conversation runs low.

Last Monday I broke a CRUET (for the wine) in the Sacristy, & went up to Fr. Bennett and “humbly accused myself of dropping the CURATE in the Sacristy”. I then realized what I’d said & couldn’t stop laughing – which didn’t help to make the apology very genuine!

We had a Conge today. The Tongans dug a “hangi” and we cooked & tried to eat two possums! They were very strong, and we ended up throwing them away.

Apparently Mr. & Mrs. Maher couldn’t wait to see Kerry and “Highden”, and they called in and enquired for the whereabouts of a Mr. & Mrs. Highbury. Kerry didn’t see them however, nor did Mr. & Mrs Maher find “Highbury’s”! Mrs. Devlin took the long road to Palmerston recently, just in case she happened to “see Robert standing at the gate!” She too missed seeing him.

I will give you directions how to get here in my next letter, but it is about a mile south of Awahuri (which is 10 miles out of Palmerston on the way to Bulls).

Well, I think that that is all the news.

Love from

P.S The big thing at Novitiate everyone has found is to keep smiling even if there’s nothing to smile at – so if my letters get a bit “weak” & “wandery” it’s just because we’re all trying to keep smiling!

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