Immersion Visit to Fiji

On Sunday 24th September, Australian Marist Sisters Kate McPhee and Gail Reneker , joined the Parish Eucharistic celebration at St Margaret Mary’s Parish Merrylands where Mr Nathan Mulheron and Miss Stephanie Ackaoui with 8 Year 11 Students from Cerdon College received a special blessing.  On the 9th October, these two teachers and 8 students will travel to Fiji for an immersion experience with the Marist Sisters in Nadelei and Mt St Mary’s Nadi.  We wish all involved rich and joy filled experiences and many blessings.

Sr Mary Christopher Sweeney

Sr Mary Christopher Sweeney sm was called to eternal life on Thursday 10th May 2018.

Eternal rest grant to her, O Lord.
May perpetual light shine upon her.
May she rest in peace.
Amen.

We extend our prayerful sympathy to the Marist Sisters in Fiji and to Sr Mary Christopher’s family.

St Peter Chanel, Martyr of Oceania

It has long been a tradition within the Marist Family that we pray to St Peter Chanel for vocations. On this the feast of St Peter Chanel, 28th April, we invite you to join with us in prayer. May we all have a deeper commitment to our vocation as Christians and also pray for vocation to the priesthood and religious life.

May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church,
watch over each tiny seed of a vocation
in the hearts of those whom the Lord calls
to follow him more closely.

May she help it grow into a mature tree,
bearing much good fruit
for the Church and for all humanity.

St Peter Chanel, you left your homeland
to proclaim Jesus.
Like you, may our lives bring forth
a witness of joyful commitment to Jesus.

Call forth from our midst
many workers for the Gospel,
so God’s love may reach the ends of the earth.
We ask this prayer through Jesus our brother. Amen.

Workers on the Move: the Quest for Social Justice

The United Nations General Assembly recognizes that social development and social justice are indispensable for the achievement and maintenance of peace and security within and among nations and that it cannot be attained in the absence of respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms. On 26 November 2007, the General Assembly declared 20 February will be celebrated annually as the World Day of Social Justice. The theme for 2018 World Social Justice Day is Workers on the Move: the Quest for Social Justice. In his message for World Social Justice Day, International Labour Organisation(ILO) Director-General, Mr. Guy Ryders said “Migrant workers, like all workers, are entitled to fair treatment and fair treatment for migrant workers is also key to preserving the social fabric of our societies and to sustainable development.”

Throughout the world Marist Sisters are committed to  “accompanying by prayer – and where possible, our actions – all peoples in situation where life is at risk'” (General Chapter 2015). In the Asia Pacific Region sisters are actively working to be a voice for refugees and asylum seekers and for women, men and children who have been trafficked or exploited in situations of forced labour.

A Star Guides – A Vision Unfolds

On the feast of the Epiphany, Marist Sisters under 60 years of age gathered in Senegal, West Africa. Travelling from travelling from Australia, Brazil, England, Fiji, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines and including Sisters already in West Africa this was a meeting of minds and hearts, an opportunity to share experiences and dream together. Over a period of about four weeks participants reflected together on  themes such as Contemplative Dialogue, Balance and Self Compassion, Leadership and Resilience, Vision and Prophetic Witness. While experiencing the rich culture of West Africa there was also time for the participants to share their own cultural heritage. All participants agreed the experiences they shared helped them to grow together as a group and to deepen even further their sense of Mission and of the Spirit of Mary.

Sr Mareta Nai sm

Sr Mareta Nai sm was called to eternal life on Tuesday 10th October 2017.

Eternal Rest grant to her, OLord.
May perpetual Light Shine upon her.
May she rest in Peace.
Amen.

We extend our prayerful sympathy to the Marist Sisters in Fiji and to Sr Mareta’s family. At her funeral Sr Torika Wong delivered the following eulogy:

Mareta Nai was born on June 3, 1963 much to the joy of her parents, Adrea and Dorotea Raikivi, who lived on one of the very small islands of Fiji. They warmly welcomed their third daughter and later produced three more boys and two more girls. Adrea and Dorotea brought up their eight children in the faith and were grateful to God who called Mareta to the religious life and Fr. Roga, their son, to the diocesan priesthood.  Mareta completed her Primary and Junior Secondary education at the local primary and secondary schools in Solevu, but did her higher secondary studies at St. John’s College, Cawaci on the island of Ovalau.

As a young woman, she had her dreams.  Amongst them was the strong desire to offer herself to God in the religious life because she wanted ‘to serve God’s people and share love’.  One of her aunts was a member of the SOLN Congregation but Mareta chose to seek God in the Congregation of Mary. She became a pre-candidate with us in 1986. I was privileged to have been the one appointed to initiate Mareta into religious life. She was received into our Novitiate at Wailekutu in 1988 when she was 25 years old. Having discerned her vocation, she confidently took a leap in faith to give herself to God as a Marist Sister.

From this initial stage, I noticed her spirit of faith and concluded that she must have come from a family of great faith. With this gift of faith, Mareta was open and willing to learn to know more about her God and about herself.  This helped her greatly to grow in her knowledge and love of her God, and in acceptance and love of herself.  She was willing to face her woundedness and sought for healing. In facing the challenge of living with others who were very different from her, Mareta was willing to discover more about herself, and grew in supportive relationship with others in community.  She gained much from her formation and was happy to offer herself to God as she made her first profession on January 15, 1990.  As her relationship with God deepened and her love for the Marist charism grew, Mareta was ready to respond to Christ’s love and vowed herself to him to be his for the rest of her life, living his Gospel as Mary did as a Marist Sister.  She made her Perpetual Profession on January 1, 1998.

After one year of living in community during which she served student boarders at St. John’s College while studying, Mareta went to Corpus Christi Teachers’ Training College for three years. She graduated as a Teacher in December 1994, thus more equipped ‘to serve God’s people and to share love’ as her heart desired. She joined the other Sisters in the education ministry and her first teaching experience began at St. Patrick Catholic School, Nasomolevu on the island of Vuaki, Yasawa. From there she went on to serve in the schools at Nadi, Levuka, Lami and Nadelei. She was Head-Teacher in Marist Convent Levuka and at Marist Convent Lami as well as Community Leader. She was elected as Assistant Sector Leader in 2009. Other responsibilities she held were Initial Formation Accompanier, JPIC Coordinator and local community bursar. Apart from these official assignments, she was a dynamic presence of Mary in community wherever she was. I will quote here what some of the Sisters who lived with her in community shared as they contributed to Mareta’s Eulogy:

From a novitiate companion:

“I thank God for your companionship in the last 31 years, during which we journeyed together as sisters and as friends. Thank you for your loving support, the laughter, the joys and the tears we shared together.” (Lora)

From the last Sister who lived with her in community:

“Living with Mareta in Nadelei at the beginning this year till June, was a privileged and a happy time together – privileged that God had planned that we form a community in Nadelei. It did not take us long to appreciate each other’s company and giftedness despite our cultural differences. Our daily prayers (morning and evening) were consistent even though Mareta’s health was deteriorating. She never complained about her discomfort or pain. She never missed taking her duty as a teacher and she was faithful.  Some of the village friends came to the convent to seek guidance from Sister; they would leave with peace and comfort.  Mareta was hospitable, friendly and had a sense of humour. She was a dear friend and a good companion.” (Monica S.)

From Mareta’s carer, Ulamila, of Nadelei who took care of her in Lami

“Mareta loved reading story books. She never wanted to trouble anyone. Always suffered silently. She loved teaching and really cared for her students. She took a lot of interest in her students and invested a lot of time on them. She did not react when she was angry, but tried to calm down. She loved and cared for her Marist Community. She loved peanuts.”

From various members of the Unit of Fiji

 “Mareta was always bright, positive and gentle with everyone. We hardly heard her complain. When things were hard, she’d laugh her way through. Children, parents and associates loved Mareta dearly. She seemed to live her life to the full. We are fortunate to have had Mareta among us.”(Margaret S.)

“Mareta speaks her mind, very gentle, prayerful. She loves to tell stories. She is a person of connectedness – to family and people around. She asked one sister why people are rushing about.  She would love to see them sit down still for a while and spend time with each other. She loved Rugby and knew all the rules.” (Vika)

 “When it comes to the Lord’s mission, Mareta is passionate about our participation and our commitment to it.  She was not so talkative but she listens, and when she speaks, there is depth and wisdom in what she says.”(Rosemary)

“One of the things that touched me about Mareta is her sense of gratitude. She was ever grateful. She was grateful for her parents for forming her in the faith, for her Marist vocation, for her sisters. At our recent Assembly in August, Mareta took the opportunity to express her deep gratitude to the Sisters for all the love and care given her since she got sick.”(Kalala)

“Mareta and I were as close as sisters can get. We lived together in community in Levuka, shared some good times together. She was always making sure that she was on time for community prayers. We often stayed up late at night talking about many things like school stuff, congregational issues and, of course, sports – especially rugby. Mareta accomplished a lot of wonderful things in her life. She became a great support to youth groups whichever community she belonged to, a head teacher in some of our Marist schools and joined the Sector Leadership team for three years in 2009.  Mareta was a woman who liked to tell stories and make connections with people, she loved children and loved teaching. As a head teacher, her school report to the board was written up in advance and sent. She loved her friends and family and, no matter how hard she worked, she was always trying to attend to people who needed her.”  (Mariana T.)

In the end, in spite of Mareta’s months of illness, her death came quite unexpectedly on 10th October 2017. On the weekend of October 7 and 8, most of the Sisters went to Vatukoula for the celebration of the 80th Anniversary of the Marist Convent School. Filo and Vika stayed home at Lami with Mareta. They asked her what she wanted to eat and, whatever she craved, they prepared for her – she had enjoyed this, especially the seafood. She sat in their company in the kitchen and even offered to help. Filo and Vika noticed a new lease of life and they all enjoyed their weekend together. Mareta used to be greatly comforted by Filo massaging her legs when they were painful. When the others came back, they also noticed this improvement.   On the evening of October 9, Ulamila, Mareta’s carer took her food to her room, which she ate. Mareta asked Ulamila for a cup of hot water and a peeled apple to leave on her table for later on. The two of them chatted while Ulamila massaged her hands for quite a while; and she suggested that they had better prepare for bed. Ulamila came back after 10 pm to see if Mareta needed anything.  They again had another chat. Then she told Ulamila to go to bed and only to come to her after Mass the next morning… that she would be all right. Ulamila faithfully followed that instruction. After Mass, she and Vika went up quickly to see her.  Only to find that the Lord had come and taken Mareta home with him.  Her body was still warm. Of course, the Sisters were shocked and grieved as nobody suspected that Mareta was going to die just then. Mareta’s brother, Roga (Diocesan priest) had been planning to come and celebrate Mass in Mareta’s room that day. He was so very sad, of course. However, it seems Mareta was happy to go and celebrate Fiji Day in heaven.

Mareta was loyal, committed, prayerful and kind-hearted.
During her time on this earth, she positively touched so many people.
Her memory will live on forever in all of our hearts.
Mareta we will all miss you. God bless.

Asia-Pacific Sisters in Ireland

18 Marist Sisters from all over the world gathered in Dublin recently for their Plenary General Council(PGC) meeting from 15-30 September.  The theme of the meeting was Women of the Word, Whole-makers, embracing Life! Present at the meeting were four Sisters from Asia-Pacific – Srs Cath Lacey (Australia), Lavinia Henry (Fiji), Gemma Wilson (New Zealand) and Sheila Manalo (Philippines). The PGC was a wonderful opportunity for the sisters to reflect and discern together and so experience solidarity as a whole congregation.

Sr Rita Raikuna sm

Sr Rita Raikuna sm was called to eternal life on Saturday 8th April 2017.

Eternal Rest grant to her, OLord.
May perpetual Light Shine upon her.
May she rest in Peace.
Amen.

We extend our prayerful sympathy to the Marist Sisters in Fiji and to Sr Rita’s family. The following eulogy was delivered at her funeral.

Sr Rita or simply Rita as she was known to us, her Sisters, was a joyful person, full of life and always quick to pass a comment and bring laughter to any group she was part of.   She brought warmth and joy to any group.  She was a live-wire.

Rita was born on the 16th September 1948 and was the third child of Mr Nemani Raikuna (a Police Officer) and Mrs Luisa Raikuna (a Teacher).   She attended a few primary schools, as a result of her parents’ postings.  These schools included Marist Convent School Levuka, St Anne’s Primary School Suva and Wairiki Catholic Mission School.   Rita received her secondary education at Loreto High School in Levuka.  This was her first introduction to the Marist Sisters.   After completing High school, she was successfully accepted into Corpus Christi Teachers College, from where she graduated in 1969.

Her first teaching post was Bemana Primary School in Sigatoka in 1970.   There, she thoroughly enjoyed her single life as a teacher.   Her weekends included expeditions across the river for shopping and dances in the mission hall in the parish compound. She always had us in stitches of laughter as she retold those real life stories of her four years in Bemana.

1975 saw her teaching in Mount St Mary’s in Nadi and it was then she decided to become a Marist Sister.   The following year she became a postulant and was transferred to teach at Marist Convent School, Lami  so as to be under the guidance of Sr. Eamon.

She was received as a novice on the 14th December 1976 in Merrylands, Australia where our novitiate was at that time and made her first profession there on the 18th December 1977.   After profession she came back home to Fiji and taught in our schools namely – St Thomas Primary, Marist Convent Lami, Marist Convent Levuka, Convent School Vatukoula, and Nasomolevu Catholic School in Yasawa.

In 1989 she was asked to be missioned to The Gambia in West Africa.  She once said that it was with mixed feelings of appreciation, apprehension and a little excitement that she responded to the call.   Appreciation – as she felt privileged to be chosen; apprehension – the fear of going into the unknown; and excitement – to find out what was out there.   She fitted in easily and was well accepted by the people of Farafenni in The Gambia.   She loved her work and was happy. She loved the people and was at home with them.

Then in 1995 she was asked to return home, to be the Novice Directress.   Her response was and I quote, “I was struck dumb and numb the whole evening.”  If you know Rita, you cannot imagine her being struck dumb or numb.  But in her simplicity and humility she responded to the call, her words being and again I quote, “Through my vow of obedience, I acknowledge my shortcomings and weaknesses and will do what the Lord wills in my life.”

She packed up, said her good byes and returned home.

Back here in Fiji she was involved in Formation until she was elected a Regional Councillor and went to live in New Zealand.   During that period she attended our General Chapter in Rome and was elected to be a General Councillor, which meant living and working in Rome for a term of seven years. During her time there, she brought much joy and laughter to the community as well as those who visited the community.

It was towards the end of her seven years term she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.  This was coupled with rheumatism. Both conditions progressed quickly and caused her a lot of pain which began to cripple her.

Her inability to do certain activities was a big cross; at times almost too heavy to carry.   In spite of her suffering and pain, the spark of her lively spirit never faded and they carried her to the end.

She was a woman, a Sister, gifted with many gifts, bright, outgoing (a real extravert) popular with youth.  She was conscientious and efficient.  In leadership role, she cared for the development of her staff and Sisters, and the spiritual growth of the children in the schools.  She had a genuine concern for others and this was manifested in her involvement in pastoral ministry and parish activities.   Most importantly she was faithful to her hour of prayer in the mornings before 6.30am Mass.   Rita radiated joy, was generous and sensitive in contributing to the communal work load.

Thank you, Rita, for your example of simplicity, joy and faithfulness to our Marist way of living.   I can hear you echoing the advice of Sr. Mary Christopher, “When responsibility clashes with pleasure, pleasure must go and responsibility take precedence.”  Thank you Rita!

Congratulations Sr Biri

biri-graduates-from-corpus-christiSr Birisita Bibi recently graduated from Corpus Christi Training College in Suva Fiji. Our Sisters’ contribution to Catholic Education in Fiji is well known – from those missionaries in the early days who staffed the Teachers’ College and ran the schools from which so many of our vocations came to the local Sisters who continue to serve schools in Lami, Levuka, Nadelei and Suva, as well as reaching out to the Indian community and training catechists. You are following in a great tradition, Biri! We are proud of you! May you, and the students you teach in the coming years, be richly blessed.