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 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.
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!
Sr 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.
“In your difficulties,
in your troubles,
in your zealous plans,
in the problems of your ministry,
do you have recourse to God,
do your thoughts turn immediately
to prayer, to God?”
(A Founder Speaks, 132.6)
On this anniversary of the death of Jean Claude Colin, Founder of the Marist Fathers and Marist Sisters, we give thanks for the witness of this humble and courageous man. We pray that, like him, all Marists will have a deep dependence on God and a deep resolve to be Mary’s compassionate presence in our world.
A number of Marist Sisters in the Asia-Pacific region minister to prisoners. We pray for all prisoners and for those who minister to them especially on the 6th November – the Year of Mercy Jubilee for Prisoners.
“Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.”
Each year the International Day of Peace is observed around the world on 21 September. The General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.
The Day’s theme for 2016 is “The Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace.” Sustainability addresses the fundamental needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Modern challenges of poverty, hunger, diminishing natural resources, water scarcity, social inequality, environmental degradation, diseases, corruption, racism and xenophobia, among others, pose challenges for peace and create fertile grounds for conflict. Click here for a prayer service.
Loving God, guide us to be your artisans of peace,
To use the talents and skills you have so generously given us
To creatively educate and advocate for others who are denied a voice.
Help us to be present to members of the global human family
And to recognize the systems and structures
That deny the dignity of the human person.
Help us to be engaged and fully focused
So we may envision and develop effective strategies
To further justice and to be your artisans of peace in our world. Amen.
Fourvière celebrations in Suva, Fiji, began the evening before as members of the five branches of the Maist Family went to the Parish hall in Laucala Bay to put up pictures and decorate their booths in readiness for a vocation display the next day.
The morning of 23rd July, the day of the 200th anniversary of the promise at Fourviere, was bright and beautiful. The program began at 9.30am with prayer prepared by the FMS Brothers. It really set the tone for the day. The prayer concluded with a video clip presenting each of the branches. Then there was a time for mingling with other members of the Marist Family.
At 3pm in Laucala Bay Church Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Peter Loy Chong. He was very interested in our Marist History and wanted to know what happened after the promise and when and how the female branches came into the picture. His questions were answered by many who were sharing with him at the dinner table. Our celebrations ended with a lot of joyful dancing of thanksgiving and gratitude to God for those who made the promise, for the perseverance of Fr. Colin, Fr. Marcellin, Mother St Joseph and Sr. Francoise Perroton.
In 2014 the United Nations General Assembly designated 30th July to be the World Day against Trafficking in Persons aware of the need for “raising awareness of the situation of victims of human trafficking and for the promotion and protection of their rights.”
Human trafficking is a global problem. No country is immune from this crime. People can be enslaved and exploited in situations of sexual slavery, forced labour in agriculture, hospitality, construction, mining and fishing industries; people can be enslaved and exploited in domestic servitude, by having their organs harvested, and in times of conflict and following natural disasters.
A number of Marist Sisters in the Asia-Pacific region are involved in counter human trafficking work. We invite you to take action against this heinous crime by joining with us in prayer on this World Day Against Human Trafficking. Click here for a prayer service.
In 1816, in the chapel of Our Lady of Fourvière, twelve seminarians dared to dream that they could make a difference in the world by beginning a congregation in Mary’s name. Today, two hundred years later, Marist Fathers, Marist Sisters, Marist Brothers, Marist Missionary Sisters and Marist Laity are spread throughout the world. We ask you to join with us in celebrating the Pledge of Fourvière on 23rd July. We pray that like the men of Fourvière we will be fired with zeal as we strive to “work together for the greater glory of God and the honour of Mary.”
Mary, of Fourvière, show us what love is
and from where it draws its origin
and its constantly renewed power.
Holy Mary, good Mother of Fourvière,
you have given the world its true light,
Jesus, your Son ‐ the Son of God.
You abandoned yourself completely to God’s call
and this became a wellspring of the goodness
which flows forth from him.
You inspired the first Marists to create a Society
dedicated to showing the Marian face of the Church.
Show us Jesus. Lead us to him.
Teach us to know and love him,
so that we too can become capable of true love
and be fountains of living water
in the midst of a thirsting world. Amen.