It has been a great joy to welcome to Sydney sisters from throughout our congregation who are in temporary profession. Meet the sisters in the latest Asia-Pacific Regional Newsletter. You can also read of the 175th anniversary celebrations of the arrival of Bishop Pompallier and the first Marist in New Zealand, Diamond Jubilee celebrations in Lami, Fiji and the typhoon in the Philippines.
Young Marist Sisters from Benin, Senegal, Gambia, Brazil, Mexico, Fiji, Philippines and Papua New Guinea have gathered in Sydney for a period of spiritual renewal.
During the week prior to their renewal the sisters have had an opportunity to see some Sydney landmarks, tour places of Marist significance in Sydney and visit two Marist Secondary schools where they interacted with students including those from their own cultures. Despite differences of culture and language the sisters are experiencing the unity of their common desire to live the Marist spirit in our world today.
The latest issue of the Marist Sisters in Asia-Pacific Newsletter can now be downloaded. This issues highlights the ministry of Marist Sisters in Fijian schools, outreach to the homeless, the sick and outback areas of Australia, social work ministry in New Zealand and ministry to prisoners and street kids in the Philippines. Sisters celebrating jubilees in 2013 are also listed in the newsletter. Download your copy here.
Months of preparation culminated on 8th June in a magnificent ceremony for the Episcopal Ordination of Archbishop Peter Loy Chong. Marist Sisters in Fiji were delighted to be part of this historical event for the Fijian church. People poured into Suva’s Vodafone Arena from all over Fiji, its outer islands, towns and cities. The Mass was concelebrated by bishops from other Pacific Islands and 140 priests . The choir consisted of 300 men, women and children with 3 people who conducting the singing. Also present were the representatives of other Churches in Fiji, dignitaries, Government officials and people from overseas. There was a Fijian ceremony straight after the Mass to welcome the new Archbishop and assure him of the support of his flock.
On Sunday 9th June there was a Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral Suva. During this Mass the new Archbishop was escorted by the former Archbishop, Petero Mataca, to the special chair. This was an emotional moment for all. Marist Sister Mariana Teveruga represented the Religious Congregations in Fiji as she pledged obedience and loyalty to the new Archbishop. Representative from the priests of Fiji and from the laity made similar pledges.
The Bishop’s Coat of Arms is “To Be Church in the World”. His vision embraces both church and theological prospects in the diagram. Archbishop Chong said that he was strongly convinced that theology had to be contextual so that it would be relevant to peoples’ questions and problems today.
May Archbishop Peter Loy Chong be blessed with all the graces he needs to implement his dream for the Church in Fiji.
Marist Sisters Birisita and Valeria took part in World Human Rights Day activities in Fiji. They joined in a clean-up campaign of Lami town then went on to join in a march that took place through Suva City. It started from the flea market and made its way to the Peace Garden at the Suva Civic Centre. This March was led by “Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre” on behalf of the NGO Coalition on Human Rights after a lapse of three years.
Today, 15th November 2012, marks the beginning of the Colin Year. Fr John Hannan, Superior General of the Society of Mary, has launched a special year to honour the Founder. Among other things he wrote: As he (Colin) understood his time and responded to it, so we too, drawing from his wisdom and example, can respond to the needs of our times and engage wholeheartedly with the mission of our Society.
Marist Sisters will take this opportunity to deepen our understanding of the man we too call Father Founder, so that we may engage more wholeheartedly with the mission which is ours today.
On the Feast of the Annunciation the First Profession of Srs Biri and Val was celebrated with great joy in Mintal, the Philippines. Fr. Pat Muckian SM was the celebrant. Congregational Leader of the Marist Sisters, Sr Jane Frances O’Carroll, and Regional Leader of the Marist Sisters in Asia-Pacific, Sr Julie Brand, were present as were all Marist Sisters of the Philippine Sector.
They were joined by members of the Marist Fathers, Marist Brothers, Marist Laity, friends and neighbours. Sr Jane Francis, Congregational Leader, received Biri’s and Val’s Vows.
Biri and Val were peaceful and happy as they celebrated this special event. After Mass, and the taking of photos, a delicious meal was shared. Biri and Val received many loving messages from Sisters in the Region and beyond.
Following consultation of the sisters of the Region Sr Jane Frances, Congregational Leader, appointed the new Regional Leadership Team for Marist Sisters in Asia-Pacific. The new team with Sr Julie Brand as Leader and Srs Margaret Vaney and Vivienne Goldstein as Regional Councillors began their mandate in August 2011.
On 2nd February as we celebrated the World Day for Consecrated Life, new leadership teams began their three year mandate within each Sector of the Region.
Sector Leader: Sr Gemma Wilson Assistants: Srs Analulu Tanuvasa & Catherine Lawson
Ana Manueli was born on the island of Rotuma on 20th January 1940. Although politically linked with Fiji since 1881, Rotuma has its own distinct character – as did our Sister Blaise. She did her primary education at Sumi, a village on her home island and then when she was 15 years old travelled the considerable distance to Levuka, Fiji to do two years at the Commercial School which was run by the Marist Sisters. A couple of years later at the age of 19 Ana left “home and country” to take up Marist religious life. This meant travelling a much greater distance to Merrylands in Sydney for her initial formation under the direction of Mother Romanus for the first year. Ana was professed in June 1961 as Sister Blaise and remained in Sydney for another seven years. During this time she lived in Woolwich and then again in Merrylands, completing her secondary studies and assisting with domestic duties, including cooking.
The Sisters in Australia have very fond memories of those days, remembering Blaise as bright and quick-witted with a larger than life personality. It was around this time she became renowned for her ability to cook for over a hundred boarders, keep the kitchen spick and span and still have time for scrabble playing her right hand against her left!! A little later when cooking at Merrylands she became known for her Saturday night hot curries which reduced Sr David’s novices to coughing fits and – much to their delight – brought an end to the silence of the evening meal.
In 1969 Blaise returned to Fiji where she did her teacher training at Corpus Christi. In 1971 she took up the role of head teacher at the Yasawas. From then on her characteristic strength, compassion and humour took her from one leadership role to another. These included head teacher at St Agnes Samabula and in Levuka; supervisor of the Commercial School in Lautoka and boarder mistress at Cawaci; care giver in Nadi; bursar in Vatukoula and Levuka, local leader in Levuka, Lautoka, Vatukoula and Lami. With great generosity Blaise also gave community service for over two years at Marian House in Sydney as well for three years in our general house in Rome.
For the past few years Blaise was back at Levuka where she first met the Marist Sisters. Again she held positions of responsibility – local leader for five years and recently local bursar. Some time ago her sight began to deteriorate so earlier this year Blaise moved to the Nadi community. It was there on 27th June this year that Blaise celebrated 50 years of Marist religious life with Sisters, family and friends who joined her for this very happy occasion.
There was joy and excitement in the air the morning of Monday, October 10th – Fiji Independence Day. During the first part of the morning, Blaise and Sr Maria Goretti were busy printing the Archdiocesan Vision Statement in our four major languages: English, Rotuman, Fijian and Hindi. The rest of the morning Blaise spent filling in her cross-word puzzle and Sudoku – her normal activity of a morning before lunch was ready.
The community then gathered in the dining room where Blaise led the prayer by singing the Vision Statement song. It was in the second verse of the song that Blaise moved back against the table, seeking support. Sr Miriama, who was standing close to her, noticed this and put her arm around Blaise. “I’m weak”, Blaise whispered to Miriama but she continued to sing in spite of it. Miriama alerted the rest of us that all was not right with Blaise. While the rest of the Sisters gathered around Blaise and helped her to a wheel-chair, Sr Marlene called for an ambulance, the parish priest (Fr Ipolito sm), and Dr Raymond Fong. Fr Ipolito was the first to arrive to administer the Sacrament of the Sick. When Dr Fong arrived he confirmed that Blaise had suffered a brain haemorrhage. When the ambulance came to take Blaise to the hospital she had already lapsed into the coma from which she never woke up.
From the hospital, Marlene called Sr Mariana (Sector Leader) with the news of Blaise’s collapse. Sr Jane Frances (Superior General) and Sr Julie (Regional Leader) were in Nadi for their visitation and were part of the anxious group awaiting news at Mt St Mary’s. Over the next few hours Blaise’s family and friends were informed of her illness. The Rotuman Community responded with love and devotion. They arrived from all over Viti Levu and took turns with our Sisters in keeping vigil by Blaise’s bedside in the hospital. Her brother, Kepieni, arrived from Brisbane on Saturday afternoon and went straight to the hospital. It was as if Blaise was ‘waiting’ for Kepieni to arrive! Together with his younger brother, Mua, Kepieni bade good-bye to his beloved sister, Ana.
Blaise remained in a coma from 1.50 pm on the 10th of October until she peacefully slipped away into God’s care at 4.50 am on 16th October. The parishioners of Mt St Mary’s Nadi, Lautoka, Nadi Town, the Rotuman relatives and friends of Blaise came to offer their help, bringing gifts of different kinds. The Sisters were overwhelmed by their show of love and support.
The Vigil was held in the convent chapel on the night of the 18th October and was attended by very many relatives and friends. The Mass of the Resurrection was celebrated the next day by Fr Kaitu’u the Rotuman priest who had offered Blaise’s Golden Jubilee Mass. Fr Kaitu’u was assisted by eight priests. Blaise and Sr Nolasco now lie side by side in Balawa Cemetery, Lautoka, their graves overlooking the sea which both loved so much in life.
Blaise – like St Paul – has run the race and fought the good fight. She was loved by young and old, remembered as strong and forthright, but with a big heart, generous, vivacious and great fun. As one of our Sisters put it: “We have another Marist in heaven. May she now enjoy the reward of a Marist life lived to the full.”