Remembering Sr Malia Koleti Mafi
Malo e lelei famili,
We notice from our "Birthdays" page that next Tuesday will mark the 7th anniversary of Sr Malia Koleti's death. As a way of remembering her, we managed to dig up a posting by uncle Tavo from the old website which also has reports from Fifita and uncle Tony Rea of the memorial mass for Koleti at Matahau and NZ respectively. We reproduce here uncle Tavo's report in 2003 of the funeral in France as a way of remembering this good nun of ours: Rest In Peace Sr Malia Koleti:
Tuesday, 3 June 2003
My train arrived in Rennes (France), the town nearest to Koleti's monastery, just a few minutes before Filimi's train. The nuns were there to pick us up. On arrival at the monastery, we had a cup of tea with the nuns and then went straight to see Koleti. One thing struck both of us as we went in: she was smiling at us! You can see something of that contagious smile in the photos of her posted on the family website. She looked as if more than ready to pass on to the other side. She had her rosary in her hand and on her was a piece of paper upon which she had written in French her final vows as a nun which she made ten years ago. The nuns took turn to keep vigil with her all day long. They had done so since the day Koleti died (Sunday, 1 June 2003). And so Filimi and I just joined in with the nuns as they each prayed quietly the rosary. We both stayed with her till 10pm that night praying the rosary in Tongan during which Filimi would speak to her now and then to remind her of the great love and prayers coming from all her family all over the world at that moment. Then it was time for bed because Filimi was visibly tired, having traveled all the way from Dallas since the previous morning.
Wednesday, 4 June 2003
The next morning was Koleti's funeral Mass. After breakfast, we again joined Koleti in the little chapel, where we had kept vigil the night before, to make our last fe'iloaki with her. She was still smiling at us! The funeral Mass began at 11am. I led the Mass aided by the two elderly chaplains to the nuns and another priest from Rennes who also turned up. We each had a part to do during the funeral Mass. In this monastery, the motherhouse of Koleti's congregation of nuns called 'The Little Sisters of the Poor', there live around a hundred nuns. So the singing was ably led by this great throng of nuns with such angelic voices! Koleti's coffin was carried by four men who look after the nuns' farm. The nuns have their own cows, poultry and gardens. The hymns for the Mass, all in French of course except for a few in Latin, were Koleti's favourites. Filimi and a Samoan nun represented the family at the offertory procession together with the Mother General (big boss) of Koleti's congregation. There were also a few men and women from the nearby village who attended. During Mass, I took the chance to say a few words on behalf of Filimi and all the family around the world to thank the people who turned up for Mass and to thank in a special way the nuns for having looked after Koleti over the years but especially for the care rendered her during her last few months in which she struggled with cancer of the lungs. At the end of Mass, we processed out to the cemetery which is about 150 metres away. The procession was led by the nuns, followed by the priests, then the coffin, and then Filimi and the rest of the people. For some reason, rain had just stopped as we were about to begin the procession. And it did not start to rain again until Koleti was laid to rest in her temporary home. I thought then of the prayers of the family worldwide when I realized that rain had been delayed until the end of her burial. Koleti is buried in the nuns' own cemetery at their monastery, a most beautiful spot, where one could also find cardinals and bishops buried. So our little Koleti now has some illustrious company! Each grave is marked by a stone of course bearing the name of the deceased as well as a little flower garden marking the extent of each grave. Each flower garden has a rose flower with a different colour. Filimi and I were both taken by the beauty and diversity of the roses' colours. Maliana could do with some of those! After lunch, we both had a well-deserved siesta and then we walked down again to the cemetery and said our rosary upon Koleti's grave. Filimi then said goodbye to her on our behalf as we were bound to leave early morning the following day. After evening prayer with the nuns, the Mother General (big boss) then came to see us. It was to hand over to us belongings of Koleti: photo albums, bible, the two family CDs in memory of 'Ekuasi and Fatai, cassettes of Tongan music, a tiny statue of Mary, and a picture of baby Jesus playing with his mum which Koleti kept kissing as she was about to die. This picture is posted here. But that was all her belongings! She was indeed a little sister of the poor.
Thursday, 5 June 2003
Early next morning at 6am, the nuns drove Filimi and I to the train station at Rennes (a half hour drive). We caught the train from there to Paris. Strikes in Paris meant that Filimi could not fly out as scheduled. Fortunately, he was assured a seat on a Delta Airlines flight the following day. Koleti’s nuns in Paris again came to the rescue. They came to the airport (Charles de Gaulle) and took Filimi home since their convent is only fifteen minutes away. I myself had to find my way back to Paris from the airport to catch my train back to Belgium. I had to be in Belgium for a meeting the next morning. Traveling around Paris was difficult because of the strikes. No bus, no train, no metro (underground). Luckily, I managed to catch the last train from Paris to Brussels (Belgium). Filimi as expected flew out from Paris the next day (Friday, 6 June 2003) on Delta Airlines, thanks to Koleti’s nuns! As I am writing this, Filimi is reported to be on his way from Atlanta to Dallas.
What We Can Learn from Koleti's Life
1. I was struck by the fact that almost every nun came across to Filimi and I and not only expressed their condolences to the family and deep sadness at the loss of Koleti but almost everyone was convinced that she is now in heaven! Everybody seems to have agreed that Koleti lived a very holy life and died a very holy death. One very elderly nun came and said to me, ‘she is now in heaven’. And when I asked her ‘how does she know’, she simply said, ‘I just know’. Everyone mentioned that she never complained about anything even during her final hours. At the point when she passed on (death), she kept making the sign of the cross and kept kissing the little picture of baby Jesus playing with His mother.
2. It struck me very much that even on her death bed, Koleti was still smiling! I have anointed a lot of people at the point of death and have seen a lot of people on their death beds. But never have I seen such a smiling face! If people who live a holy life die a holy death, could this be the meaning of the smile on her face? Even before that contagious smile on her death bed, she was always smiling. Koleti lived a very simple and uncomplicated life. That her belongings amounted to a bible and a few other small things is some indication of her simplicity. Her unending smile and great simplicity were acknowledged by many people at the funeral. Many of her fellow nuns mentioned how much they have learnt from her. I personally have learnt from her that ultimately what truly matters in life is not so much what we can do with our talents and personal gifts but rather what God can do through us. And for me, Koleti was a very good example of one who relied more on the power of God than on hers.
3. It felt somewhat strange that at the death of the first member of the family devoted to the service of God, only two of us were there (Filimi and I). Yet Filimi was impressed by the great simplicity of the entire funeral. No special mats, no tapa or flowers, no wailing, just a coffin. The focus of the entire funeral was clearly on God. And that according to Filimi is how it should be! Could that be the reason for which God had brought her to die here in France away from the rest of her family? We may never know. But one thing we know is that Koleti lived a very holy life. She therefore died a very holy death. And that is what life is really about. Everything else is peripheral. Deo Gratias!
You can also check out here our photo album of Sr Malia Koleti.
With much ofa to you all & may Sr Koleti continue to rest in peace,