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Sr Malia Sekolasetika (Matalena Keni)

List of Deceased Sisters

Date of Death 15/04/2020


  10 February 1935 – 15 April 2020 



SMSM Sisters

Matalena was born on 10th February 1935 in Pago Pago, American Samoa, to parents Kalameli Gaea from Solosolo, Western Samoa and Keni Satele of Pago Pago, American Samoa. In her mid-teens, she left her country and travelled to Western Samoa with the desire to enter the convent, to be a Religious Sister.

Matalena started off at the girls’ boarding school of the SMSM Sisters at Safata. After about two years, she was sent to join the boarding school at Savalalo Apia. Matalena adjusted to this ‘new’ way of life, but somehow also found it hard. Despite it all, she was willing and determined to persevere to fulfil her desire.

In 1956, Matalena joined the first group of girls who started St Mary’s College classes with Sr Mary Emerentiana at Doctor Thieme’s old house across the road at Savalalo. She often referred to this period as a special favour and to her it was a way of gradually attaining her wish. Her memories of that time with Sr Mary Emerentiana was one of great joy and gratitude. At the same time, she was proud to be one of that first group of Sister’s students.

Eventually, Matalena was sent to Watsonia, Australia, for her religious formation.  As a novice she was given the name Sekolasetika whose feast was on her birthday 10th February. She read about her patron knowing that she was the sister of St Benedict of Subiaco and it meant a lot to her in her spiritual life. Her name proved for some difficulty to pronounce but she insisted that all the syllables be pronounced in Samoan correctly.  She answered to ‘Sek’ and that was the name we knew her as.

On 8th December 1960, she made her First Profession of Religious Vows as an SMSM. After Profession, Sek stayed on in Australia at Wahroonga for two years helping with the altar breads apostolate. Her first and second renewal of vows also took place in Wahroonga. In January 1963 she was missioned to Samoa, teaching at our St Mary’s Primary school in town at Savalalo. Two years later, she was transferred to St Mary’s College at Vaimoso to study as a fulltime student. Her third renewal of Religious Profession took place in Moamoa, where the community was mostly international elderly Sisters. Her religious profession of Final Vows took place in this same community in 1966. Then followed a year teaching at Savalalo, and another year at Falealupo in the big island of Savaii. Sek had to return to Vaimoso for another two years of full-time study, before going on to Fiji to attend Corpus Christi Teachers’ Training College in 1970.  She graduated at the end of 1972 and returned to Samoa at the beginning of 1973, being appointed Head Teacher at St Peter’s Primary school in Falefa and Superior of the community.

In August 1975, Sek travelled to Napier, New Zealand, to participate in a Renewal at the Maryknoll place. Afterwards she was missioned to Leone, American Samoa, as the community Superior and Head Teacher for St Theresa’s Primary school. In 1980, she was transferred back to Western Samoa, appointed as Head Teacher at St Joseph’s Primary school at Leauvaa and Superior of the community.

Sek was delighted when called for her LTSR in Rome in early 1984. This followed with her home visit to her relations in USA. She returned to Western Samoa in October 1984 to continue teaching at St Mary’s Savalalo.  In 1987 she was sent to Safotu, Savaii, and was headteacher and superior of the community and in 1989 was appointed St Mary’s Vaimoso.  

In 1990 to 1992, Sek was appointed as the regional financial administrator in Samoa, a responsibility that she took up well as a good steward. Later in 1992, she travelled to Auckland, New Zealand to participate in a Renewal at Marcellin Hall. In 1993 she was transferred to Honolulu Hawaii, initiating a pastoral ministry for the Samoan community from 1993 to 1999. From January to April 2000, Sek was named to participate in the EAPI course in Manila Philippines.

Upon her return to Savalalo, she was appointed as the Sector Coordinator for two years.  This was followed by four years 2006, teaching at St Theresa’s Primary school in Leone, American Samoa. There were differences of opinion with the then Bishop of Pago so Sek, always the teacher, taught at the government Leone High School for one year.

After a home visit in USA, Sek was missioned to Fiji, where she worked full-time as the school librarian at Stella Maris Primary school. 

A Sister in Fiji at the time remembered her dedication to this work, and how she would encourage students arriving earlier to do some library reading before school started. While in Suva, she celebrated her golden jubilee of Religious Profession in December 2010. It was a happy and wonderful celebration for her, with the Sisters and with her cousin Vicky Tapasu Leung Wai and her two daughters from Samoa. These two grown up girls are now religious professed members of the Dominican Sisters in Australia, a vocation which Sek is grateful for as the fruit of her prayers.

From Fiji, Sek requested for her home visit to USA before being missioned back to Samoa in early 2011. This was to be her last visit to her relations due to her health issues and aged physical immobility. Upon her return Sek was assigned to Vailoa community (Maota Marista Retirement Home) in 2011 where she aged gracefully, unceasingly praying her Rosary to the Blessed Virgin Mary, valuing ample time for personal, community prayer and continuing her SMSM life praying for the Congregation that she loved and served faithfully in. In God’s own time, it was at Vailoa that after receiving the sacrament of ‘Anointing the Sick’ and renewing her perpetual Religious Vows in the presence of our Sisters in Samoa, Sr Malia Sekolasetika died peacefully at 4.35pm on Wednesday, 15th April 2020.

For most of her missionary life, Sr Malia Sekolasetika dedicated her gifts, talents, and loving services to education, mainly in our SMSM schools. She was a very committed teacher, loving her students from all walks of life and would strive to ensure that no one was left behind in their wholistic education. Being a strict teacher, Sek instilled in her students the importance of prayer, good self-discipline, diligence and obedience to school rules and daily instructions. She was hard-working and an honest person who would speak her mind on issues that were of concern to the Sisters in general and on whatever good cause she was aware of. On her softer side, she would enjoy a good joke and join in with a hearty laugh. Sek also had a wonderful gift in creative artwork. She would be using natural local materials from tree bark to seed colourings to candle black colour of soot and burnt match sticks. Most of her framed artwork depicted island tapa designs and were shared as gifts for the Sisters or friends on special occasions. She was a loving and caring person. She reached out to the poor whom she knew and would go out of her way to visit and help needy families.

Sister Malia Sekolasetika’s faith journey, which was an on-going conversion, and a loving SMSM Marist response to the invitation that is ever new of the God who first loved her and who says:  ‘Well done, good and faithful Sister, come and enjoy the goodness of your Lord.’  (Const.193 and Matt. 25:23) 

Having fulfilled her greatest desire to become a Religious Sister, Sek remained faithful to her life of prayer both in action and in contemplation, with her Sisters in community and praying for those needing her support. One verbal prayer she would never miss mentioning is “pray for the souls of those who have died especially those who have no one to pray for them”. Now, many are praying for the happy repose of our dear beloved Sek.

Due to national restrictions on ‘stay at home’, against physical contact and distancing because of the pandemic corvid19 virus, Sister’s funeral Mass was held in our Vailoa chapel in the presence of SMSM and a few close relations. It was a first-time experience for our Sisters to have this regulated burial service for our Sister, but it was also felt as a beautiful, humble, intimate, and simple way of farewelling Sister from this earth. She is buried at Moamoa cemetery, joining eighty plus of our deceased SMSM members. May she rest in peace eternally.

“Formation affects our whole being, and goes on throughout our entire life,

touching mind, heart and will, .... a faith journey, a continual conversion,

a loving response to the invitation that is ever new of the God who has         

first loved us ....”  Const. 193