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Sister Malia Iosefina Iosefo (Isapela Iosefo)

List of deceased Sisters

Date of death 11/02/2021

SMSM Sisters                   Born:                          12 January 1946

                   Profession:                 2 February 1969

                   Deceased:                   11 February 2021

Sister Malia Iosefina Iosefo was born in Vaea, Samoa on 12 January 1946. Iosefo and Pelenatete Peni named their first gift Isapela. Ten other children followed. She learned generosity and self-giving from her catechist parents whose sense of availability for mission in the church meant they were posted in different places, at one time in-charge of the catechists’ training centre in Moamoa. In this setting, too, she also learned how to help people grow in knowing and loving God and Mary.

Sr Malia Iosefina grew up in a big, loving, caring and supportive family whose values came from a solid Catholic foundation. Their love and support continued throughout her life, and during the months of her illness, the family gathered “online” each evening to pray and sing with her. They wanted to visit her, but that was not possible due to the Covid Pandemic.

She heard God’s call: I have chosen you to leave your family, your country, your people and the place you love to serve me through the people I will show you. In February 1966, Isapela entered as a postulant with the Missionary Sisters of the Society of Mary in Heretaunga, New Zealand. In September that year, she was received as a Novice, taking the name of Sr Malia Iosefina.

Sr Malia Iosefina made her first profession as an SMSM on 2 February 1969. She was missioned to Samoa where she taught at Savalalo and Lotofaga. She then returned to New Zealand in 1973 for one year of theology at Chanel Institute followed by professional studies at Loreto Hall Teachers’ Training College till 1976. In 1977, Sr Malia Iosefina was missioned to Tonga to teach at St Mary’s High School. She returned to Savalalo, Samoa, in 1979 to be the Principal. Within that same year, she was a delegate at large, Provincial Chapter in NZ. In 1981, she was missioned to Lepua, American Samoa, as the Principal of the school and was a Regional Councillor for Samoa. She also taught at Falealupo, Savaii, Samoa, in 1984 and returned to Savalalo in 1985. After a period of spiritual renewal in Rome in 1986, she was missioned to The Philippines.

The urge to respond to the needs of the Church through the Congregation was seen throughout her life where she set out again and again, willingly and in faith, to be of service. In July of 1992, she returned to teach in Samoa for five years and set out again in 1996 for Hawaii. There she was involved in pastoral ministry among the Samoans. In 2001 she returned once again to the Philippines.

Sr Malia Iosefina had a pioneering spirit – perfect for a missionary. Together with Sr Patricia Leamy, she began the first SMSM community, in Lagao, Philippines, in 1987, beginning in the Brothers’ former aspirancy house. She then pioneered the SMSM community in Maitum together with Sr Malia Tominika in 1990 and later Sr Anne Quinn. Finally, the third new opening was in Kalilangan, Bukidnon, in 2004. There she reached out to people of all faiths and is known to many people in the area. In June of 2008, she was back in Lagao as the Sector Leader and facilitated Retreats and Recollections for teachers and students at Notre Dame of Dadiangas University (NDDU).

Most of her life was dedicated to the education and formation of the young. She also lived the spirit of reaching out, especially to the least and marginalized of society. To the Filipino people she was a big imposing person and yet a person with a huge soft heart. Many of the young she reached out to would address her ‘Mama Io’; she was indeed a mama to them. Many people especially the students remembered her as the dancing sister.

She was also very active in participating in the activities of whichever Diocese she was missioned. Apart from working in the schools, Sr Malia Iosefina also was involved with Pastoral Ministry, the catechists and the youth.  In 2009, she also served as the Chaplain at St Elizabeth Hospital in General Santos City.

From May 2010 Sr Malia Iosefina worked at the main campus of NDDU as the Directress of Campus Ministry. Despite a demanding job there she managed to continue her involvement in multiple activities, especially in helping the disadvantaged: getting funding for students who could not afford to go to school, going out of her way to make sure that they were adequately cared for; standing up for those who had no voice and were being taken advantage of. She also served as community Leader, co-ordinating and planning upcoming activities with the sisters in the other communities.

She suffered a severe stroke in late March 2020 which kept her bed ridden and caused her to be completely dependent on the care of others till she died peacefully on 11 February 2021, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. Sr Malia Iosefina who had been such an active missionary, was now invited to be a missionary in another way. Instead of her reaching out to others, now they reached out to her through their care.

Article 194 of our Constitutions sums up the life of Sr Malia Iosefina:

                                    “Woman of faith

                                      joyfully given to God

                                      for the Kingdom

                                      in the spirit of Mary.”

Sr Malia Iosefina was truly a missionary, living faithfully the Marist spirit, deeply rooted in God and close to Mary. She had a great devotion to her Patron saint, St Joseph and also St Marcellin Champagnat.    

 

Sr Theresa Waine

Regional councillor