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Sister Saloni Helepiko

List of Deceased Sisters

Date of Death 05/10/2023

  Born: 22 June 1967

  Professed: 8 December 1995

  Deceased: 5 October 2023

Sr Saloni Helepiko was born at Neiafu, Vava’u, Tonga on 22 June, 1967. Her mother was ‘Ainise Helepiko of Neiafu, and her father was Viliami Fonohema of Falevai, Vava’u. Saloni is the fourth child of five siblings, and the only girl in her family.  She had a strong bond with her family, particularly her nieces and nephews.

Sr Saloni attended the government primary school and the St Peter Chanel High School, both of Neiafu, Vava’u. At the end of High School Saloni moved to Tongatapu and studied at St Joseph’s Business College. On completion of her studies, she got a job at the Bank of Tonga. It was during that time that Saloni discerned her call to SMSM life. She did her postulancy in Tonga and then moved to Avondale, Auckland, New Zealand, for Novitiate. On 8 December 1995 Saloni made her First Profession in New Zealand. She professed her Final Vows on 8th December 2001 in Houmakelikao, Tonga, and celebrated with joy her Silver Jubilee in 2020.

During Saloni’s 28 years as an SMSM, she had opportunities to study. In 1998 she got a Diploma in Business Studies in Fiji; in 2013 she received a Bachelor of Theology from the Catholic Institute of Australia.  In 2017 she received a Certificate of Education from Tonga Ministry of Education and the following year a Diploma for Counselling from the Diocese of Tonga – Road to Emmaus Course.


Saloni shared her gifts and knowledge on various missions. After her first profession, she was assigned to teach at St. Mary’s College in Vaimoso, Samoa. She taught in Tonga at St. Joseph Business College and later at ‘Apifo’ou College. She was also missioned to Rwanda for a very short time. In 2008, Saloni was asked to give community service in the Generalate House in Rome as the cook. She said that she did not know much about cooking. Well, Saloni learned a lot from studying and following the recipes on the internet. She became a good cook and an expert in makingtiramisu.  While there, Saloni welcomed anything that was asked of her to do in the community. She studied a short scripture course as well as giving voluntary outreach, by helping to teach basic computer skills to refugees at the Twelve Apostles Church in Rome.

She returned to New Zealand in early 2010 to take up her studies at Good Shepherd College in Auckland. In 2014, she joined the SMSM renewal program at Tagaytay, Philippines. Saloni was blessed by God with many beautiful gifts, which she generously shared with others. She had a loving and compassionate heart which often showed when one of the needy asked for help; her eyes would fill up with tears, and she would give whatever she had at the time.  Saloni was content and ready to go the extra mile in the tasks that were asked of her. She had a determined attitude, no matter how difficult the situation might be. She had a good sense of humor, as Sr Margaret Fitzgibbon who lived with Saloni in NZ at one time said, “Saloni had a great sense of humor particularly when it was about herself”.

In 2015, Saloni took on the role of secretary for Cardinal Paini Mafi in Tonga. She took this to heart and was very committed to this service. She was involved in the life of the diocese.   She further took part in the "Road to Emmaus Team," providing families in need with counselling, particularly after the 2022 eruption of the volcano in Tonga.

For many years, Saloni has been taking care of former leprosy patients in Tonga. New Zealand's Leprosy Trust Board was particularly generous in providing ongoing financial support to meet the requirements of Tonga's these patients.

Saloni continued her secretarial work at Toutaimana, but in time, the aggressive cancer suddenly deprived her of her remaining strength, and she was bedridden for a short period until God called her to her eternal home at 2.40 am on October 5, 2023 in Ma’ufanga, Tonga.

She was aware of her weakness, and she constantly tried her best to follow the spirit of Mary at Nazareth, her spirit of humility, spirit of hospitality and forgiveness. Saloni’s deep faith and courage really touched the hearts of many, especially at the time of her illness. Sr Julienne Marie, who lovingly took care of Saloni during more than 4 months of medical interventions against a very aggressive cancer in New Zealand, said, “The sadness I felt on hearing of the death of our dear Sr Saloni, was also accompanied by a sense of joy and pride at Saloni’s deep faith and courage over these very difficult months. When Saloni was in NZ she would say to me: “I’m praying to Jesus and Mary to heal me of this cancer. However, if that is not God’s will, it’s okay. I’m ready to accept whatever is to come”. This was truly Saloni’s prayer right up to the last minute of her earthly life… I am ready to go!”


The following verse from Scripture speaks strongly of Saloni:

“As for me…the time is here for me to leave this life…. I have done my best in the race, I have run the full distance, and I have kept the faith. And now there is the prize of victory…the prize which the Lord, the righteous judge will give me on that day”. (2 Timothy 4:7)

Enjoy the promised hundred-fold, dear Saloni! May you rest eternally in Peace.


Sr Malia Nive Kepu smsm and Sr Sesilia ‘Alamoti smsm  .