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Susana Vitolio

List of Deceased Sisters

Date of Death 09/02/2014

18 July 1930 - 9 February 2014

Susana was born in Moamoa, Samoa, on 17 July 1930, the first of the twelve children of Vito and Sofia Tufi Fonoti. Baptised the day after her birth, she was confirmed seven years later in the village of Falealupo where her father was catechist. The family later moved to Moamoa when Vito was appointed chief catechist at the Theological College. His mantle of zeal fitted easily on his children’s shoulders. Susana’s sister, Matalena, joined the Sisters of Our Lady of Nazareth in Fiji, and her brother, Ioane (deceased), was a diocesan priest for more than 40 years.

When Susana told her father about her desire to enter the convent, Vito was adamant in his refusal. He pointed out that she was the eldest in the family and was a great plantation worker. But at 18 years old, Susana was resilient and determined. Three months later, she again spoke to her father about fulfilling her dream. This time Vito reluctantly gave in and he personally escorted Susana to the convent.

Professed as Sister Malia Koleti on 2 February 1955, She had vivid memories of what happened after profession. As gently as possible M.M.Rachel told the newly professed sister that she had been diagnosed with leprosy. This meant leaving for Makogai in the Fiji Islands. Her faith in God pulled her through the two difficult years that followed. Finally a specialist from England examined her again and declared she was suffering from polio, not leprosy. Before she died, Susana shared with a number of smsm that, on reflection, those two years had been filled with blessings. She had wonderful memories of the kindness of the sisters at Makogai.

Back in Samoa she served in various capacities in Lotofaga, Leulumoega, Savalalo, Savalalo and Lotofaga. She was a keen student at Moamoa and Vaimoso and in 1972 she studied at the East Asian Pastoral Institute in Manila, Philippines.

When she and Alcie Hardiman returned from Manila they served in Safotu with the Redemptorists as part of a team moving into new territory: a bible for each child and scripture-based prayer. In 1977-1978 she was based in Moamoa and from there set out for New Zealand. For the following three years she facilitated catechetical programmes for the Samoan communities.

In 1979, back in Samoa, she was part of a successful team which set up village training units throughout Samoa, she helped translate a then modern catechetical text into Samoan, and actually turned the duplicator handle to make many hundreds of copies. This book was used in Samoa and New Zealand until 1994 when a new set of textbooks covering all levels was prepared.

Susana enthusiastically embraced the chance to develop her teaching skills at Corpus Christi Training College in Fiji in 1983. She graduated with distinction for her unique contribution to the welfare of the College. She returned to Samoa and taught in Lepua and Safotu before becoming principal at St Mary’s Primary School, Savalalo and local superior.

In 1996 she set out again. This time training catechists for Samoan groups in Hawaii. After three years she returned to New Zealand where she worked with the teachers of several thousand children in various parish settings throughout the Diocese. She kept up their enthusiasm, and organized training seminars to deepen their spirituality, increase their knowledge, and make certain their teaching was up-to-date. As she believed spiritual development was a priority, she helped organize retreats for young and old, and youth camps.

Throughout the years, Susana’s competency in Samoan language and culture was put to good use. Apart from her work on the catechetical programme, she translated numerous congregational documents into Samoan - a task she was still doing in Samoa before she went to NZ for her family visit at the end of 2013.

Susana was a straight talking person. Her words and actions were forward and direct. With a zest for living, joy, and eagerness to pass on what she had received, Susana was totally engaged as a missionary, Marist, and religious. In her unique way she touched the lives of so many both in the formal and informal settings

In 2013 Susana was diagnosed with leukaemia. When she went for a visit to family in Auckland the diagnosis was not only confirmed but she was told her time was short, and travel impossible. On Sunday 9 February 2014 at her sister’s home in Auckland, Susana breathed her last.

She was buried from St Michael’s in Remuera on February 12 and as she requested she had a hibiscus behind her ear. She surely continues her dance in the presence of Jesus and Mary.

Sr Masela Tenisio, smsm
Community Leader, Vailoa