A Catholic Monthly Magazine

A Poem for the SMSM

“From them to us there is a long history, 

A history of light and shadow

With times of growth,

Times of patience,

And endurance in faith”

(SMSM Constitutions – Prologue)


One hundred and fifty years ago …

You farewelled your parents, your families, your homelands,

to serve God through Mary in the faraway isles of the Pacific.

SMSM Soeur missionnaire de la Societe de Marie.

The language of your names escaping our tongues;

Sister Marie de la Merci, Sister Marie Rose, Sister Marie de la Misericorde

The words and tunes of your songs capturing devotion Toi Notre Dame –

you are our Lady.Palms_T

The woman who made things possible

in Bethlehem, in Canaan, in Nazareth,

beneath the cross on Calvary.

And  after the pioneers, more Mary sisters arrived into Oceania,

into Samoa, into our lives, into our hearts.

Mission stations in so many villages,

so many remember you

a life of faith, hope, charity

a life of poverty, chastity, obedience.

Ministering to the sick, the needy,

educating for this world and the next.

The relevance of the connection

and people engaging,

observing, learning, wondering,

why here, so far away from home.

…And the changes of the world moved towards us,

the waves breaking upon us, amidst us, within us,

beyond us…

and life was never quite the same again.

Our own women followed in your calling

spreading the Word,

duplicating your kindness here in our midst

and to minister to others beyond our shores.

We remember you, gentle women, quietly spoken, determined women-

ahead of your time.

Sr Arsene does some trading

Sr Arsene does some trading

Moving  with the Holy Spirit,

to be hidden, unseen, unknown

except  for your deeds, your work,

the success of your mission -

to be the proof of your presence, your existence.

“Here I am Lord …” at each radiant dawn

with the rustle of multiple layers of flowing white cotton,

starched wimple,

the soft, distinctive clicking  of rosary beads.

Hail Mary the Lord is with thee blessed art thou amongst women.

A mission of love in a brimming cup of grace

shadows of obstacles overcome by

rainbow colours spilling through the rain…

a challenge to go on.

Once upon a time when young Samoan ladies lived at the Convent,

they were groomed in deportment,

educated to self sufficiency ,

confident in character and firm in their faith.

Hefty, strong men weakened at the knees,

timidly pulled at the tinkling bell outside the convent parlour,

hoping and praying for the Mother Superior to be merciful

and allow the briefest and purest of audiences

inside the parlour with their desired .

“Aue!” the old ladies say, those were the days.

In unison with blue and white starched uniforms  we answer;

yes Sister, no Sister, thank you Sister, sorry Sister, never again Sister.

Primary School, School C, U.E. PSSC so many exams,

and so much else to learn in these SMSM schools.

Collecting stones from the river to build the classrooms,

scrubbing and cleaning, carrying water when needed,

because the concept of cleaners was inconceivable.

DIY – that was an invention of SMSM long before it became an acronym.

God gave you a brain – please use it in multipurpose ways.

And the endless litany of novenas and prayers

which become mundane and repetitive only to be retrieved

one day when things are not fine

just as Simeon said “And a sword shall pierce thy heart.”

Tis good to be able to pray when that sword plunges

deep in the valley of sorrow.

We rejoice and celebrate your work of love

We thank you in our words – faafetai le alofa ma le agalelei – o lau pule lea.

You made Samoa your home, your language, your life’s work

And now some of you are laid to rest here within our earth.

You belong to us and we belong to you –

your names we repeat in our story telling,

your names we give to our children,

your mission becomes ours.

From our shores on your shoulders,

we can scan the horizon of our world

within and beyond the reef of our island existence.

In our meagre efforts and achievements

throughout the days since…

we know you are ever present.

There is no morning like the crest of that morning one hundred and fifty years ago,

when your arrival to your destination became the beginning of our shared journey.

Marie et nomine – in the name of Mary,

thank you… with love always,

faafetai… o alofa’aga e le uma.   

Tagged as: , ,

Comments are closed.