A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Brother Mikaele Cilicewa SM

Born: 12 November 1946 in Taveuni, Fiji
Professed: 1 January 1973
Died: 24 July 2021 in Suva, Fiji

Br Mika Cilicewa died recently in Suva, Fiji, at the height of the Covid-19 crisis there. He had spent more than 50 years living in Marist religious life. He hailed from the north of Taveuni in Fiji and was attracted initially to join those who had volunteered to help build up Marist Training Centre in Tutu. I had the privilege of living in community with him for the first twenty-five years of his life as a Marist.

Physically a big man, whom you thought would be a natural to play lock, he was, in fact, a slow lumbering fullback with a big punt who brought safety and reliability to the team.

Temperamentally, he was amiable and engaging, despite a hearing difficulty which he turned into a plus as he would always look directly at you in order to lip read. Add in his constant smile, a sensitivity to the needs of others, a deep spirit of service and years of prayer and dedication, he came to reflect Mary’s modesty and self-effacement which is at the heart of the Marist vocation.

Immediately after profession, when his fellow newly-professed entered into a four-year formation program, Mika responded generously to the request to forego the program and take up leadership in developing the 1,203-acre Marist farm. They were difficult times of trying to get Tutu on to its feet with few resources. He was also instrumental in the effort to initiate rural youth programs for the Northern Provinces of Fiji. In the midst of an atmosphere of uncertainty, risk, and creativity, Br Mika brought both steadiness and wisdom that helped build the confidence of both the young people and the staff. He was the ‘go to’ man for me in leadership at that time.

In the mid-seventies, we were together again with three other young Oceanian priests and brothers appointed to establish a new apostolic community at Takwa, on North Malaita in the Solomon Islands. The challenges of language, malaria, culture, poverty, isolation, our own inexperience and lack of resources again left us highly dependent on living a life of faith in God and in each other. Mika, who had a natural bias for the poor, set his heart on trying to assist the women. The men were culturally opposed to having the women form clubs or women’s groups and the women themselves suffered from a lack of leadership. However, Mika in his quiet but determined way, established a rapport with people, and it was through his initiatives that they allowed the women to form a women’s club, provided Br Mika was the leader. So, slowly but surely, was born the Takwa women’s club that gradually spread first through North Malaita and then further south until women’s clubs were established throughout the whole island of Malaita. It became fruit that lasted long beyond our time.

It was on the verandah of our little house in Takwa that Mika and I spent many hours at night talking about how we could create a program for the youth in Northern Fiji. We wrote up our thoughts, and after five years in Takwa, returned together to Tutu to establish the Tutu Young Farmers course which still exists today.

In the second half of his life Mika spent seven years running the Rural Training Centre in Honiara, Solomon Islands, followed by seven years on the extremely isolated mission of Rotuma (north of Fiji), before engaging in ten years of ministry to the Koori people of Macksville, Australia. In his later years, he retired, serving his brother religious in community life both in Australia and Fiji.

As Mika set out for heaven, despite having little in his kit, the baggage detector at the gate of heaven would have had to wade through enormous amounts of loyal, compassionate faithfulness, that reflected the faithfulness of his mother Mary. May he rest in peace.

Thanks to Fr Michael McVerry SM for this tribute to Br Mika

Appointments

1973 – 76 : Marist Training Centre, Tutu Young Farmers, Taveuni, Fiji

1977 – 81 : Takwa, Malaita, Solomon Islands

1982 – 83 : College of Agriculture,  Searsolin, Philippines

1983 – 87 : Marist Training Centre,  Adult Education, Taveuni, Fiji

1988 – Greenmeadows, NZ, Renewal

1987 – 94 : St Martin Rural Training Centre, Honiara, Solomon Islands

1995 – 96 : Renewal, NSW, Australia

1996 – 2003 : Rotuma, Fiji

2003 – 13 : Koori Ministry,  Macksville, Australia

2014 – Maryvale/Montbel,  Sydney, Australia

2015 – 21 : Retired at Sector House Community, Fiji


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