Paula – Education ministry in Samoa
What it means for me to be a Mercy woman in Samoa is that I feel called to keep hope alive for our people here.
I was taught by the Sisters of Mercy when I was a child and I feel that I am keeping the Mercy charism alive now.
I caught the enthusiasm of the Sisters who taught me for educating children and for ensuring that the seeds of faith are sown. I now want to share that charism with the children of today.
A lot of us here have benefited from the legacy of the Sisters of Mercy in the past and I want to keep that legacy going in Samoa now.
God called me back home from New Zealand to work in Samoa, to walk the same ground as my parents. I am at the same school where I learnt to write and started my education. I strongly feel that God has called me here to work for my people. It is an honour and a great gift to come to Samoa and be able give something back to my people and the community.
The Basilica of St Anne is next door to where we live. It is the church where I was baptised, made my first communion and was confirmed. There is something special for me there. I love hearing the bell as I am reminded of my Mum and Dad’s voices calling us to wake up. The foundation of my faith was in my family – that’s where it started. As I am here in Leulumoega, now as a Mercy woman and hearing the same call of the bell, it is a strong reminder of the faith that was sown in me all those years ago.
Gardening is one of my passions. For me it is a connection with God and with nature. I can take cuttings and put them in the ground, water them and they grow. It is a wonderful sign of life. When I touch the soil, it brings me to life, it gives me energy. It is a reminder of the life given by Mother Earth. It is good for me to work in the garden, in the same grounds that the first Sisters of Mercy who came walked and touched. It is a connection with the past and the present and helps me keep hope alive in our world today.
The main focus of our mission in Samoa is education. Currently I am the principal of St Joan of Arc primary school in Leulumoega. I was brought up in Samoa and I attended St Joan of Arc School and Paul VI College, which were run by the Sisters of Mercy.
As principal of St Joan of Arc School today, I am aware that some of the children have already lived through difficult circumstances and I want to make school a safe place for them, a place where they feel welcome and at home, a place where they can be themselves. The motto of St Joan of Arc is “Galue faamaoni ma alofa” – “Do your best and love”. As principal I encourage the children to do their best and to grow in love for one another. In this way we make the school a welcoming place.
There are 205 children currently at St Joan of Arc from pre-school level to Year 6. There are 12 teachers on the staff. We can see many changes in education now from the past. The children, as well as doing reading, maths and other curriculum subjects are now able to take computer classes. They email each other and skype each other. With all these changes in our world today, we want to educate the children academically, but we also want to make school a place where their faith is nourished. Religious Education is an important part of the school curriculum.
It is a privilege to be working in our mission in Samoa. It is my way of being “Centred in God, impelled to be mercy, keeping hope alive in our world today”.