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Solomons: Celebrating the unsung missionary heroes

There was a celebration in Honiara in the Solomon Islands the other day that ought to be shouted from the rooftops of the world. Sadly it wasn't but we'll give it a go…

One of the frustrating things coming into this job as relief editor is seeing the enormous number of letters, media releases, and requests that come in trying to get air-time for the work being done by missionaries in far-flung parts of a world on a shoestring. Much of it simply cannot compete against the weightier stories of what the Pope is saying, or what some Cardinal or other is doing or not doing, or what shenanigans media stars like Eddie McGuire are up to now.

Much of the time the requests are written by the people working in these front lines who are simply totally unskilled at selling themselves and what they are doing. It almost makes me want to cry that these stories do not get enough airtime.

For what is happening out on these "front lines" is the "real stuff" that lifted us, the sons and daughters, the grandsons and granddaughters of the poor, illiterate, peasant Catholic classes from Europe who had come to countries like Australia and America in the 18th and 19th centuries in the hope of a better life.

It was the unsung work of tens of thousands and men and women religious working on stipends who, through education, literally lifted Catholics into the higher social streams and government, the professions and trades and out of the gutters and slums inhabited for centuries by our forebears.

The "front line" of that work today is in Africa and places like the islands of the Pacific where life is increasingly a struggle in a world dictated by economic rationalism.

We publish this story then to not only celebrate the 100 years of work of the Missionary Sisters of the Society of Mary in the Solomon Islands, but to celebrate the work of all those tens of thousands of men and women who literally did, and do, sacrifice their lives around the world lifting those at the margins so that they have the freedom to think, to dream, and the freedom to really explore what the "free will" endowed to us by God really means.

Sisters, brothers and priests around the world who increasingly "tune in" to CathNews to catch up on what is happening back in the homes you left, on behalf of the readers of this news service and all those who don't have the opportunity to say it personally, could we say...


And here is the story written by Sr Maureen Connor and sent to us by Fr Ambrose Pereira sdb…

Joy and thanksgiving mark
SMSM Centenary Celebrations

The Missionary Sisters celebrate
Celebrations to mark the 100 years of presence of the Missionary Sisters of the Society of Mary (SMSM) were held on 12th June, 2004, in Honiara, Solomon Islands.

In 1904, two French sisters Sr. Mary Ireneé and Sr. M. Bartholemy arrived in Rua Sura to begin their missionary service and from that time onwards, as others came to join them, the SMSM sisters have been engaged in teaching, nursing and pastoral works throughout the Solomon Islands.

Two elements marked the centenary day - one was joy and the other thanksgiving. The sisters have shared their lives, but in the giving, so many blessings have come to them from the people of the Solomon Islands. The celebrations began with the Thanksgiving Eucharist at Holy Cross Cathedral, Honiara. Archbishop Adrian Smith was the president at the celebration. Concelebrating with him was Bishop Chris Cardone op, Auxiliary Bishop of Gizo and several priests.

The celebrations were enhanced by the presence of many distinguished guests: His Excellency, the Governor General Sir Ini Lapli and Lady Lapli, the Honorable Prime Minister Sir Allan Khamaekasa and Lady Khamaekasa. Hon. John Garo, Leader of the Opposition and Mrs. Garo, honorable members of Parliament, Archbishop Ellison Pogo and Lady Pogo, many heads of churches, honorable consuls and High Court Judges, special guests and invited friends. To commemorate the event a metal plaque and statue were blessed by Archbishop Adrian Smith sm, Archbishop of Honiara.

Following the Eucharist, the celebrations and feasting continued at Bishop Epalle School Hall. The afternoon was filled with creative items. Pan Pipers from Malaita led the official party to the hall. The items had been beautifully prepared and were well-rehearsed. There was singing and dancing and plays depicting the early days, performed by the ex-students as a tribute to their former teachers.

Speeches marked the occasion and both the Governor General and Prime Minister spoke with eloquence, thanking the SMSM sisters on behalf of the people of the Solomon Islands for their service and contribution to education and health to the country these past 100 years. Expressing his joy, the Archbishop thanked the sisters for the 100 years of service to the country.

The success of the Centenary Day celebration is the expression of joy and unity that it brought to the sisters and to all who participated and shared in the event. Sincere gratitude to the centenary committee who planned the programme, the Bishop Epalle School and mass center committee and to the many friends and benefactors who contributed generously and gave of their time and talent.

Words from the visitors:

It's wonderful to come back to the Solomon Islands, after being away for 14 years and meet so many people. Its also nice to know that the country is returning to peace and moving on. - Sr. Alicia Ryan smsm

I would love to stay on with my friends in Solomon Islands, but the Lord has different plans. - Sr. Mary John Patrick smsm

It's very difficult to state my feelings and emotions at the end of such wonderful day - Sr. Mary Keegan smsm

My heart is full of gratitude and I don't know how I can thank the Lord for the wonderful time I have had in the Solomons. I pray everyday for everyone in the Solomons. You will never be forgotten. - Sr. May Philothea smsm

I have had a wonderful introduction to the Solomon Islands. It has come after 100 years of SMSM presence and I can see why our sisters have always loved being here. - Sr. Jennifer Mary Clarke smsm, Provincial elect

Fr. Ambrose Pereira sdb, Catholic Communications Solomons

18 Jun 2004