DAWN OF THE GOOD NEWS-ARRIVAL OF CHRISTIANITY IN SAMOA
The Christ faithful’s in the Independent State of Samoa enjoys the freedom of worship, living their Christian faith in an integrated harmony with the culture of their Samoan ancestors. Ever since the palagi missionaries from Europe docked their Messenger of Peace on the shores of Sapapali’i on the big island of Savaii. The English missionaries of the London Missionary Society who sailed from Tahiti with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, laid the Holy Bible in the hands of our ancestors. Our elders beholding the sacred scriptures in their sight, welcomed them with open hands. This is the fulfillment of the words of an ancient prophesy The Samoans named their tapuaiga, LOTU TA’ITI, the religion from our Polynesian neighbors of Tahiti Islands. That was Reverend John Williams, the first European missionary to arrive in Samoa on the 23rd of August, 1830.
The Chief Fauea and his wife, Pu’aseisei came together with the English Pastor and the Tahitian teachers. Fauea, a chief of Manono, was of the Malietoa Dynasty, assisted culturally in the acceptance of Christianity by our Island people. It was a providencial sign for our ancestors of the Fulfillment of the Prophesy of Nafanua. The woman Warrior of Pulotu, made in the moons ago to Malietoa Fitisemanu, with the mavaega,”TALI I LAGI, SE AO O LOU MALO” (await from heaven a crown of your Kingdom). Malietoa Vainu’upo, his son in 1830, welcomed the Christian missionaries and the first Dawn of the Good News “Mataniu –Feagai ma le Ata was sealed. Chief Malietoa Vainu’upo was baptized Tavita (David)
The Weslayan missionaries from Tonga in the person of Rev. Peter Turner was officially welcomed by Chief Leiataua Puketele on the island of Manono in 1835. This is a culmination of cultural interactions of relatives between Samoa and Tonga that astarted in 1828 when Chief Savaia came with the Lotu from Tonga. Our ancestors named the Methodist faith as LOTU TOGA, the gift from our relatives in Tonga. The second Dawn was sealed as “Faleu ma Utuagiagi” Rev. Turner gave Leiataua an English shillings and thus, he changed his name and was baptized Chief Leiataua Seleni.
It took another 10 years before the Catholic missionaries arrived in Samoa. They sailed from Wallis and Futuna Islands in the Fetu-ole –Moana and celebrated the First holy sacrifice of the Eucharist at Lealatele in Savaii. The arrival of the catholic mission had been greatly anticipated by the English Protestants. The Christian counterparts stirred a considerable opposition. When the Marist priests arrived at Savaii at the Itu-o-tane coast, they found that most of the native chiefs were in favour of rejecting them totally. However, due to the perseverance, courage and obedience of the French, Religious priests to their Bishop Bataillon’s command, they strived to gain a foothold of the church in the Islands of Samoa. According to Fr. Gilbert Roudaire ( Silipele)(1813-1852) and Fr. Louis Violette ( Lutovi’o) (1811-1887). They were humanly frustrated with the bad weather but especially the inhospitable cultural objections from the natives. This has never happened before in Oceania! They just wanted to find solace on land and when they saw an opening in the reef, they just docked their boat in the first bay available in the Protestant Island of Savaii. They have pleaded the heavenly intercession of the Blessed Queen Mother, Mary for her maternal hand in their rescue. Without knowing, they docked at Tutaga o Va’aloa (the landing shore of the Divine Warrior’s canoes of old at Matautu).
Ioakimo, the Samoan catechist arrived with other young men of Lealatele village to take them inland to see their paramount chief Tuala Taetafe who has agreed to welcome them in spite the war threats of Malietoa to attack any family or village who would welcome the French missionaries in black attire. Tuala wholehearted welcomed the weary, sea soaked French priests and finally after three weeks at sea, they had a good night sleep! The threat never happened though! The very next day, Fr RoudaIre, celebrated with gusto the first Mass in Samoa at Tuala’s abode and was baptized Tuala Talipope. The Samoan that welcomed the Pope’s religion into the land. This significant event happened on the 15thSeptember, 1845.This is the third Dawn of the Good News according to our ancestors for Samoa. It is sealed as “Malaeola ma Gafoana”
After the great missionary endeavor in Samoa, Fr. Gilbert Roudaire returned to his designated mission in New Caledonia in 1846. He had achieved what Bishop Bataillon had requested, ‘Just get a foothold in Samoa for the Catholic Church’. Well, they did gain more than a foothold in Savaii, the first at Lealatele with Tuala Talipope, the second at Salelavalu with Su’a and Moe his brother and across the ocean in Upolu they established the third and strongest foothold at Mulinu’u point with the conversion of the Tama-aiga, chiefs Mata’afa Fagamanu with Faumuina and the rebellious chiefs of Faleata. This year, a grand monument is in construction at Lepea to honour this mysterious, transcendent historical event. Recently, the St. Theresa Parish community have strongly fundraised with faith in these past years to erect a magnificent, pasefika styled cathedral under the guiding hands of Fr. Ricky Bernand to mark this historical foothold. This is unknown to them though, but the Holy Spirit has inspired it as a recognition of the faith of their ancestors and elders who have welcomed the Marist missionaries in such a turbulent time in the history of our Island country.
THE ‘FA’ASAMOA’ IS A DIVINE WAY OF LIVING
The doctrine of discovery introduced by the European and taught to our ancestors was never accepted by our elders where they stated that our island nation was only discovered in 1768 by a French navigator, Louis de Bougainville, sighting the Manu’a Islands and were so amazed in encountering these indigenous people in small canoes, way out in the blue ocean, far from the sight of any land form, relaxing with ease. They thought that they were out for a fishing expedition though! They guessed right dubbing our Islands as the “Navigator Islands” Samoa is truly the cradle of the Moanaloa, It is for this reason that our Islands were called the heart of Polynesia. This is where the Genesis of Moanaloa originated and this is why Samoa has conserved with pride and might this way of living in all centuries since the start of Age.
All the Polynesian Island nations have the same cultural heritage and indigenous religion. All the other islanders addressed the Divine Being as Tagaloa, but only in Samoa, we called God, the Procreator, TAGALOA-LAGI, the almighty from heaven. We believed and breathe this truth in all stages of our cultural timeline up to the present, modern, democratic age. It is an Island absolute that never changed. Time and space is binded in one sphere in our unique heritage. Our ancestors do not deemed to have been discovered by any other as our God has shared and given us our way of living tramandated through the sacred FA’AMATAI SYSTEM.
Our Democratic constitution is unique in the sense that our country is founded, not originally as all nations on Universal Suffrage, but founded on God Almighty, the Holy Trinity. It is not a theocratic political kingdom though! It is a traditional maoli based on the God given TOFIGA to our people with the sacred reference of the cosmos-politics of VA TAPUIA and AVA FATAFATA. It is not an indigenous religion as such but a divine spirituality from above. The whole Pacific basin have accused us and told the European explorers and missionaries that Samoa is not a religious people but purely pagans. They claimed that we don’t have any external symbols like tikis or ancestory totems or idols. We have no temples of worship to gods. They accused Samoa as pagans with no idols! This was the main purpose for which Reverend John Williams of the London Missionary Society had the diehard wish and dream to sail to our savage Islands that have been shunned by explorers for over a hundred years for the wrong publicity. He came and saw with his own eyes why our people was different. He testified to it in his historical journals that Samoa are not pagan Islanders but true believers of the Living God! For this recognition, Samoa has given the English missionary, the highest honour for this fact and we called John Williams as truly the Christian Apostle of Samoa.
Dear Folks from overseas who are coming to our shores for WACOM Conference, please don’t be miss laden with the modern critics that Samoa is Christian but not religious. Our elders have tried their best since the arrival of Christianity in our Island nation, geographically, our islands now have more churches in all forms that villages. It is a visible sign from the airport to the town in Apia. We have never complained or try to justify our cultural situation to the palagi world.
This sight of the multitude of churches is an ecumenical sign of our acceptance of the Christian Faith in Jesus Christ the Lord, but the philosophy of the land is still the same, SAMOA MO SAMOA. We live our calm, serene daily lives to the fullness as painted by our ancestors with the same spirituality of the FA’AMATAI. This is why when tourists arrived at our ports, we advise them to throw away their rolex and G-shock watches and adapted themselves to the snail pace of the islands. Treat it like a slow, cool flowing stream! Don’t rush like a wild river in Samoa. It is bad for your health department! We take our time with harmony in every facets of our society. We try to conserve the natural, cosmic rhythm of the Va Tapuia of the Almighty God of our nation. He has created for us a marvelous ambience not only secular but truly sacred.
CATHOLIC FORMATION IN SAMOA.
The European Colonization from the 1860’s had tried in all the imperialist might to maneuver and to change our cultural heritage for their economic whim and gain, our land and people with the inappropriate indoctrination of being good Christians like the civilized Europeans. Change your pagan religion, they were scandalized with the natural innocence of the Biblical Garden environment of our Fa’amatai and enforced down our throats their Christian morals by force, prohibitions of our tatau, our dancing and dressed up our ancestors with fourth hand unwashed clothing from overseas, nearly decimating our populations with Spanish Flu. Our elders with the cultural mannerism of the fa’amatai withstood all their strategies of might and power and warships.
The Samoan Mau or belief “Samoa mo Samoa” was also prevalent during the early Christian times. The Europeans of Germany, England and the United States of America combined their forces under the banner of the cross and blade to disrupted and invaded the cultural sovereignty of Samoa. It was mostly the intervention of the French missionary Bishops that put fear in them, telling them that the Fa’aSamoa is not a religion but a spirituality given from above. They backed off and went all the way to Germany and signed a pact in Berlin in 1899. Such imperialist colonial thieving! They divided up the islands in 1900 AD without having the minimal respect of consulting the people of the local Chieftains. The Germans took the western islands and the American took the eastern ones! Geographically, there were two different political systems but they can’t divide the soul of our people. The spirituality and cultural identity of our Samoan people! We will briefly list down some of the most distinguished Christian servants of God and church who have helped and stood with our people till the Independence of our Island nation in 1962.
THE VICARIATE APOSTOLIC OF THE NAVIGATOR ISLES
1863- 1878 – Bishop Aloys ELLOY- The first Bishop of Samoa- known as ‘Tipasa’ to his flock. He hailed from France. A very strong defender of the Samoan faction, intervening so much with the Imperialist forces in all his Episcopate. He represented Samoa in the Vatican 1 Council and when he died in his last trip to France, he wanted his heart to be brought back to Samoa and the relic is still in the Cathedral. He pushed the Samoan Mau of ‘Samoa mo Samoa at the hyena faces of the colonizing Europeans
1888- Bishop LAMAZE, who was stationed in Tonga took up the running of the Vicariate, The Marist Brothers arrived and established themselves in Samoa, pushing the Educational ministry for the sons of Samoa, The Mission Sisters from France also took up the girl’s education ministry. He shifted the main headquarters to Vaea from Saleufi, establishing the famous “Vaea Villa’. After a decade he moved back to Tonga at the arrival of Broyer in 1896. He is remembered for the Catholic Education ministry for our people
1896-1918 -BISHOP PIERRE JEAN BROYER- The local people addressed him as ‘Poloie’ He was the great planner and he took a grand step in the development of the Catholic missions during the time of the Germany Rule in Samoa. Together with the local Contender, Chief Mata’afa Iosefo, they confronted the one sided policy of the German Kaiser. With the assistance of Dr. Solf, he procured for the church the big land at Moamoa where he shifted the Headquarters of the Catholic Mission. He is resting at the Catholic Cemetary at Moamoa. This was rather a decade of peaceful management in the land. After the 1stWorld War, the Germans Rule ended and replace by the British and the New Zealand Military Administration.
1919-1953 - BISHOP JOSEPH DARNAND (1879-1962)
As the deadly Spanish Flu slowly subsided, Bishop Darnand arrived to managed and carry on for next four decades the Vicariate in the troublesome time of the New Zealand Police Force Administration. From 1923 to 1930 together with his Samoan flock created Moamoa as the established headquarters of the Catholic Mission. The SMSM sisters with the indigenous branch and school, the Catechist school was maintained there and the Seminary for native vocation started to flourish from there. Together with the devastation of the Flu Epidemic partly resulting from NZ administrative mismanagement, the Samoan Mau Movement became a political force against brutalities of the NZ Police Force. Bishop Darnand appointed Fr Deil as the Chaplain of the Mau Movement the Samoans withstood and pleaded to the United Nations for Independence. When he saw the political waters calming down, he retired in 1953 with the ecclesiastical request to Rome that the Apostolic of the Navigators and American Samoa is ripe for the next phrase of becoming a Diocese on its own. His dreams and sacrifice were recompensated when Samoa finally broke the chain of colonization and became the first Pacific Island Nation to regain independence with it’s banner of “SAMOA MO SAMOA”. He died a very happy Catholic leader in the struggle of our people on the same day the Flag of Sovereignty was hoisted at Mulinu’u in June 1962.
1954-1955- BISHOP DIETER JEAN BAPTISTE DIETER-(1903- 1955)
Fr. Giovanni Batista from Germany arrived in Samoa with Fr Heslin in 1937 and slowly built up his mastery of the Samoan language at Aleipata,. He was the most eloquent missionary ever in the land of Samoa. He was dubbed the Chryostomos (golden mouth) of Samoa he was a great Preacher and cultural orator. The people called him ‘Ioane’ and they flock to wherever he celebrates and preached. He became the appointed Samoan orator by Bishop Darnand in all his annual visitation of the Mission. When Bishop Darnand retired, he was asked to be his successor but he declined for medical reason. The Vatican used the soothing touch and he accepted in spite his feeble condition for obedience. He became the last Bishop of the Vicariate Era and he served for only one year. His greatest feat was to become the ecclesiatical ring of the past and the modern church in Samoa. The Pastoral plan he laid out for the Vicariate was truly commended. He was so proud when he ordained as priests ‘his Twins’, Fr Pio Taofinu’u and Fr Maselino Mulipola. He was taken to Auckland when his condition deteriorated and he died there on the 28th of June, 1955. Samoa mourned so much his passing. Bishop Ameto his successor carry on his pastoral recommendations.
DIOCESE OF SAMOA – APIA
1956-BISHOP AMETO GEORGE H. PEARCE (1911-2015)
Bishop Ameto arrived in Samoa in 1949 from Boston, US and was a great Teacher and missionary. The College of Chanel is his pearl. He became the first Bishop of the newly founded Diocese of Samoa. He attended the Ecumenical Vatican II Council from 1962 -1965. He took Fr Pio Taofinu’u as his secretary, in a way he was grooming the son of Samoa for the future of the local Church. He is the Father of the Carmelite Nuns at Vailima. In 1967, he was appointed to the Metropolitan See of Suva. He was one of the special quests in 1995 with the 150thcelebration of the Arrival of the Catholic mission in Samoa. He died in Boston in 2015, at the age of 94.
1968-BISHOP PIO TAOFINU’U -2ndbishop of the Diocese.
In 1968 in May 29th, Fr Pio Taofinuu was consecrated and installed Bishop of Samoa and Tokelau.He became the first Polynesian Bishop in the Catholic Church. Milestones: He implemented the phrases of the Vatican 11 teachings. Great Developer of the Theology of Inculturation, in setting the Fa’aSamoa in the Christian liturgy and worship. Development of the Tofamamao Center at Leauva’a in Upolu and the Fatuaiga Center in American Samoa. The influx of Samoan vocation in the local Clergy and introduction Samoans in many Missionary Orders and Religious Institutes and.1970- The Papal Visit of St.Pope Paul VI where he showcase the Samoan inculturated Celebration of the Eucharist. 1973- On March 5thin the Consistorium in Rome, Bishop Pio Taofinuu was elevated to the college of Cardinals by Pope Paul Vi, becoming the first ever Cardinal from the Pacific Islands.
In 1995, he installed the Diocese of Samoa as a Missionary sender Diocese in Jamaica, West Indies and Latin America.
1970- PAPAL VISIT TO THE ISLAND NATION OF SAMOA
In November 29th1970, St Pope Paul VI in his maiden pilgrimage to the southern hemisphere graced our Island with a stopover visit to congratulate our Island Nation with its triumphant independence, as the Vatican City State expressed. Also Samoa is the most furtherest Diocese of the Universal Church from Rome in time and space. The mystery of this great apostolic event in our history concludes why our Elders have labeled in 1845 the Catholic Church as the “LOTU POPE” and not the Lotu Uvea!
He launched from Leulumoega, the Missionary Call for the Universal Church.
1981-AUXILLIARY BISHOP PATI VINCENT HURLEY (1912-1992)
Fr. Patrick Vincent Hurley arrived in Samoa in 1972, He and 5 members of the Redemptorist Fathers of New Zealand were the first religious Order to come to Samoa after the Papal Visit of St Pope Paul VI. He was the oldest priest at the Itu o Tane as their station was at Safotu Parish When Bishop Pio Taofinuu was elevated to the college of Cardinals, he was granted the opportunity to have an auxiliary Bishop as his pastoral support and also for the coming event of Samoa to be a Metropolitan See in 1982.. Fr Pati as the oldest priest at the time, was in favour and in 1981, He was consecrated at Safotu1982 on the 17th of May. It became a unique, mystical and cultural event ever happened in the history of Samoa, from all corners Christ’s faithful came to witness the sacred occasion in Savaii. After 10 years he retired home on the 22nd of May and in 1st of November he died in New Zealand. He is buried at the Catholic cemetery at Panmure.
1982- METROPOLITAN SEE OF SAMOA-APIA
The Holy See announced that Samoa coming of age as an Archdiocese with its suffragan of the new Diocese of Samoa- Pago Pago with the Mission Sui Iuris of Tokelau and Funafuti
2003- ARCHBISHOP ALAPATI LUI MATAELIGA, LSS, D.D. (January, 4th 1953 to present)
In 2002 His Eminence late Cardinal Pio Taofinuu, D.D retired to Vailele and Fr Alapati Lui Mataeliga son of Vaoliko Sui Panitaleo Mataeliga (Sataua, Samalaeulu & Matatufu-Lotofaga)and Lauiliu Florina Vaoliko Mataeliga nee Utu Samuelu (Sataua & Amouli, American Samoa) was appointed by the Holy See in November of that year to succeed His Eminence. He was born on January 4thin the village of Sataua in the big Island of Savaii, 1953 as his parents’ eldest son. He has four sisters and three brothers.
He studied at Sataua Primary School and was transferred to Chanel College, Moamoa for his secondary education. In 1972 he entered the Pacific Regional Seminary in Suva, Fiji. On the 5thof July, 1977 he was ordained to the priesthood with 3 other men by His Eminence Cardinal Pio Taofinuu, D.D at the Feiloaimauso Hall, Apia at the age of 24 years old.
Soon after his ordination he was assigned as an assistant to the Pastor at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph the Worker in American Samoa (1977-1979). From September 1979 to June of 1983 he studied Sacred Scriptures at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome and graduated with a Licentiate in Sacred Scriptures (LSS). He returned home and did some more parish work in American Samoa. From 1984 to 1986 he taught Sacred Scriptures and was Dean of Studies at the Pacific Regional Seminary in Suva, Fiji. In 1987 to 1992 he was appointed Parish Priest of three Parishes in the Diocese of Samoa Pago-Pago, Tafuna, Laulii and Alao.
He returned to Apia in 1992 and was appointed by His Eminence Cardinal Pio Taofinuu, D.D as Director of the Tofamamao Pastoral and Cultural Centre, also as Coordinator of Pastoral Renewal Programs in the Archdiocese of Samoa-Apia in preparation for the 150th Anniversary of the Catholic Church in Samoa from 1992 to 1995.
He was appointed as Program Coordinator for the Missionary Brothers of St. Joseph the Worker from 1995 to 1997. In March of 1996 he was appointed as Pastoral Coordinator and Vocation Director and Diocesan Representative for the Planning Committee for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. From 1998 to 2002 he was appointed for the second time as Director of the Tofamamao Pastoral and Cultural Centre.
On the 11th of November, 2002 a representative of the Holy See met with him in private sharing the news of his new appointment as the successor of His Eminence Cardinal Pio Taofinuu, D.D which was later announced to the public on the 16th of November, 2002.
And just before his 50th birthday on the Feast of the Holy Name of Christ, he was Consecrated to the Episcopate and Installed as the Archbishop of Samoa-Apia by His Eminence, The Most Reverend Archbishop †Patrick Coveney, Apostolic Nuncio to CEPAC on January 3rd, 2003 at the Tofamamao Pastoral and Cultural Centre in the presence of his predecessor, bishops from all over Oceania, clergy, religious and the laity of Samoa-Apia as well as participants from around the region.
He is currently the Ecclesiastical Superior to the Missio Sui Iuris of Tokelau and Continental Coordinator of Divine Mercy in the Oceania Region for almost 10 years. On December 2nd, 2017 he was ranked and given the title Hon. Knight Commander of Grace by the Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem (Knights of Malta).
“Auauna atu ae le auauina” is his motto and in humility with the Grace of God he hopes to live according to our Lord’s Holy Will.
His Grace on behalf of the Divine Mercy Apostolate of Oceania welcomes all participants of the Fifth World Apostolic Congress on Mercy which will be held in Samoa from 21st to the 26th of May, 2023. Talofa lava and Welcome to Oceania!
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