By Mark Michael

The Moana Community of Saint Clare, an indigenous women’s religious order on the Polynesian Island of Fiji, celebrated five years of ministry and welcomed their first novice this week. Miliva Tokariki, 22, will continue her university studies in geography and history, while also helping at Saint Christopher’s Home, an orphanage run by the community in Nasinu, near Suva, the Fijian capital.

“I love children, and so I thought of the children of the Home and how there’s a need for young girls to come and give their life to God — and to live in the life of chastity, prayer and humble service,” Tokariki told the New Zealand-based Anglican Taonga.

A native of Rabi, a tiny island in the Northern part of the Fijian archipelago, Tokariki grew up in Suva, and was a resident of St. Christopher’s Home for two years before beginning her university studies. She felt a call to the ministry at a Christian conference. “I decided to let the sisters know my decision and low-key pray about it,” she said. Tokariki has spent six months as a postulant.

“It’s very exciting to have Miliva come to ask us if she could spend a gap year testing her vocation.” said Sr. Kalolaine Tuinea’u, one of the community’s founders and the sister in charge of St. Christopher’s. “We believe that if it is God’s will that this order grows, then God will call women to this mission.”

Sister Kalolaine says that it’s a surprise and a delight to see how Miliva embraces her call. “She just laughs when other young people make fun of her little [postulant’s] habit, and she doesn’t mind when her school friends say to her, ‘You must be mad.”

Tuinea’u herself was recently honored for her 27 years of service at St. Christopher’s Home. She was one of four public servants awarded a 50th Anniversary Independence Commemorative Medal by the nation’s president, Joji Konrote, in a ceremony at State House on November 25.

A native Tongan, Tuinea’u began her ministry as a sister of the Community of the Sacred Name, a religious order for indigenous Polynesian women that had been founded in Christchurch, New Zealand in 1893. She and another sister, Vutolongo Tuinea’u, were released by the Community of the Sacred Name in 2016 to pioneer a new order focused especially on the faith and social needs of Polynesian Anglicans, while the mother community continues to serve in New Zealand

The order’s 2016 Constitution says that “The word Moana is used by the Moana Community of St. Clare to indicate the context of the religious life. Moana, an ancient word indigenous to Polynesia, means Ocean. The Moana Community of St. Clare, guided by God’s Spirit, seeks to live discipleship of Jesus in ways relevant to the Oceanic context. The Community draws from the wealth of the past but seeks fresh and contemporary expression of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

The new order’s work was initially shepherded by the Most Rev. Winston Halapua, the Bishop of Polynesia. As the leader of the Tikanga Pasefika, one of the three “cultural streams” of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia, Halapua was also one of the church’s three co-equal archbishops and primates until his retirement in 2018. His wife, the Rev. Janet Halapua, now serves as chaplain to the Moana Community of St. Clare.

The community is also nearly finished raising funds for the construction of the Moana St. Clare Boy’s Home, a residence for teenage orphans adjacent to the campus of St. Christopher’s. Because of government regulations, boys raised at the home now have to be moved at the age of twelve to a Methodist home on the other side of the island, a transition that was often difficult for the children.

When construction is complete, Sister Kaloline said, “The children will see each other every day at the 7:30 a.m. Holy Communion service in St Christopher’s Church, and will still be together as part of children’s and youth activities here on Sundays.”  The home is expected to cost almost $1 million Fiji dollars ($498,000 USD) and construction is scheduled to begin in March.