Sr Rita Raikuna sm was called to eternal life on Saturday 8th April 2017.
Eternal Rest grant to her, OLord.
May perpetual Light Shine upon her.
May she rest in Peace.
We extend our prayerful sympathy to the Marist Sisters in Fiji and to Sr Rita’s family. The following eulogy was delivered at her funeral.
Sr Rita or simply Rita as she was known to us, her Sisters, was a joyful person, full of life and always quick to pass a comment and bring laughter to any group she was part of. She brought warmth and joy to any group. She was a live-wire.
Rita was born on the 16th September 1948 and was the third child of Mr Nemani Raikuna (a Police Officer) and Mrs Luisa Raikuna (a Teacher). She attended a few primary schools, as a result of her parents’ postings. These schools included Marist Convent School Levuka, St Anne’s Primary School Suva and Wairiki Catholic Mission School. Rita received her secondary education at Loreto High School in Levuka. This was her first introduction to the Marist Sisters. After completing High school, she was successfully accepted into Corpus Christi Teachers College, from where she graduated in 1969.
Her first teaching post was Bemana Primary School in Sigatoka in 1970. There, she thoroughly enjoyed her single life as a teacher. Her weekends included expeditions across the river for shopping and dances in the mission hall in the parish compound. She always had us in stitches of laughter as she retold those real life stories of her four years in Bemana.
1975 saw her teaching in Mount St Mary’s in Nadi and it was then she decided to become a Marist Sister. The following year she became a postulant and was transferred to teach at Marist Convent School, Lami so as to be under the guidance of Sr. Eamon.
She was received as a novice on the 14th December 1976 in Merrylands, Australia where our novitiate was at that time and made her first profession there on the 18th December 1977. After profession she came back home to Fiji and taught in our schools namely – St Thomas Primary, Marist Convent Lami, Marist Convent Levuka, Convent School Vatukoula, and Nasomolevu Catholic School in Yasawa.
In 1989 she was asked to be missioned to The Gambia in West Africa. She once said that it was with mixed feelings of appreciation, apprehension and a little excitement that she responded to the call. Appreciation – as she felt privileged to be chosen; apprehension – the fear of going into the unknown; and excitement – to find out what was out there. She fitted in easily and was well accepted by the people of Farafenni in The Gambia. She loved her work and was happy. She loved the people and was at home with them.
Then in 1995 she was asked to return home, to be the Novice Directress. Her response was and I quote, “I was struck dumb and numb the whole evening.” If you know Rita, you cannot imagine her being struck dumb or numb. But in her simplicity and humility she responded to the call, her words being and again I quote, “Through my vow of obedience, I acknowledge my shortcomings and weaknesses and will do what the Lord wills in my life.”
She packed up, said her good byes and returned home.
Back here in Fiji she was involved in Formation until she was elected a Regional Councillor and went to live in New Zealand. During that period she attended our General Chapter in Rome and was elected to be a General Councillor, which meant living and working in Rome for a term of seven years. During her time there, she brought much joy and laughter to the community as well as those who visited the community.
It was towards the end of her seven years term she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. This was coupled with rheumatism. Both conditions progressed quickly and caused her a lot of pain which began to cripple her.
Her inability to do certain activities was a big cross; at times almost too heavy to carry. In spite of her suffering and pain, the spark of her lively spirit never faded and they carried her to the end.
She was a woman, a Sister, gifted with many gifts, bright, outgoing (a real extravert) popular with youth. She was conscientious and efficient. In leadership role, she cared for the development of her staff and Sisters, and the spiritual growth of the children in the schools. She had a genuine concern for others and this was manifested in her involvement in pastoral ministry and parish activities. Most importantly she was faithful to her hour of prayer in the mornings before 6.30am Mass. Rita radiated joy, was generous and sensitive in contributing to the communal work load.
Thank you, Rita, for your example of simplicity, joy and faithfulness to our Marist way of living. I can hear you echoing the advice of Sr. Mary Christopher, “When responsibility clashes with pleasure, pleasure must go and responsibility take precedence.” Thank you Rita!