A Joyful Columban Missionary
Losana Ve'ehala of Tonga passed away unexpectedly at the Columban lay missionary house in Suva, Fiji, on Sunday, December 10, 2017. Tongan Fr. Taukei, in his homily at the house, asked us "Why did she die in Suva, why did she die with the Columbans?"
Losana left the Columban program about 10 years ago and returned to Tonga to care for her father who is still alive. Though she left the program, she never left the Columbans. She was our volunteer worker in Tonga and did Trojan work for us there, especially preparing candidates for the Columban seminary and lay mission program.
Born on January 27, 1967, Losana is the third of the nine Ve'ehala children to pass away. Their father is now in his nineties. Losana grew up on Tongatapu, the main island of Tonga and after primary schooling in Niutoa, her village, attended St. John's College, the oldest Catholic secondary school in Tonga.
She worked for some years after school in the Ministry of Finance in Nuku'alofa, the capitol. She then thought she would try a religious vocation but fi nally settled on the lay missionary vocation which she joined in 1996.
Fr. Charles Duster, a Columban from the United States was then in charge of the lay mission program, and Losana spent a year under his tutelage as she prepared herself for mission. On Mission Sunday 1996 she was missioned to the Philippines by then Archbishop Petero Mataca of Suva. There she had to go back to school again to learn the Tagalog language and become familiar with Philippine culture. For the next seven years she worked with the poor and downtrodden while being based in historic Malate, the great Columban parish of Manila.
In 2004, she returned to Fiji and ran the lay mission program herself in Suva, fi rst with Vosita and then by herself. After three years of this, she decided it was time to return home and look after her father. She got a job in the Diocesan Offi ce ministering to children. The Columbans have a small house in Tonga, and she stayed there during the week and looked after Columban interests in Tonga. We will sorely miss her.
We invited her to Suva for the opening of the Columban centennial celebrations and for Fr. Pat Visanti's ordination. A person bubbling over with joy, she brought light and laughter with her everywhere. Little did we know that Losana had come home to die.
She was scheduled to travel to Rotuma, Fr. Pat's island, for his First Mass there. She felt unwell and stayed in Suva. She collapsed, and they took her unconscious to hospital. After four days she was discharged with a diagnosis of asthma. In the following days there was a lot of banter. She said, "You will take my body to Tonga!" Vitalina Lubi, her classmate under Fr. Duster joked, "Are you ready to go?" "Yes, I am," she replied.
It was an asthma attack that took her so suddenly on December 10. The answer, Fr. Taukei, is this: She died in the Columban lay mission house in Suva because she was still a Columban at heart.
Accompanying her remains to Tonga for the funeral, together with her sister Maletina who had come to Fiji to help, it became clear how much she was appreciated. Her diocesan colleagues, priests and lay co-workers, were at the airport to greet her. Crowds, Catholic and Methodist, came to her home to pray and visit. Finally, on Tuesday, December 19, Cardinal Mafi celebrated her funeral Mass. Losana, may He who told you to "go and make disciples," now welcome you into His Father's kingdom.
Columban Fr. Donal McIlraith lives and works in Fiji.