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The Bougainvillea Flower

Faith and formation in Fiji

Faith in Action

By Liezl Ladaran

We had our retreat in Nadi Ashram in May 2014. During our retreat I was passing by the road from the house where I stayed to the dining hall, along the way I saw a beautiful bougainvillea. Despite being a very old tree with few leaves on it, I was struck by the beautiful flowers it had. Every time I passed the tree, I just had to look at it in wonder. I took some photos of it. I knew one day its meaning would be revealed to me.

Back here in Fiji in my new mission assignment the flower that caught my attention, was slowly unfolding its meaning. I saw one parishioner here in Ba, on the Western side of Fiji. She is an elderly 72 year old widow. She often caught my attention. I observed her always coming to church and being very active in all the church activates even at night. She is always present. She is one of the Faith and Formation members and is also involved in Columban Companions in Mission, our evangelization group. She also supports the Catholic Women's League. I have overserved that the people respect her very much. She is also an excellent leader and role model. I saw that her presence often encourages the people. Her words are very much valued. She is the pillar of strength in the group.

I have never encountered this kind of a person before with her love and commitment for the work of God even though she must use a walking stick to help her walk. She gives her time and energy. She is an asset to the church and community. She is there to support the church. She advises and encourages the people, and she is a very reliable person in her family, to the community and in the parish.

She is an example of a good follower of Jesus. She told me if you cannot see me in church that means I am not well. She is like Mother Mary who was always present wherever and whenever the apostles gathered.

This made me realize that faithful women are the backbone of the church not only here but also in many places. I saw her as a good example or a mirror of what Mother Mary had done during her time. In her I have seen the hidden work of Mother Mary.

People used to call her name "Bubu Sisi." (grandmother Sisi). She used to call me "Makubuqu" (my grandchild). She is a retired teacher. She is like an old bouganivillea that bears much fruit in her old age. It perfectly described her participation in the work of God.

One day I told her that I compared her with that old bougainvillea that bore beautiful flowers. She laughed and was happy to hear that I could make that comparison with her. Jesus was telling me that there is no retirement in serving God, and God still uses people as long as their spirit is willing to be guided by God.

I was really amazed by her love of the Lord, as she always said to me "For the love and work of our Lord Jesus Christ I can take an extra mile, for he gives me the strength."

She is a great role model to all the women in this parish. She has all the courage to go out and proclaim the word of God in the villages at her age, as long as she is able to. She always said, "Have faith in God, if God permits then I can go with you." She is a good example of someone who lives by her faith; she walks her talk. She always encourages other people to put their faith in action.

Columban lay missionary Liezl Ladaran lives and works in Fiji.