History created as Carmelite Sisters register to vote
Ten sisters of the Carmelite Monastery at Vailima have registered to vote in the 2021 General Elections.
It is the first time this has been done since the Monastery was established sixty years ago.
Despite the sisters committing to a life of devotion and prayers, Mother Antonina Maria told the Samoa Observer it is their right as Samoan citizens under the Constitution to vote.
There are 12 sisters at the monastery. Eleven are from Samoa, with one currently overseas for medical treatment, and another from Wallis and Futuna.
Mother Antonina joined the monastery in 1971 at the age of 19.
The 68-year-old from Togafuafua said that at the time when she pledged to serve God through devotion and prayers, only matai were permitted to vote.
However, she added that the Sisters voting is significant because they have a right to choose a person who is capable of leading the country.
“It is our job to pray for our country and our people that this coming elections will be the voice of God,” she said.
She added that they will pray for Samoa to choose the right person, the right people as leaders.
The idea to vote occurred to the Sisters after reading the Samoa Observer newspaper and finding out that there is a fine for those that do not register to vote for the upcoming elections.
“Just last week, a Sister said to me, 'Mother, if you do not vote you will get a penalty' but we do not have money to pay it (we always get the Samoa Observer newspaper from Gatoaitele Savea and Muliaga Jean) but I go through the paper and tick the articles for the Sisters to read.
“I contacted the Office of Electoral Commission (O.E.C.), they came and explained to us what the process is and we asked some questions it was a very helpful experience.
“The Sisters were very happy because now we finally participate. Some of us will vote for a candidate from Vaimauga [West].”
Mother Antonina added that there are so many people that come to them for prayers like the poor who need help.
“The new leaders need to bear in mind to help the poor because there are so many poor people in our country that come to us for help.
“But we can only help spiritually through prayers sometimes when we have food because so many people are so generous to us if we have enough for ourselves and give the rest for the poor to share.
“We pray for a good leader which is what we need for this country, good leadership, people who love the country and its people.”
Furthermore, she mentioned that some people can say one thing before elections and another once they get into office and they do something different.
“The people expect so much from them, they need to be with the people to know their needs, good leaders to help them and not just sit at the office and just forget about them while there are so many people in need.”
When asked about her opinion on the current leaders, she said that they are good.
“The Prime Minister is doing very well; they are doing their best, no one is perfect, we can never all satisfy everybody.
“We have been coping well because we have been closed since the lockdown.
“We all pray for the upcoming election to choose the right people, leaders. God works in mysterious ways.”
She said that God can use a simple person as an instrument to bring his message out.
“A farmer can sometimes do not have much education but he is God fearing and has love, with all his aim is for the good of everyone while those who have knowledge [do not fear God].”
A statement from the O.E.C. stated that the Carmelite Sisters are also Samoan citizens and they have proven that despite their holy calling.
“They also have an obligation as citizens to take ownership of their rights and obligations to embrace and participate in elections.
“This is the first time the O.E.C. executed Registration work at the Carmelite Monastery Vailima, as a formal request from Mother Antonina.
“With the supervision of Assistance Commissioner, Lefau Francis Ainuu on Monday 8th June 2020, the onerous task of getting the Registration process accurate and up-to-date, the office was pleased to deliver this service as a need-based to obtained registration information from the sister."