Sisters reunite after 44 years

By Sarafina Sanerivi 04 June 2016, 12:00AM

Enriching the great bonds and renewing friendships are the main objectives for the reunion of the St. Mary’s College class of 1972, which started yesterday. 

Twenty out of the forty girls who graduated from the College 44 years ago are gathering in Samoa this week where the activities include a trip to the big island of Savai’i.

A thanksgiving mass at the St. Mary’s College school Hall at Vaimoso kicked started the formalities.

The mass was conducted by Fr. Mosese Vitolio Tui who highlighted the importance of friendship and sisterhood. 

He congratulated representatives of the Class of 1972 for the initiative and for not forgetting about St. Mary’s College. He also challenged the senior class of 2016 to learn from the class of 1972.

“They were once students like you guys as well,” he told the Seniors of St. Mary’s College. 

“And look at all of them now, they have achieved so much in life and after all these years, they never forget their roots and their presence here today can be a great motivation for all of you.”

Sheree Stanley Stehlin, who was selected to be the Head Girl of the group, said the idea to have a reunion was born when they all gathered for the 150 years of S.M.S.M last year. 

“When we came for the 150th Anniversary, we realised that we needed to come together not only as a class but as sisters,” she said. “And that idea was stuck at the back of our heads until we all gathered again for the funeral of one of our very old teachers, who passed away last year, Ms. Gillian from America.

“She was a very influential teacher and she taught us a lot of things and when we gathered together for her funeral, we started to actually plan to have this reunion.”

They only had one year of planning, said Ms. Stehlin.

Ten of them started the plan and it was not hard to get the others on board. 

“Everyone agreed to have the reunion and it was so fun planning out everything for the reunion, like the good old days.”

They created a Facebook page called the ‘St. Mary’s Class of 1972 Babes’ and from there, the rest as they say, is history.

 “We were all excited and looking forward to this day,” she said. “And now that we are here, even though some of our sisters couldn’t make it, we know for sure that their hearts and spirits are here with us.” Being back to where their friendship started was emotional for most of them. 

“We wanted to have the mass here to begin our reunion because our bond started here.

“This school has built us to become the people we are today and we are here to pay tribute to all the teachers who moulded and nurtured us when we were students here. 

“The sisters back in our days taught us to live quality lives, not just academically, but also spiritually. They shaped us and taught us to carry ourselves well as young women. And we didn’t know what they meant until we became older and became mothers.”

The reunion provides an opportunity for the ladies to reminisce about the past, share their experiences in life and renew the bond and friendship.  Some of them travelled from afar just for the reunion.

They have representatives from the United States of America, Australia, New Zealand, China and American Samoa.  Silverina Chan-Mow To’omata a lawyer by profession, who came all the way from China for the reunion, said she was thrilled to be reunited with her sisters. 

“I was already excited for this reunion even before I arrived,” she said. “And now that it is happening, I couldn’t stop smiling. It’s so wonderful that I get emotional sometimes because I never thought that after 44 years, we would all come together again and have the same bond we had back then.”

Reflecting back to her College days, Mrs. To’omata said she learnt a lot of great things from the Sisters who taught them back in College.  “Things that helped make me the person I am today.

And although some of them are not around anymore, we are here to pay tribute to all the memories we had of them and talk about all the things they’ve done for us when we were here.” As for Rosaline Vaeau Fuatai, a barrister from Auckland, she said being here for the reunion brings back all the memories they shared in college. 

“I was suspended one time and was in detention a lot of times when I was here,” she said. “But that taught me a very great lesson and In have helped build up my character.

The Sisters taught us not only to become successful in school, but they also taught us to become good mothers and good wives. And we are forever grateful to them for all the lessons they have taught us.”

Sister Emanuela, who was one of the teachers for the Class of 1972 was also present yesterday and the group presented her with a gift for her 80th Birthday, as their way of thanking her for all the things they taught them.

Sister Emanuela was a Geography and History teacher at St. Mary’s College.  The Class of 1972 also presented gifts for the Sisters and Teachers of the College. They donated a lounge suite, a boiler and a cooler.  Ms. Stehlin presented the gift on behalf of the Class of 1972 to the teachers and Sisters yesterday. 

She said they asked the teachers if there was anything they wanted for the school, and the teachers gave them a list of all the things they wanted. “But we chose to buy a lounge suit and other things for the staffroom for the teachers and Sisters.”

The class had a welcome dinner last night at the Kokobanana Restaurant. And today, they will be leaving for Savai’i where they will stay at the Lauiula Beach Fales, which is owned by one of the classmates, Rosemary Ah Chong.

The group will return to Upolu on Monday where they will have a farewell dinner and aiava at the Royalty Lodge and Restaurant at Fa’atoia. 

By Sarafina Sanerivi 04 June 2016, 12:00AM

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