Being some notes just received from the Right Reverend the Bishop of Melanesia [Walter Hubert Baddeley].
247 George Street
February 18, 1935.
IN 1929, the year the Sisters of the Cross came to Melanesia, two Brothers--Ini and Daniel--were sent to begin the evangelization of the outlying island of Sikaiana, which was inhabited by folk of Polynesia origin, and until then all heathen.
It was among those who came early under instruction for Baptism that the first women aspirants to the Religious Life were found. It is indeed astonishing that more than a year before their Baptism, two young women--Ann and Marie--went to Brother Ini to enquire if there was not some consecrated way of life, like that of the Brothers, open to women, because that was "the way" they wished to follow. Brother Ini told them of the newly-arrived Sisters at Siota, and promised to find out if it would be possible for them to be associated with the Sisters for a time. In the absence of the Bishop, Sister Margaret could give no definite answer when approached, and indeed hesitated, in such early days of the Church in Sikaiana, to give even encouragement. Then came the long period of no communication between Sikaiana and headquarters, owing to the withdrawal of "Southern Cross V." and the wreck of her successor. But the two "aspirants" clung to their hope, while keeping their own counsel in the matter for fear of arousing too much opposition among their people.
It was more than three years after their first approach to Brother Ini that Bishop Baddeley, newly arrived in Melanesia, visited Sikaiana and learned from them that they were still as desirous as ever of going to the Sisters for a while--"to test their vocation." The Bishop expressed his willingness to take them, and, quickly packing up their few possessions, with the full consent of their parents, they sailed away to what was to them "the quite unknown."
They arrived at Siota somewhat bewildered, for they had never before left their own small island. But they were obviously delighted to have got even so far upon their way, and plainly filled with ardent desires to learn. Their delight in every new thing learnt was a joy to see; and with their quickness to learn went spiritual insight and a steadiness of purpose even more rare.
As soon as possible, they were given opportunities to help in the Sisters' school. After two years of such experience, Ann (the elder by four or fives years) has shown herself to be almost the ideal teacher for young children. She has now a small class of about a dozen boys and girls, just above the kindergarten stage, whom she teaches in a separate little school-house close to Sister Gwen's--the latter supervising Ann's preparation. The result is that that small class is a joy to see. Never were there twelve better-behaved and more interested children, and between them and their "teacher" there is a very real bond of affection.
Marie has rather more practical ability--and a better memory--than Ann. She, too, is engaged in teaching under the sponsorship of Sister Madeleine. She is perfectly charming with the small chil-[2/3]dren (indeed charm of manners and quickness of intellect are features of all the Sikaiana folk--male and female--among the Brothers, at Bunana and the boys' schools at Maravovo and Pawa).
When the Bishop next visited Sikaiana some months later, five other young women expressed the desire to join Ann and Maria. To two of them it turned out to be no more than a hastily planned adventure. They were very charming, but quite devoid of the steady, unselfish purpose which is so striking in the others, and they were taken back to their homes on the next trip of the "Southern Cross." The other three quickly settled down to a routine of work and prayer, with a regular allowance of time for their own pursuits. In a few months they learnt to do many useful things: laundry work, the use of the sewing-machine (and already they have made some quite good frontals), elementary medical work at the daily Dispensary, and--a great joy--the feeding of the fowls and the milking of the goats. They, too, now take part in the teaching in the school, and get a very ready response from the children.
Mary Magdalene seems the most mature of the newcomers--a very steady, reliable person, with good ability and plenty of sense.
Ruth is very quiet: a wide-eyed, simple-minded girl who will become a very helpful and delightful "companion". Her great joy is to be with the animals.
Nesta, the youngest, is small but alert and full of life and fun. She responds eagerly to all that comes her way, whether grave or gay. Her needlework is excellent. She, too, will become a first-class teacher.
As it seemed clear both to the Bishop and Mother Margaret that the two first-comers were ready for "the next step", the Bishop admitted them to be Novices in the Community of the Cross on the Eve of S. Thomas'.
Now then, we have white and native united in one Community--but each following, more or less, the customs of their race in matters of food and domestic arrangements. The native Sisters would lose much of their value if they were not obviously and truly native. So they are called "Ta'ina"--the Sikaiana term for "sisters." Their habit is of the same material as that of their white sisters, but of Sikaiana pattern--which, as a matter a fact, seems ideally suitable. Their "Rule" must obviously remain for the present more or less unformulated--with the right spirit, not much in the way of Rule is necessary; without it, everything else is useless.
All expenses connected with the Ta'ina will fall upon the Community's somewhat limited resources. The Sisters wish it to be so, for so will the right family feeling be maintained.
Doubtless there will be some whose fears for the outcome of this new development may outweigh their hopes. But there are many of us here who believe this to be a movement of the Holy Spirit--Whom we confidently assert has been the Power in the establishing and building up of "The Brothers." And there will be many outside the borders of Melanesia who will rejoice. The Sisters ask for their prayers and help in such other ways as may be possible.
[back cover] "A recent 'snap' in the Field." [photo] "THE BISHOP"