by ROWENA OREJANA
AUCKLAND — The Ta’imua Malaeola Youth Group is keeping both the Catholic faith and the Samoan
culture alive among New Zealand-born Samoan youth.

The sorrow of Mary is reenacted in the play, The Passion of the Christ.

Ta’imua chairman Michael Tanoai said the group, which was formed five years ago, had already sent three young men to Rome as seminarians of the Mission of Faith, had one girl discerning about the religious life, another young man studying to be a deacon and a couple married.
“It’s a youth-driven, youth-focused programme for young Samoan Catholics,” he said.
Last Easter, the group performed the Samoan version of The Passion of the Christ as a fundraising activity. Four bishops were in the audience: Auckland Bishop Patrick Dunn, American Samoa Bishop Peter Brown, Samoa Archbishop Alapati Lui Mataeliga and
Huehuetenango Bishop Álvaro Ramazzini from Guatemala.
The group raised $1000 from the Passion play, with the money donated to the Auckland City Mission. The group also taught the children not only to hand supper to the homeless but to be more personal in their dealings with people.
“We explained to them what Pope Francis is doing. And we said, when you give the plate of supper, you just don’t hand it and walk away. You have to give them with all your hearts. Talk to them. Look them in the eye. Pray with them,” said Mr Tanoai.
He said along with teaching the Samoan culture, they also run youth programmes based on Pope Benedict XVI’s Youth Catechism for the Catholic Church, or YouCat.
“About 80 to 90 kids attend every Monday. What we targetted was 13-year-olds to 30-year-olds. But because when the 13-year-olds come the parents bring their youngest siblings; we have members from about age one to now 35,” he said.
The children come to the Malaeola Centre in Mangere every Monday from 5 to 8.30pm. They are led by Fr Michael Endemann.
“Every Monday night, we do praise and worship, we pray to the the Divine Mercy, we do the cause for the day, we do reflection. And then a youth member does a Samoan speech to welcome everyone,” Mr Tanoai said.
“We do a lot of stuff around the structure of the Mass, so the kids understand what the Mass is. Because they just go to Mass to keep their parents quiet, to be honest. But now they are at the stage in their lives when they want to fully understand the liturgy of the word, the liturgy of the Eucharist, the importance of the consecration and just the passion.”
The group is preparing and practising the English version of The Passion of the Christ play they performed before the bishops. They will give this performance at the World Youth Day to be held at the Victory Centre on July 13.
“We’ve added a Samoan twist to it. So at the end of The Passion of the Christ, I’ll come out with what we call the to’o to’o and a fue,” he explained. “Because I’ve got the Samoan tattoo, I’ll come out and I’ll deliver a message in Samoan to really push to the Catholics what the death of Jesus means to us as young Catholics.”
The to’o to’o is a staff , while the fue is a sort of a flywhisk that is a symbol of the orator chief’s status.
The group was founded by Fr Iosefo Timu and Tofaeona Tanuvasa. Those who are interested in joining can just show up at the centre on a Monday night.

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