Meet Father Mosese Tui

 

15 February 2011 | OUR PEOPLE

Fr Mosese is the Principal of Don Bosco High School and Vocational Centre in Saleleloga, which commenced in February 2011.

 

The construction of the school buildings is currently underway. The new school is the only Catholic secondary school on Savai’i, the larger but less populated and less developed of Samoa’s two main islands.

Where did the idea of establishing a Catholic secondary school in Savai’i come from? Why did the Salesians decide to establish a secondary school in Savai’i? Whose idea?

Don Bosco is not the first Catholic secondary school on Savai’i. There have been two others and they operated for more than thirty years but for a complex variety of reasons they were both closed about 10 years ago. Ever since, it has been the long held dream of Archbishop Alipati and the Catholic faithful of Savai’i to have another secondary school for the Catholic children of Savai’i.

What is distinctive about Don Bosco High School and Vocational Centre is that it is centred upon the main village of Savai’i, that it is co-educational and that in combines academic education and technical-vocational training.

I understand that working in Savai’i is a bit of a homecoming for you.

Yes and no. Yes, because I did my secondary education here. And no, because I spent most of my early years in Apia. My mother was from Savai’i and my father from American Samoa. They lived in Apia and were Catechists. Their first two villages where they were appointed in were in Savai’i.

How much support has there been for the establishment of a Don Bosco Centre in Savai’i?

There has been a lot of encouragement and moral support from many people and groups including the Archbishop, the Archdiocese, the Government of Samoa and the local Catholic community on Savai’i.

When the Archbishop requested the Salesians to take up this new venture, they eventually agreed after a long and difficult negotiation regarding land and other matters. The land has been leased in perpetuity from the Government provided it is used for educational purposes. So the Salesians, who are keen to expand their evangelising and educational outreach in Samoa, now have the support of the people, the Church, the Government and generous donors from overseas. We are hoping and praying that this is a good recipe for success.

I understand that the parish has had a lot of involvement in this project. Please explain the involvement of the local Parish?

This parish was created especially to facilitate this project and has been handed over to the responsibility of the Salesians. It is has even been named after St Francis de Sales, Don Bosco’s patron after whom the Salesians are named.

Not only have the parishioners been enormously supportive, they are also very excited about this project. It means a lot to them to finally have a Catholic secondary school here on the island. Most of the students are from this parish and many of the contractors and labourers building the school are also from the parish. Since we don’t have any facilities yet, we are currently using the parish hall and neighbouring homes as temporary classrooms. The presbytery kitchen and common room are being used as the staff room. Without the support of this parish and other local parish communities this project would never have eventuated.

Who are the other Salesians working on this project with you?

Fr Visesio Muliaga is Religious Education Co-ordinator, teaching RE full time. He is also the Assistant Parish Priest and doing a lot of work to help me cover the three Mass Centres in our parish. He is a great musician and has high hopes for the parish and school choirs. He is particularly excited about being able to develop a choir in a co-educational school because it will allow the choir to sing in four voices,

Br Tovia is the Co-ordinator of the Vocational Programme. At the moment he is my right hand man on the building project. He is very much involved in assisting with the supervision of contractors and labourers, he spends a lot of time ensuring we have the right supplies and materials delivered on time for the builders and then he is also working with our Vocational Teachers on the building project itself.

Where has the funding for this project come from?

50% of the funding is from the Australian Province, particularly from ASMOAF (the Australian Salesian Missions Overseas Aid Fund) and from the proceeds of the book “The Gospel According to Judas” that our Provincial, Fr Frank Moloney, wrote in collaboration with famous English novelist Geoffrey Archer.

The other 50% is coming from funds from German dioceses sourced for us by Don Bosco Missions GermanyWe are enormously grateful to all these people, famous and unknown, who have made large and small donations to enable this dream to become a reality.

You’re currently building on a site about 6 km away from the Parish Centre, what are the plans for the new school and vocational centre?

The land the Government gave us was nothing more than an extremely rough patch of volcanic rock covered by virgin rain forest. The first thing we had to do was clear the jungle, which was done by the parish helpers. This exposed the solid and loose rock where there were a series of ruts and peaks each in excess of two and sometimes three metres. It has been rough and difficult work to clear the site ready for construction. In fact, we have practically destroyed a backhoe, a bulldozer and a truck in the process.

The have been very lucky to have a wonderful architect by the name of Etuale Foti as the architect assisting us with the design of the school facilities. He is actually a member of the Salesian parish in Moamoa, a suburb of Apia.

When designing the campus we wanted a completely integrate approach, with the administration, classrooms, computers, workshops, library, and everything else being physically, spiritually and visually connected so that we all come together as one family. The inspiration for the plan has been the typical design of a traditional Samoan village, with the houses around the side and the malae* in the centre where everyone gathers to meet, exchange greetings play and enjoy themselves.

*Malae – centre clear area of a Samoan village, where everyone comes to talk, meet, play and drink kava

How is the construction process proceeding?

It is now the middle of March and the Administration building is almost complete. The first set of classrooms is about 50% built, the workshops are about 30% completed and the block containing the Library, computer laboratory and additional classrooms is about 20% completed.

We currently have three different teams working on different aspects of the overall project. They are all at different stages but progress is being made and we hope to move here to occupy the new facilities in June or July. We are planning a big opening with lots of dignitaries joining us to celebrate the opening of Don Bosco’s newest work in the world.

You said that you started the year with students but without buildings? Tells us about the beginning of the year? It must have been very exciting? Do you remember the first day?

I remember it well. It was an exciting day. We were a bit nervous as well. We have about 100 students enrolled in Year 9 and Year 10, the first years of secondary schooling here in Samoa. The students were excited and the parents were even more excited.

We started like we hope to continue, as a happy and united family. After the first mass, celebrated by the VG and concelebrated by a number of parish priests from across the island, we celebrated in typical Samoan and Salesian style, with food and activities.

I think there is a saying in English, a good start is a job half done. Well we had a very promising start. We commenced as a family and we are developing doing everything we can to develop that distinctive Salesian family spirit approach. When we move to the new facility were are going to really emphasise what Don Bosco established at the Oratory a home that welcomes, a church that evangelises, a school that educates for life and a playground where friends meet and enjoy themselves. The classroom and workshop facilities surrounding the malae is going to be our very own Oratory and we hope to do with and for these young people what Don Bosco did so many years ago.

We really want this school to develop a strong Salesian spirit. We also want to honour the memory of some of those great Salesians who have been pioneers and supports of the Salesian Mission here in Samoa. So the classes are each named after deceased Salesians who gave their life for the mission in Samoa, including (Fr Bill) Edwards, (Br Reg) Newport, (Fr Jim) Carroll and (Fr Ian) Murdoc

Tell us a little bit about your teachers? How many do you have and what are they doing at the moment.

The six High School teachers are conducting classes in the temporary facilities. They have a wide experience, especially in Catholic education. Some have been teaching for 20 years. This makes these teachers very expensive to hire but when people know you have good teachers they are more likely to have confidence in your school. The Maths Teacher, Mika Seluka, taught at Don Bosco, Alafua, for 10 years so he knows the Salesian spirit very well. The Science Teacher was previously the Deputy Principal at a school in Apia.

There are also six vocational teachers, most of whom are past pupils from Don Bosco Alafua who are originally from Savai’i. They will eventually teach plumbing, sheet metal, joinery, carpentry, welding, metal fabrication, small engines and motor mechanics. At the moment that are working on the building site and are actually helping to build the new school.

We have two Administration staff who are currently trying to establish all the student records and ensure that all the administrative details are attended to.

At the moment we also have two young Australian volunteers from the Salesian Cagliero Project. Michael is teaching computer skills to the office staff, organising the student data base and teaching reading. Jeremy is a trained and qualified painter and has taught the vocational teachers painting skills which they are currently practising in finishing the administration building.

How many students do you have at the moment? Where do they come from? What is their background?

There are about 100 students from this district Faasaleleaga district, which includes the Saleleloga parish. There are representatives from all around the island but most are from the St Francis de Sales parish in Saleleloga.

I know you’ve put a lot of time and thought into the motto for Don Bosco High School and Vocational Centre. What did you eventually come up with?

We have used the spirituality of St Francis de Sales as the fundamental point of reference and inspiration for our motto and have decided upon “honesty, respect, love”. This is what we really want to teach our students. We want them to become good Christians and honest citizens by being honest, respectful and loving.

The three of us, Br Tovia, Fr Vise and I, did the 2010 retreat on St Francis de Sales and we all really felt that if you probe into the depths of Francis’ spirituality there is a deep appreciation of humanity which is given expression when we are honest, respectful and loving of God, of others and of ourselves.

“Honesty, respect and love” is more than a motto for us. It is our dream for our students. We hope that we can give them the knowledge and skills to contribute to society. But who they are in society will make all the difference. If they are people of honest, respect and love they will become people who can help transform our society and make our world a better place.

I sense a real pioneering spirit at work here. How would you describe it?

There is a really positive spirit here where we are creating something from nothing. I guess we are pioneers. But we are also standing on the shoulders of others who have gone before us and the many generous people who have made this project possible. I always feel really excited when I am surrounded by the teachers, the students and their parents. We feel we are in debt to the parish for being able to use their facilities. They feel like it has been a blessing for them.

However, it is a bit different when I go to the building site it is very different. That is a big burden for me to carry. The buildings and facilities are going to be wonderful, they will be the pride of Samoa and that’s really important. But for me, this is a duty and while I do it with all my heart it is challenging and life-draining work, whereas the work with the teachers and the students is life-giving. 

What other assistance is required? How can people support Don Bosco Saleleloga? What projects are you looking to fund?

We have been very lucky and most blest to have some generous support from Don Bosco Missions Germany and the Australian Salesian Missions Office. This will cover most of the construction work. But we still have to secure funding for some of the furniture and equipment. Setting up the computer laboratory is a particular project we still need to fund, I’m not sure yet what we’ll do that. But as Don Bosco used to say: “God will provide!”.

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