Solomon Islands
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Sisters of Charity Serving People in Need on Solomon Islands

The Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul are serving the poor and marginalized at their mission on the Solomon Islands, and local women are responding to their invitation to explore a religious vocation.

The Sisters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul from Croatia have been missionaries in the Solomon Islands for over 12 years.

They live on the island of Malaita, in the Diocese of Buma, in an area without electricity which is poorly connected to the capital by dangerous roads.

Local residents eke out a living by selling coconuts and fishing, and the Vincentian sisters help them by providing medicines, education and catechesis.

As the years pass, the fruits of their missionary work are becoming more evident. The Church in the Solomon Islands is growing, especially among young people.

The sisters have founded the Vincentian Marian Youth, whose numbers are constantly growing. Young people are eager to learn more about their faith and to be active in the Church, according to the religious women.

The Vincentian Sisters are also committed to helping women, particularly single mothers, at their “St. Luise de Marillac” Centre, where they offer sewing and literacy courses.

The sisters seek to teach people in economic difficulty how to support themselves, with a special focus on women and children.

Education is one of the main priorities that the sisters can help to ensure. Many children fail to attend school because their parents are unable to afford the tuition fees.

Sr. Veronika Cibaric is among the Croatian-born missionary sisters in the Solomon Islands. In an interview with Vatican News, she described how generous people from all over the world help keep their mission alive.

Croatian volunteers from Australia have built houses where the sisters work and run educational programs. Donors also contribute to school tuition fees, as well as medicine and clothing for people in need.

“Malaria is very frequent here, but unfortunately there are no medicines or drugs for malaria at the clinic. We try to help at least the children and pregnant women,” said Sr. Veronika.

Islands that some even call "forbidden", because they are barely visible on the map, are now being born to the faith. Several local women have joined the Croatian congregation, so that the Buma community now has two professed sisters, a novice and two candidates from Solomon Islands.

“They want to bring God close to their people,” said Sr. Veronika. “And we are here close to the poor. We are not in the town. We are in rural area among them, close to them and they have a safe place, like a hope. They can come to us and ask, even though many times we cannot provide everything what they need, but at least they have hope in us and I believe that those girls, our young sisters and those who are joining us, recognize it.”

The Church celebrates the feast of St. Vincent de Paul on 27 September, but in the Solomon islands the feast lasts the whole month of September, especially among Vincentian Marian youth and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. On the feast day of St. Vincent de Paul, they will celebrate with Mass during which they will distribute a small amount of bread to attendees.

As Sr. Veronika explained: “We share a small bread for each person who will be attending the Mass. It's a symbolic way to show that we are sharing our life by sharing our bread, and that we are all one big family. That is something that St. Vincent de Paul taught us, that there is a place for everyone.”

Sr. Veronica says her life has changed during her mission in the Solomon Islands, and so did her concept of happiness.

“The Solomon Islands are called Happy Isles, because people are grateful for that what they have. They are grateful for their life. They know that is a big gift to them,” she said. “They live in a present moment and they are grateful for what they have for that day, because they cannot keep or preserve something for tomorrow. That is something what we sometimes forget. We have true happiness by sharing with others. We cannot be happy alone.”

Missionary work is vital to the Christian faith, said Pope Francis at the Conference of the Missionary Institutes in May 2023. “Mission is oxygen for Christian life, which without it becomes sick and withers,” said the Pope, encouraging missionaries to strive ahead courageously.