On 14 May 2023, Bishop Michael Gielen consecrated Tema Colati into the Order of Virgins living in the world. The root of this order is ancient. It dates to the dawn of apostolic times, before the foundation of monastic communities for women. It is a unique vocation. Through her consecration, she embraces a life of virginity, in imitation of Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary, while living "in the world" (i.e. outside of a convent). Tema lives her total consecration to Christ while living what appears to be an ordinary life. She does not wear special attire, except for a ring that she received during the Rite of Consecration, as a sign of her new identity as a Bride of Christ. She supports herself financially and she prays the Liturgy of the Hours every day. It is this "duality" that characterises her vocation.
Message of His Holiness Pope Francis on the fiftieth anniversary of the promulgation of the revised Rite of Consecration of Virgins
Here is Tema's testimony of how she was called by God to her vocation.
“Where are you going?”
"I am one of the daughters of the late Mr Aisea Colati and Mereseni Donato of Nasaqalau Lakeba, Lau and Hoii Tonga Tapu. I was raised in a little gully called Matanisivaro, Qauia in Lami on the outskirts of Suva in the Fiji Islands. I grew up in a family of nine, consisting of five boys and four girls, including my niece Sera who was like my youngest sister. I was the seventh child. My parents were poor materially, but very rich in spirituality and love. They were staunch Catholics, and this was lived out in my family. As a child, my two older sisters left home quite early and I was left with my younger sisters and brothers. I grew up as a little tomboy, since I hung out mostly with my brothers.
I had to wade across the river and walked a few kilometres to reach the Marist Convent Primary School in Lami, where I was being taught by the Marist Sisters. I do not have any good memories of my schooling days because I was quite poor; I recall that I only had a couple of books to write all my subjects in. To mask my poverty and my slowness in grasping what the teachers taught, I would disrupt the class and cause trouble just to get the teacher's attention, since I did not take much interest in education either.
Consequently, I dropped out of school at fifteen years old. I started living a reckless life; partying, smoking, enjoying my life, and having boyfriends. One night, while drunk and dancing at a nightclub, in the midst of booming music, I heard a little European girl’s voice saying, “Where are you going?” I literally turned around to see the child. I couldn’t see anyone, and then it dawned on me that it may have been God. Spontaneously, I said, “God! You are coming to the wrong place and the wrong person.”
Not long after, as I was still coming to terms with what was happening, the same voice rose from within me. This took hold of me, and it made me come to my senses. It was a moment of standing still and asking the hard questions like; "Where am I going? What am I doing with my life?" I then found myself in tears since I had been wasting my life. I said, "Lord, I do not know where I am going. I do not know what I want to do with my life." That was a moment of Grace for me. I felt like Saul's experience of being struck off his horse on his way to Damascus. That was my conversion experience.
This led to my joining the Congregation of the Marist Sisters in 1993. Fortunately, the sisters gave me a great opportunity to return to secondary school after seven years of watching life pass by. After doing so well in school, I became a Primary School Teacher and taught in a couple of schools. I enjoyed my religious life as an SM Sister. In 2011, I had a personal crisis while teaching in a school at the highlands in the main Island in Fiji. This led to my requesting to leave the Marist Sisters. Two years later, I left Fiji. Even though I had left the Marist Sisters, in my heart, I knew that I had given my life to God through my first and final Profession and that was going to remain in me until I die.
This all changed when, six months after my arrival in Christchurch, I was drawn to a pamphlet of the Consecrated Virgins after a Sunday Mass at the Pro-Cathedral. Upon reading about their lives, I felt the calling to be part of them. That was the beginning of my call within a call. I contacted Fr Christopher Orr, who then directed me to Bernadette Chen, who was one of the two Consecrated Virgins in Christchurch in 2013. Due to the difficulty in obtaining Residency in New Zealand, the waiting period took ten years for me to finally reach my Consecration Day on 14 May 2023.
As I look back over the ten years in Christchurch, I had to be patient while keeping my focus on my Bridegroom. The time of waiting involved me seeing the late Bishop Barry Jones, the Vicar General Fr Rick Loughnan, Bishop Paul Martin, and now Bishop Michael Gielen. I also had a few spiritual directors and retreats too. It was not an easy time and it was at the foot of the Tabernacle, as the Foundress of the Marist Sisters said, where I found my strength.
All the learning and moulding that I have received during this time of waiting, has all been worth the struggle. From my experience, I realise that God's timing is not our timing. God does not call the perfect, but He equips those He chooses and calls. He continues to call you and me today as I heard at the nightclub, "Where are you going?" What are you doing with your life?
If you feel called to this beautiful way of life, as a Consecrated Virgin, feel free to contact any of the Consecrated Virgins (email@example.com). Thank you and Vinaka vakalevu. God Bless.”