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A tribute to gracious woman of faith: Susau Etika Jane Strickland

Monday 11 April 2022 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Local, National

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A tribute to gracious woman of faith: Susau Etika Jane Strickland
Susau Etika Jane Strickland QSM (seated) with members of her family and her Kingsland Rotuman Methodist Congregation. SUPPLIED/22041003

Ö’hön ta Susau Etika Jane Strickland QSM passed away peacefully on Thursday, March 17, 2022, surrounded by family at her home in Auckland, New Zealand.

Susau was the first Pacific woman to become the vice-president of the Methodist Church of New Zealand in 1997. She and the then president, Reverend Norman Brooks faced with the challenging task of pastorally guiding the Methodist Church of New Zealand through the decisions about the ordination of candidates for clergy, regardless of their sexual orientation.

In 2006 she received a Queen’s Service Medal (QSM) for services in the community from the New Zealand Governor General at the time Dame Silvia Cartwright.

Born on the island of Rotuma in 1935 to parents Timote Pene and Tipo Jieni, Susau was the younger sibling of her dearest and only brother, Mamao Konousi.

From an early age she was educated in Suva, Fiji, and later chose to pursue a career in nursing, following in the footsteps of her mother. She trained and served in the demanding but fulfilling field of nursing, a career she was dedicated to for over five decades.

Her children - Pat, Ben, Edwina and Naomi at the grave site of their mother adorned with intricately made Rotuman tefui/garlands, as a mark of respect and deep love for their mother. MELINA ETCHES/22041001

Susau was the first wife of the late Dr Mata Strickland of Aitutaki, Cook Islands. After the birth of their eldest daughter in Rotuma, the young couple with their daughter moved to the Cook Islands where they raised four more children, whilst serving as a medical doctor and nurse team stationed all over the Cook Islands for most of the first two decades of their medical careers.

Susau was a devoted mother to Patricia, Edwina, Ben, Teina and Naomi, as well as the very proud sigoa of Mata Susau Inoke in Canada, Susau Solomona in Samoa, Teariki Smith in Australia, and Susau Robert and Jane Miriama Strickland in New Zealand.

In the early 1970s, she migrated with her family from the Cook Islands to New Zealand.

Alongside her passion for nursing, Susau devoted much of her life to the service and leadership in different parts of the Rotuman, Fijian and Cook Islands communities in New Zealand.

Of her many vocational roles and responsibilities throughout life included Susau’s calling and dedication to lay ministry leadership and service in her beloved church, Te Haahi Weteriana O Aotearoa.

The Methodist Church of New Zealand, particularly over the last four decades, further extended her knowledge, strengthened her faith and gave her the most joy.

An avid traveller, Susau was also a social justice advocate at heart and in her down time she loved to attend conferences, symposiums and pretty much any opportunity to listen, learn and engage with people particularly on the margins of societies. She had travelled to several countries including the United Kingdom, Korea, South Africa, USA, and the Pacific to attend hui (social or ceremonial gatherings), commemorations and demonstrations – notably with the World Methodist Women’s Fellowship. Also, to observe and learn about methods and ways people practise to approach issues, particularly pertaining to gender justice, indigenous sovereignty, contextualising and decolonising theology.

Susau Etika Jane Strickland QSM with family after receiving her QSM from the Governor General Dame Silvia Cartwright in 2006. MELINA ETCHES/22041002

As the leader of a little inner city Rotuman Methodist Congregation (in Kingsland, Auckland), her adventures made for very rich and sometimes even confronting sermons, as she was always able to beautifully pair the reflections of her adventures with whatever lectionary readings were set for the liturgical seasons at the time, shares her granddaughter TeRito-Ite-Rai-Temeamea Peyroux.

“Although the topics and issues raised could be very confronting and challenging to grapple with – particularly for the more conservative, patriarchal, colonialists among us, her wisdom and grace were always a true expression of a pure, unconditionally loving, gracious and strong Woman of Faith.

“To her many grandchildren and great grandchildren around the world, Susau was a Nana and Great-Nana who loved us all deeply and unconditionally.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7). Hanisiof ma Alalum and Meitaki Atupaka.