Children singing at the IRD Youth Christmas event - Photo: Fr Patrick Colgan
While the rest of the world shops and parties frenetically in December, the people in Fiji busy themselves in providing retreats, carol singing and charitable outreaches to the less fortunate.
Last Saturday was one such day for the Columban Spiritual Year seminarians. We began by offering our house for the ‘Legionaries of the Sacred Heart’, a men’s group from the Cathedral parish to have a morning’s recollection, consisting of input, quiet times, reconciliation and Mass.
The men, ranging from early 20s to mid 60s, greatly appreciated a few hours of peace in our rural, forest location.
We provided hospitality and food, but we had to leave them at midday to go the Juvenile Detention Centre where 20 teenagers were awaiting us eagerly for their Christmas prayers and counselling.
As is our habit, we get them to share a favourite Bible passage and sing songs, before going out to under the trees or sheds for our individual sessions.
Most of the boys ask prayers for their upcoming court appearances, share tough family stories and ask for phone calls home.
Home of Compassion ukulele group - Photo: Fr Patrick Colgan
On this day, we shared soft drinks and chocolate with them, all gleefully devoured. From there (still not having had lunch) we rushed to the ‘Home of Compassion’ - a nursing facility for the elderly and infirm, where along with our Fiji Columban Bursar, Ms Lillian Bing and her ‘ukulele group’, we regaled the residents with carols, Fijian lullabies and dancing. We also helped to feed a number of the patients and then enjoyed a late snack.
A dash home for a shower and then back to the city where the Columban Interreligious Dialogue Office had organised a Youth Christmas Program, where members from the Sai Baba, Arya Samaj, Sanatan Dharm ( Hindu groups), the Suva Multicultural Centre, and three Catholic parishes entertained us with song, nativity plays and more dancing.
After sweeping and cleaning the Cathedral crypt venue, we proceeded home with a number of the youth to celebrate one of our seminarians 26th birthday. More laughing, singing, and festive kava drinking occupied the hours to midnight when we eventually turned in to get ready for 7:00am Sunday Masses – one in English in the local parish and the other in Fijian for retired Sisters who live a 20 minute walk away from our house. That walk already in +30c heat at 6:30am most certainly sweated out any residual grogginess in me!
A busy, fulfilling and very Columban type of weekend.
Columban Fr Patrick Colgan is the Assistant Director of the Columban Spiritual Year Program in Suva, Fiji.