Transformed, sealed by the holy spirit and ready to be sent

Left hand Section of the Church - Photo: Fr Pat ColganLeft hand Section of the Church - Photo: Fr Pat Colgan

The title are the words of Ana Vusama, one of the 131 candidates who were confirmed by Frs Veremo Dovarua (Vicar of the Western Region of Fiji) and Fr Pat Colgan (Parish Priest, Ba) in her words in testimony during our Feast Day Mass of Christ the King on Sunday 20th November 2022.

Ceremonies began the night before with the arrival from Lautoka of Fr Veremo, to whom a rarely seen ritual of welcome was performed, usually reserved for Bishops, Priministers and others of high rank. By coincidence (Providence?), it was done by the villagers of Navala to which Fr Veremo’s mother’s ancestors had migrated due to intertribal violence in the past. He was visibly moved as the chanting and serving of yaqona was done to him, and shared that we priests are uprooted from place to place, and often miss the sustenance that our land gives us. After a quite  lengthy, and very helpful,  ‘talanoa’ session (open conversation) with him about various issues in our Archdiocese, he retired for the night, as did the villagers to the classrooms assigned to them.

Next day, parishioners started arriving early in buses, taxis, and carriers and by 8am the Church was full. We had installed screens in the parish hall, and others, who sat outside, were able to follow proceedings on our live Facebook stream. During his homily, Veremo talked of the “4Rs” mentioned by Pope Francis on this Letter for the Day of Universal Prayer for Ukraine and Russia last September – which were ‘Return (to God), Rest (in God), Restore (what we have lost by separation from God) and Rejoice (in the wonders that God, despite everything, works in us and in the world). The Parish Choir sang wonderfully in all our languages. After Mass, everyone went down to 3 large tents, erected in the playground of St Teresa’s School, for a traditional thanksgiving ritual (led by a newly Confirmed), 2 more testimonies, and multiple ‘Action Choruses’ from the candidates of 7 villages. Their joy and abandon in dance songs to the Holy Spirit was very moving.

Members of the Faith Formation Commission who organised the 2 year Confirmation Program - Photo: Fr Pat ColganMembers of the Faith Formation Commission who organised the 2 year Confirmation Program - Photo: Fr Pat Colgan

The Candidates then all went to the Parish Hall where a ‘sit down meal’ was prepared for them. In Fijian culture, it is unusual for young people or children to be sat down or fed first (it is usually the parents and elders who get that privilege), but we were trying to make a point, that these are not the future, but the present, leaders of our parish.

All in all, a great way to celebrate our patron, Christ the King. Although we missed the presence of the Archbishop, and his Vicar General, both of whom had calendar clashes, we got on with the job of invoking the Holy Spirit’s power on those who are clearly willing to receive it.

Columban Fr Pat Colgan lives and works in Fiji.

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