‘Moce Mada Vakalailai’ (Goodbye for the Moment)

Farewell parties in Raiwaqa parish

Farewell parties in Raiwaqa parish. Photo: Fr Pat Colgan

It was with mixed feelings that, after a beautiful 5-month vacation in Ireland, I returned to Fiji on 22nd Aug 2023, knowing that it would be for a short time, having already received my appointment to Ireland earlier in the year. 

I was delighted to finally get a chance to minister in St Pius X, Raiwaqa, the only Columban parish I had never served in. I adapted gradually to working in an urban, predominantly English-speaking community (at least in the liturgy!). I was struck by the poverty and climactically very challenged squatter communities of Wailea and Nanuku. I was thrilled to work with Kelemete Rausauvanua (RIP) and Naanise Mo’unga (CLM) daily, along with the leaders of the various communities and Commissions. I took a particular interest in the youth, whom I could see were very talented (witness their leading role in the Archdiocesan Youth Rally) but sometimes lacked the confidence to move out of their ‘comfort zone’ (i.e. ‘hanging out’ with each other) to assume leadership roles in the parish. The present leadership group are primarily the “old faithfuls” whose loyalty is an inspiration but who naturally don’t have the “tools” to deal with the new digital evangelisation. That’s where the youth are needed. Some cultural blocks are also present, such as the habit of ‘not talking to elders’ and unrecognised and non-processed family hurts. Thankfully, these issues are now coming out into the open, where they can work through. 

We also had creative liturgies for the Season of Creation and community and parish-based clean-ups. I was glad to be near the PJ Twomey skin clinic as I dealt with a persistent rash. I pay tribute to the medical staff who gave me First World treatment, including 12 sessions in a UVB machine, for which one would have had to wait months in Ireland. 

Several parishioners perceptively remarked, “Father, your heart is still in Ba”, and so it was with joy that I participated in both the Xavier College 70th Anniversary celebrations as well as the welcome and First Mass of local lad Fr Sefo Lui, from the 15-17th Sept. I could see how the parish was building on its 71-year Columban history and moving in new directions

When Paul Tierney returned from his vacation, I was finally free to take a holiday, and I chose to do so in the place in which I can say that I first fell in love with Fiji – namely, the Yasawa Islands, which consistently win tourism awards for both their beauty and their friendliness. I went to Vuaki, where Fr Eddie McColgan SSC built the new parish Church of St Patrick. Stories still abound about “Fr McCol” – his quick temper, generous heart, and deep pockets. My story was about when I was a student on my first visit there, how Eddie insisted that I call him “Sonny Boy” while he called me “Daddy”!! (In Irish, his surname McColgan means ‘son of Colgan’, and his insistence was “to prove to the Fijians (where family relationships are precious) that we white [missionaries] also have a culture where relationships are honoured !!!)

On the boat to the mother-and-baby clinic in Yasawa

On the boat to the mother-and-baby clinic in Yasawa. Photo: Fr Pat Colgan

Finally, it was my time to leave, and on 20th Oct, I boarded a flight to Hong Kong, where I stayed a week before arriving in Dublin on 27th. It was great to meet old friends there too, including speaking on the radio slot we had started for the foreign prisoners in my time as chaplain there. 

As the winter days get darker and colder here in Ireland, it is good to enjoy the memories of the sun and laughter-filled days of Fiji.

Columban Fr Pat Colgan lives and works in Fiji.

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Comments (1)

  1. Patricia Morecroft:
    Dec 19, 2023 at 10:34 AM

    I enjoyed Fr Pat's article. It brought back many memories of my life in Fiji.

    Happy and Holy Christmas to you all.



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