Columban Frs Donal McIlraith, John McEvoy and Frank Hoare (front right) together with Columban Companions in Fiji. - Photo: St Columbans Mission Society
Fr Frank and I come from neighboring towns (Portlaoise and Portarlington) in the province of Leinster, Ireland. As such we lived not far from the birthplace of St Columban. Frank finished his secondary education in an all-Irish College, St Enda’s Galway. It was here that he cultivated a love for Irish culture and language, song and dance. This set him up for the work that he would later do in a Fiji that was multi-cultural, multi racial and multi-religious.
I met Frank for the first time when I went to Dalgan Park, the Columban seminary, in 1965. Frank had a year completed in Dalgan Park at the time and was heading to University College Dublin to begin a degree in science, thus he was not ordained until a year after me in 1973. We had a joke among ourselves that he was a slow starter! It is thought that he was sent to do a science degree in Dublin with a view of going to teach in Xavier College in Fiji after his ordination. It turned out that Frank never taught a day in Xavier College.
Frank served as a deacon in London before his ordination in Dalgan Park on April 22, 1973 by Bishop McCormack, Bishop of Meath. He was then appointed to the Region of Fiji.
On his arrival in Fiji in 1973 he immersed himself in learning the language and culture of the Indo-Fijian people. He mastered this task so well that he became one of the most knowledgeable Columbans who worked with the Indo-Fijian people at the time. He became completely at home with the language and lifestyle of these people by his visitation to their homes and listening to their stories, especially in Naleba in the parish of Labasa. A Columban promotion film entitled “Walking to Naleba” documented his efforts at evangelization and was viewed with amazement by thousands of people in the countries where Columbans work.
Then he turned his sights to the Fijian language and culture. He did this by going to Nacemaki village on Koro Island (Lomai Viti Group of Islands). Again, by taking part in the lifestyle of the people, participating in their agricultural and fishing practices, in their sports and dances - he soon became proficient in Fijian.
Having the two main languages of Fiji under his belt and as a steppingstone for everything else he would do in Fiji, he directed his attention to something different, in furthering his expertise in areas that would benefit St Columban's Mission Society, not only in Fiji but worldwide, especially regarding his interest in intercultural relations and interfaith dialogue.
Columban Frs Frank Hoare and Nilton Iman Chero (right) blessing Catholic youth. - Photo: St Columbans Mission Society
He spent a year in India studying Hinduism. He studied psychology in Rome, social anthropology in London and practical theology in Chicago. These studies equipped Frank with tools that he would use to great effect for the rest of his life, dealing with Columban students, vocation fostering, counselling and teaching at the Pacific Regional Seminary in Fiji.
He taught Psychology and Counselling at the seminary for 5 years from 1990 to 1994. He gave many courses and conducted intercultural workshops not only for Columbans in Fiji but in most other Columban Regions and Mission Units when invited. His facilitation of intercultural workshops in Fiji among Catholic leaders from the Indigenous Fijian and Indo-Fijian communities after the 1987 military coup was of utmost importance. There was so much division and suspicion among ethnic groups and communities at the time. These workshops have proved invaluable with lasting and healing results for the participants. In my mind, this was one of Frank’s major contributions for a hurting people of Fiji and for the Archdiocese of Suva.
In the year 2000 at the Columban General Assembly held in Sydney, Frank was elected a member of the Columban General Council. He served on the Council from 2000 to 2006 and lived at the then Columban Headquarters in Dublin during these years.
Presently Frank is in charge of the Columban Formation House in Suva. He directs psychological testing for students who would like to join our Formation Programme, as well as doing the same for other Congregations. He has been involved with accompanying Columban students during their two year First Missionary Assignments in Fiji. He is still very much a pastoral man, helping in the parishes of Ba and Labasa. He is involved with the students of Corpus Christi Teachers College, Suva, as well as the Catholic Students on the many campuses of the Fiji National University. He was the Columban representative until recently on the Council of Priests, Archdiocese of Suva. From 2015 until 2021, he was Vicar for Evangelization in the Archdiocese of Suva.
A prolific writer, Frank continues to write very simple but most interesting missionary stories of his past and present experiences with people he has met and still meets on his journey through life. These stories have been published in The Far East and recently on the Columban Facebook page. In 2017 he wrote a history of Columban Mission in Fiji especially for the benefit of the younger Columbans from the Pacific who have joined us since 1986. This he did by going to Melbourne for 6 months to finish his research and write the book entitled The Turning Wheel: Columban Missionaries in Fiji 1952 – 2017.
Yes, Fr Frank, is a person of many talents and a very committed Columban Missionary. A Columban whose wisdom and foresight I called on many times during my time as Director and later Columban leader in Fiji.
Thank you, Fr Frank Hoare. Ad Multos Annos.
Columban Fr John McEvoy lives and works in Fiji.
Listen to "Fr Frank Hoare - Golden Jubilee "
- Read more from The Far East - March/April 2023