Fiji

AWAY FROM HOME

By Etuate Tubuka

A Columban seminarian from Fiji tells us about his first missionary journey to the Philippines. He accompanied Kurt Pala on part of the Road to Agoo in this issue.

I arrived at Manila International Airport on 25 June 2008 at 11:30 pm after a ten-hour flight from my home country, Fiji. I had completed a year and a half of seminary studies in Fiji and I had come to the Philippines to continue them. 

Everyday Life With Muslims

By Rowena Cuanico

Since 1 June the author has been Lay Mission Coordinator  in the Philippines.

This Filipina grew up around Muslims, but only learned about the people and their faith as a Columban lay missionary.

As a child in the Philippines, there were about 30 Muslim families, mostly traders, who lived in my hometown. Two of these families were family friends, but I never had the courage to learn more about Islam and the lives of my Muslim neighbors.

I had uneasy feelings about Muslims, largely because of the ongoing conflict between Christians and Muslims on the island of Mindanao, the Philippines’ large southern island where about four million Muslims live.

A Renewed Community Of Prayer

By Rowena Dato Cuanico

Rowena ‘Weng’ Cuanico, from Northern Samar, has completed six years as a Columban lay missionary in Fiji and is renewing her commitment for another three years. She tells how a prayer group there comes back to life, thanks to moments of inspiration and a lot of hard work.

As a Columban lay missionary in Fiji, I worked for some time with the Indo-Fijian community in St Pius X Parish in Raiwaqa. I had spent two wonderful years in Holy Family Parish in Labasa working mostly with Hindi-speaking communities, so I was excited once again to accompany Hindi-speaking Catholics in Raiwaqa.


Fiji Archbishop Petero Mataca marked Doreen Lal with the sign of the cross during her rite of entry to the catechumenate
 during her baptism ceremony

How To Peel Carrots And Win Hearts

By Rowena Dato Cuanico

Rowena ‘Weng’ Dato Cuanico, who has written in these pages before, is one of three lay missionaries from the Philippines currently in Fiji.


Rowena Dato Cuanico

After waiting for nearly eight months for our first mission assignment, I heaved a sigh of relief and excitement as the plane touched down at Nadi International Airport, Fiji, on 29 October 2000. ‘Lord, this is it,’ were the only words that I could muster and say to myself as everything that I wished, hoped and prayed for was finally becoming real. I hardly slept on the ten-hour flight from Seoul since during the night. I was awakened at least four times by the captain’s voice telling us to fasten our seatbelts because of turbulence. My drowsiness, fatigue and anxieties vanished quickly as I and five other lay missionaries from thePhilippines were greeted by the bright and glorious splendor of that Sunday morning and by the smiles of friendly faces. Perhaps, the big smile on Father Charlie Duster’s face and his warm handshake said it all in his Bula, Welcome to Fiji!

‘Hidden’ Women

By Rowena ‘Weng’ Dato Cuanico

Rowena Dato Cuanico is a Columban Lay Missionary from the Philippines on her second term in Fiji.

When Beth Briones, another Columban lay missionary from the Philippines, and I arrived in Holy Family Parish, Labasa, on our first term, we spent our first six weeks at Holy Cross Catholic Community (Sector 11) in Naleba. This was to help us understand better the culture of the Indo-Fijians as well as improve our fluency in Fiji-Hindi. Being new, I felt very excited in getting to know the community. Since their names were foreign to me, remembering them and pronouncing them correctly became a challenge.

The First Time I Danced the Meke!

By Rowena ‘Weng’ Dato Cuanico

The following articles are by two Columban lay missionaries who have lived in each other’s country. Rowena is a Filipino lay missionary in Fiji. Paulo was a Fijian lay missionary in the Philippines. Read on.

I love to dance. So, when I arrived in Fiji in October 2000 as a Columban lay missionary, I became fascinated with the meke, a traditional Fijian dance that tells the stories of ancient legends.

A Life With Criminals

By Paulo Baleinakorodawa

Paulo Baleinakorodawa worked for three years in the Philippines as a Columban lay missionary. He is now coordinator of Columban Companions in Mission in his native Fiji.

People used to ask me in the Philippines why I hung around so much with criminals. It wasn’t easy to answer. Perhaps it was because of my love and compassion for them. But deep within me was a burning passion to help them know and feel that, despite their wrongdoing, God loved them in the same way He loved those in free society. Here the strength of the message of the Cross became real – God loves and accepts each one of us with no strings attached.

Our Elephant House

By Jennifer Chan

Jennifer Chan is a Columban lay missionary assigned in Fiji. Here she shares with us what it is like to live in an “elephant house”.

It’s true! Home is an elephant house for me and my fellow lay missionary, Cynthia, for 11 months now. This unique, architectural wonder is called a ctesiphon (pronounced as tesifon, a type of thin-shell catenary-curved concrete building). My parish priest told me it was patterned after the low-cost housing in Iraq. Back in the late fifties, Columban Father Dermot Hurley built several ctesphons and ours is the lone surviving elephant house in Suva. Its historical value is increasing and becoming an unusual conversation piece of both locals and foreigners alike.

Paradise Of The Pacific

Laborers from India were brought in to Fiji in 19th century by the British who colonized this country. The British wanted to grow sugarcane. Since Fijian were not willing to do this backbreaking work, they had to import laborers from Indian laborers settled between the Fijians and the Indo-Fijians. Six Filipino Columban Lay Missionaries are now in Fiji. As they celebrate their second Christmas in this faraway land, let us pray that they may bring peaceful Christmases to this divided paradise.

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