Because We are Students for Life

by Richelle H. Verdeprado

Teakare Betero, from Raba, Fiji, is undergoing his Spiritual Formation Year in Quezon City. Richelle H. Verdeprado is the Editorial Assistant of

Teakare (far right) with Fr Taaremon Matauea on the latter’s ordination day, 11 August 2013

Every time he attended Mass during his teenage years, Teakare Betero or ‘Tex’ would recite with the priest instead of responding to him. For reasons he could not really tell at the time, he just got used to doing that. He grew up that way and his friends would even jokingly say to him that he might become a priest someday. Never did he think too that he would decide to take a journey towards priesthood and that a day would come when he would feel so hungry to learn more about God.

27-year-old Tex grew up in Rabi, Fiji. He entered the Columban Seminary four years ago. Fr Donal Mellraith used to visit Rabi at Christmas. He didn’t know that Father Donal was a Columban priest but he was struck and fascinated by how an Irish priest could celebrate Mass in their local language. Though he just saw him sometimes, he did not forget Father Donal. When his cousins asked him if he liked the idea of becoming a priest, he agreed with much excitement but he would want to enter the same congregation as that of Father Donal. He just remembered about him and that’s the reason why he found the Columbans. His parents and his nine  siblings were supportive of the idea too.

He went to Nasese, Suva, in Fiji and there he met Fr. Ioane Gukibau, one of the formators and a Fijian. He started getting to know the Columbans more and admired their willingness to be with people in various aspects of their lives. They had really learned the language and the culture. For him, their involvement in the social life of people is the most significant experience because it is from it and through it that God’s presence can be concretely felt. Columbans just find themselves at home wherever they are and that is something that made Tex committed to do his share in spreading that concept of home and of being family to one another. Tex shared how happy he is because he feels at home though he is in a foreign land now for his spiritual year.

He sees Filipinos as friendly and devoted. Before leaving Fiji, he was told about the Philippines but the actual experience is really different. He realized that when you are in the field, learning becomes even deeper and more life-changing. One will understand more if one will really engage and interact with the people. He also finds oneness despite diversity as he sees some aspects of Fiji in the Philippines too. We can never be totally different and this should unite us.

Quirino Avenue, Manila [Wikipedia]

But one thing Tex finds challenging is the traffic in Manila. At first, he was irritated but as he got more used to it, he turned it into an opportunity to be more patient and reflective. Tex said that he is continually being inspired by what Columbans have been doing in the Church and in the community. He added that the overall program of the Columbans really keeps him going. He furthermore added, ‘Though being still a student, you can already have some taste of how it is to be a missionary. Thus, you are already being changed for the better.’
Indeed, every day is an opportunity to learn. In life, we grow more when we have the humility and enthusiasm to keep on learning. We are forever students of life, and the result of each test becomes positive and victorious, when we do everything with God in our minds and hearts.

Rabi, Fiji
Presentation of Gifts at ordination Mass of Fr Taaremon Matauea in Rabi

Teakare Betero is from Rabi (‘rambi’), an island in the northern part of Fiji, with a population of about 5,000 and a land area of 66/3 square kms. His father was the late Betero toma, who was from Kiribati (‘kiribas’), independent from the United Kingdom since 1979, nine years after Fiji became independent.

The parents of Teakare’s mother, Kaitinano Tanikatare, were brought from Banaba, an island that is part of what is now Kiribati, on 15 November 1945 along with the ancestors of the current population of Rabi. The people or Rabi are represented in the parliaments of both Fiji and Kiribati.

Columban Fr Taaremon Matauea, ordinaed in 2012 and now based in Taiwan, is also from Rabi.

Teakare, right , With Lanieta Tamatawale, a Fijian Columban Lay Missionary, formerly based in the Philippines and now in Suva, Fiji.


Ron Sigrah, a businessman from Rabi and a neighbour of Teakare, speaks about the uses of the coconut.