The inauguration Mass and celebration of a new parish was held on Sunday, November 19, 2017 at St Joseph the Worker Primary School Hall in Suva, Fiji. The theme of the day was “A celebration of History for the Salesian Community” and a stone with a plaque to unveil to mark the beginning of a new parish namely St. John Bosco of Makoi/Laqere/Wainibuku.
Over a thousand people gathered for this inaugural Eucharist including priests, religious Brothers and Sisters from the Archdiocese of Suva. Archbishop Peter Loy Chong, the main celebrant, began his homily by thanking the Salesians for starting a new ministry in this new parish for the people of Archdiocese. The Archbishop also spoke of three foundations of the Catholic Church, how they help in leading people to God and to govern them in love. The first and foremost foundation is Jesus Christ; secondly the word of God and last the people of God. He urged the faithful to adhere the mission and vision of St. John Bosco to minister in this new parish especially the young ones. During the Eucharist, Fr Mika Leilua, SDB, was installed as the first Parish Priest of the St John Bosco Parish, Fiji.
At the conclusion the Eucharist, the Delegate of the Salesians in the Pacific, Fr. Petelo Vito Pau SDB, gave a vote of thanks on behalf of the Salesian Congregation. Fr Petelo thanked the Archbishop for the golden opportunity that allows the Salesians to have this parish, a dream coming true for them. He assured the Archbishop that the Salesian community under the leadership of Fr Mika Leilua, the newly installed parish priest, will offer all the help they could in serving within the Archdiocese of Suva, especially the people of the new parish.
The celebration continued with a procession led by the Archbishop to the site where a new church will be built. Many students sung a hymn to Don Bosco during the procession. The Archbishop blessed the headstone which marks the beginning of the new parish, and blessed the site followed by photo sessions to commemorate and to record this momentous event.
As usual in a Pacific tradition, people keep the spirit of the celebrations with big feast. Before the great feast, the celebration began with the Fijian traditional Kava Ceremony called ‘Seveusevu’. During the Sevusevu, the Archbishop Peter Loy Chong presented a tabua to Fr Mika Leilua as a sign of a covenant between the Archdiocese of Suva and the Saleisan Congregation, and also the beginning of the new Parish entrusted to the Salesians. The tabua/kamunaga (whale’s tooth) is the most important item in the iTaukei custom. A tabua is a polished tooth of a sperm whale that is an important cultural item in Fijian society. They are traditionally given as gifts for atonement or esteem (called sevusevu), and are important gesture in negotiating between rival chiefs. The exchange of tabua was a serious business and the recipient was bound by tradition to honour the accompanying request. Today, tabua continue to be valued by Fijians, and are still ritually exchanged at a range of events and ceremonies.
It was indeed a great event, where people from this new parish have taken part. The impressive young people displayed a great spirit in this new initiative. These young ones now have a thirst to learn more about St John Bosco and his teaching. The Salesians too are looking forward to working together with the young leading them to Jesus through the charism of St. John Bosco.
By Br Falefa Elia SDB