Columban Mission Society Centenary Celebration

Columban Altar Cloth Pilgrimage in Fiji


By Marjorie Encoy, a 2 term Columban Lay Missionary from the Philippines based in St Pius X Raiwaqa Parish.




Day 1 (Feb 15, 2018) - St Columban Church in Votua, Ba

Columban Altar Cloth Fiji Pilgrimage: Day 1 (Feb 15, 2018): After days of waiting, we finally got hold of the Columban Centennial Altar Cloth. Fr Donal McIlraith, Regional Director of Fiji, and I collected it from the courier office at Nadi Airport. Then, the cloth made its pilgrimage in Fiji beginning at St Columban Church in Votua, Ba. We arrived at past seven in the evening. Though we were late, the people waited with anticipation, curiousity and excitement and received the Altar Cloth with warmth and enthusiasm. The Call of the Altar Cloth, as emphasized by Fr Donal in his homily that night, is to pray for two things: to pray for the Columban Mission and Missionaries and to pray to keep the faith strong and alive in their hearts and lives.

St. Columban, pray for us. Amen.

Day 2(Morning of Feb 16, 2018) - Altar Cloth Pilgrimage to Navala, Ba

Columban Altar Cloth Fiji Pilgrimage: Day 2 (Morning of Feb 16, 2018): The next church village that the Columban Centennial Altar Cloth will go to is Maria Tubu Imakulata Church, Navala, Ba. We went to the village with Fr Nilton Iman and Ila, a youth from the parish. Arriving at the foot of the village, we were met by the raging river that made the Irish crossing impossible to cross to the opposite side of the riverbank. We decided to wait for a little while. After some time, a group of men came floating from a distance towards where we were standing; they were villagers transporting a sick man who wanted to get checked in town. Realizing our situation, they offered to take us to the other side of the river using the tire tube that they used to cross. Encouraged by the purpose of the pilgrimage and the mission spirit, we crossed the river. We also managed to cross the Altar Cloth without getting wet. By the guidance of the Lord and the generosity of those men, we were able to make it to the village. Fr Nilton celebrated the Mass with Fr Donal. Fr Donal asked a big kerekere to the faithful at Navala to pray for the Columban Mission and missionaries and to pray to keep their faith strong and alive in their hearts and in their lives. Immediately after the mass and the opportunity of the people to take a closer look at the Altar Cloth, we returned to town before the weather at the mountains decided to get worse. We crossed the river the same way: "Tube mai, tube yani!".

St Columban, pray for us. Amen.

Day 2 (Evening of Feb 16, 2018) - Christ the King Parish Varoka, Ba

Columban Altar Cloth Fiji Pilgrimage: Day 2 (Evening of Feb 16, 2018): After a good afternoon rest, we were ready to present the Columban Centennial Altar Cloth in Christ the King Parish church in Varoka, Ba, making it its third stop of the pilgrimage. Seeing the Altar Cloth draped over the altar in the parish church sparked curiousity among some of the church goers present that night. During his homily, Fr Donal explained presence and the purpose of the Altar Cloth before them; also enumerating different individuals that the people might have known. Just as he did in the first two churches we visited, he also emphasized to them the call of the Altar Cloth that is in front of them--to pray for the Columban Mission and missionaries and to pray to keep the faith strong and alive in their hearts and in their lives. After the Mass, the congregation had the chance to examine the Altar Cloth for names of people that they met and knew. Then the people were asked to make their way to the parish hall for a short presentation of the history of the Missionary Society of St Columban through a movie called "The Foolishness of God".

St Columban, pray for us. Amen

Day 3 (Feb 17, 2018) - Christ the King Parish Varoka, Ba

Columban Altar Cloth Fiji Pilgrimage: Day 3 (Feb 17, 2018): Saturday morning, the Columban Centennial Altar Cloth stayed at the Christ the King Parish church to give chance to other parishioners in town to see it and hear the message it brings.

Day 5 (Feb 20, 2018) - Corpus Christi Teachers' College

Columban Altar Cloth Fiji Pilgrimage: Day 5 (Feb 20, 2018): After its interesting and adventurous pilgrimage in Christ the King Parish in Ba, the Columban Centennial Altar Cloth made its way to Suva. It made its visitation first at the Corpus Christi Teachers' College at Nasese. The Columbans have worked in this college for a number of years as a respond to Bishop Foley's appeal to help in staffing the College: Frs Padhraic O'Loughlin (who helped to establish a high reputation for CCTC as one of the leading teacher training colleges in the Pacific region), Dan Ahern, Eddie McColgan, Otto Imholte, Donal McIlraith, Kieran Moloney, Charlie Duster, and Dick O'Sullivan. Also, since 1996, Fr Jim Gavigan has been chaplain to the students while teaching. The present student body and staff welcomed the Pilgrim Cloth with warmth and interest. Some of the staff also recalled some names of Columbans who have journeyed with them in the past. Fr Donal, in his homily, emphasized three things: the call to mission, the call to pray (Columban Mission and missionaries), and the call to faith.

May the Lord mold these teachers to be the mentors that they are called to be.

St. Columban, pray for us. Amen.

Day 6 (Feb 21, 2018) - Columban Formation House.

Columban Altar Cloth Fiji Pilgrimage: Day 6 (Feb 21, 2018): The next stop of the Columban Centennial Altar Cloth was at the Columban Formation House. A Mass was celebrated with it early in the morning with the residents in the Formation, a CCIM member and an LM who were present at the time. The Altar Cloth stayed in the Formation with the request to the students to pray for some intentions given. They were also requested to write a short message in the Centenary Scrapbook that the Altar Cloth came with. The students welcomed the Altar Cloth with that same eagerness and warmth that I have witnessed over the past few days that I have been taking it around.

May the Holy Spirit continue to aid them in their discernment towards becoming missionary priests. May the intercession of our patron saint direct them to be the missionaries they are called to be. May the legacy and love of our founders, Galvin and Blowick, guide them and motivate them.

St Columban, pray for us. Amen.

Day 7 (Feb 22, 2018) - Sacred Heart Cathedral 

Columban Altar Cloth Fiji Pilgrimage: Day 7 (Feb 22, 2018): On the Feast Day of the Chair of St Peter, February 22, 1952, the first thirteen Columban priests arrived in Suva, Fiji and were welcomed warmly by Bishop Foley at the Sacred Heart Cathedral, Suva. So today we remember that blessed arrival with a Mass at the Sacred Heart Cathedral with the Columban Centennial Altar Cloth. The Mass was celebrated by the newly ordained Rotuman Columban, Fr Pat Roland Michael Visanti with Frs Donal McIlraith, William Lee, Frank Hoare, John McEvoy, and Carlo Jung and assisted by newly ordained deacon Martin Lasarusa Koroiciri. In his homily, Fr Donal continuously appealed to the congregation to pray for mission, for faith, and for missionaries. After the Mass, eager congregation had the chance to have a closer look at the Altar Cloth.

The Pilgrim Cloth will be making its way to Holy Family Parish in Labasa on Friday (Feb 23, 2018).

May the Lord of the Vineyard continue to touch hearts of young men and women to be inspired by the Holy Spirit and be moved to become missionaries of this day.

St. Columban, pray for us. Amen.

Day 10 (b) (Feb 25, 2018) - St Joseph the Worker Community

Columban Altar Cloth Fiji Pilgrimage: Day 10 (b) (Feb 25, 2018): Still on the Feast Day of the Transfiguration of Jesus, the Columban Centennial Altar Cloth made its way up the mountains to be with the people of St Joseph the Worker community where it was also received with enthusiasm and curiosity. In his homily, Fr Paul reminded the congregation about living out the very important commandment that the Lord Jesus Christ left us with--
it is to love beginning in our families snowballing to our commuunity. After the Mass, the exchange of happy hellos took place. It was so heartwarming to see the warm welcoming smiles of the people in the village. Then I was asked to give a short background, purpose and invitations of the Pilgrim Altar Cloth: to pray for the Columban Mission and missionaries, to pray for mission, and to pray that we may be able to grow and be strengthened in our faith.

Dear Lord, it is wonderful indeed to gaze in your face everyday of our lives.

St Columban, pray for us. Amen.

 Day 11 (a) (Feb 26, 2018) - St Christopher Community in Dogoru village.

Columban Altar Cloth Fiji Pilgrimage: Day 11 (a) (Feb 26, 2018): Today, the Columban Centennial Altar Cloth was brought to St Christopher Community church in Dogoru village. After passing through vast lands of sugarcane plantations and beautiful sculptures of mountains adorn with pine trees, it was laid on the altar in the community church where the villagers await. Fr Paul Tierney, parish priest of Holy Family Parish, led the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. After the Exposition, a short background, purpose, and invitations were given to the villagers. They were also affirmed of their undying support and contribution to the Columban mission and to the mission of the church worldwide. Then they were gathered in Elia's house for the showing of the Columban History in Fiji and the Call to Priesthood. Though the weather was not favorable, quite a number of the villagers were able to attend--young and old.

We bless your name, O Father Almighty for your all-time support and presence in our lives, eventhough most of the times we fail to recognize you in all of it.

St Columban, pray for us. Amen.

Day 11 (b) (Feb 26, 2018) - Holy Family Parish

Columban Altar Cloth Fiji Pilgrimage: Day 11 (b) (Feb 26, 2018): To end its pilgrimage in the Friendly North, the Columban Centennial Altar Cloth was spread again during the evening mass at the Holy Family Parish church. It was celebrated by Fr JJ Ryan. During his homily, he asked the congregation to reflect what truly mission is---"Mission is to share the wonder of who God is in our lives every single day, as we are baptized in Christ. Mission is to be a child of God." He went on saying, "the Altar Cloth is the symbol of God's love enfolding, embracing ALL of us in His Everlasting Love". 
The congregation who attended the Mass had the chance to have a closer look at the Pilgrim Altar Cloth: searching for names of Columbans that they know and whom they have journeyed with and searching for names of their relatives, sons or daughters, who are partaking in the Columban manner of mission.

Dear Lord of the Vineyard, we pray for vocations. We pray that you send a bit more of workers in Your Vineyard. We also pray that we may be able to realize what truly mission is and not just what we thought what mission is.

St Columban, pray for us. Amen.

The Pilgrim Altar Cloth will be taken back to Suva tomorrow and will leave the parish in the afternoon. Thank you very much for the warm welcome and for making the pilgrimage prayerful and meaningful.

 Day 12 (March 1, 2018) - Christian Community of St James up in Tacirua, St Joseph the Worker Parish Tamavua

Columban Altar Cloth Fiji Pilgrimage: Day 12 (March 1, 2018): The Columban Centennial Pilgrim Altar Cloth visited the Christian Community of St James up in Tacirua, St Joseph the Worker Parish Tamavua. Our Columban Lay Missionaries Lanieta Tamatawale and Sainiana Tamatawale are from this Christian Community. Lanieta, is part of the Central Leadership Team who are based in Hong Kong. Sainiana, on the other hand, is mission-ed at the US Borders-Mexico. Fr Iowane Gukibau celebrated the Mass with the community who gathered together and prayed for the Columban Mission and missionaries. Then, around the bowl of grog, conversation about the faith and mission sparked into the night.

Dearest Father, we give you thanks for our Small Christian Communities who have influenced our growth in faith and fostered our call. We pray for blessings upon them.

St Columban, pray for us. Amen.

Day 13 (March 2, 2018) - Pacific Regional Seminary

Columban Altar Cloth Fiji Pilgrimage: Day 13 (March 2, 2018): On the first Friday of March, the Columban Centennial Pilgrim Altar Cloth came to the Pacific Regional Seminary along Queen Elizabeth Drive, Nasese where most of the Columban Pacifican priests and seminarians studied and are studying. The Columbans have been present in PRS throughout its over forty years of forming young priests, missionary and diocesan, around South Pacific. At present, Frs Donal McIlraith and Ioane Gukibau are teaching there; and there are at least seven Columban seminarians studying there. The liturgy was lead by the Columbans. After Mass, a few interested staff and students came to take a look at the Pilgrim Altar Cloth and asked questions about what it meant, what is its purpose, and where it is going next.

We pray to the Lord of Harvest for priestly vocations, especially missionary priest.

St Columban, pray for us. Amen.

Day 13-14 (March 2-3, 2018) -  Central Eastern Division Youth Rally

Columban Altar Cloth Fiji Pilgrimage: Day 13-14 (March 2-3, 2018): One of the activities that the Region of Fiji thought of to meaningfully celebrate the Centennial anniversary in the region is to have a series of Youth Rallies in the three Divisions of the country. Last March 2-3, 2018 was scheduled for the Central Eastern Division. Invitation was extended to the parishes within the Suva-Nausori Corridor. 
After the Mass at PRS, the Columban Centennial Pilgrim Altar Cloth came to Sacred Heart College to spend the night with the participants of the Youth Rally. There was adoration, talks on different topics (Jesus is the Lord by Fr Donal McIlraith, Justice and Peace by Vosita Lenisaurua, Joy of the Catholic Faith by Fr Aisake Silatolu, SM, and Peer Evangelisation by Fr Willie Lee and Deacon Martin Lasarusa Koroiciri), Confessions, and praise/worship. Participants came from the parishes of St Pius X-Raiwaqa, St Vincent de Paul-Nausori, St Joseph the Worker-Tamavua, St Joseph the Husband of Mary-Naililili, Holy Eucharist-Laucala Bay and Sacred Heart-Suva.

We thank the youths from the different parishes who came to spend the night with the Lord. May the Lord strengthen and guide you in all your endeavors as you journey through. We also thank the organizers and the caterers for taking care of the participants and the speakers.

St. Columban, pray for us. Amen

Day 14 (March 4, 2018) - St Pius X Parish in Raiwaqa

Columban Altar Cloth Fiji Pilgrimage: Day 14 (March 4, 2018): Finally, the Columban Centennial Pilgrim Altar Cloth has come to its last stop for its Fiji Pilgrimage--St Pius X Parish in Raiwaqa. It came right on time for the Mass of the Men of the Parish who had their Lenten retreat on Saturday. Fr Ioane Gukibau celebrated the Mass for them

 Day 15 (March 5, 2018) - St Pius X Raiwaqa Parish

Columban Altar Cloth Fiji Pilgrimage: Day 15 (March 5, 2018): On Sunday, the Columban Centennial Altar Cloth was used during the two Sunday morning Masses--witnessing the first scrunity of the catechumens in the parish for the first Mass and the baptism of three children during the Youth Mass. In the afternoon at 4 o'clock, the CCIM members of the parish and few parishioners came to do Adoration and Holy Hour bidding goodbye to the pilgrim Altar Cloth which will be making its way to the Pearl of the Orient Seas--Philippines.

We thank you dear Lord for the blessing of this visitor--the Columban Pilgrim Altar Cloth. This inspired a lot of your people whose faith strengthened them through sorrows and joys. Thank you dear Father for the Story of Columban Mission here in Fiji. Vinaka vakalevu!

Loloma bibi kei na masu.

St Columban, pray for us. Amen.