In November 2022, myself and my friend Amy, two Catholic school teachers from the Archdiocese of Birmingham were welcomed and immersed into life at Christ The King Parish, Ba, Fiji. We know the UK Columbans through the outreach of James Trewby to our respective schools and he put us in touch with his colleagues in Fiji. Our short trip consisted of staying at the parish with Fr Pat Colgan, visiting Xavier College for Mass, staying within Navala village and spending the morning teaching students at the village primary school.

Picking us up from Nadi airport, Fr Pat explained how his parish is multicultural and multilingual, but also largely rural, consisting of 14 villages, some of which are more than 2 hours drive from Ba town.

Navala is nestled high in the hills, surrounded by beautiful scenery. We got the 630am local bus, a bumpy one hour drive, traversing rivers and sugar cane fields, accompanied by Master Abbu Mani, the headmaster of Navala Catholic School. We were greeted by the staff and students, who were doing their singing practice, preparing for the liturgy in church on Sunday.  We visited six different classes, meeting the children and asking them about their school lives. We also taught them some contemporary worships songs and Mass parts in English. They loved learning ‘Jesus is the Rock’, particularly when we included actions to the song. We also taught the students a CJM music setting for the Great Amen. It was fabulous to hear these songs echoing around the school grounds and village throughout the day. The students were very attentive and excited to learn new songs. The passion with which they sing, is admirable. I don’t think I’ve seen such enthusiasm in young people for a long time. Before we departed each class, we ended with a time of prayer, reciting the Lord’s Prayer in both Fijian and English.

Afterwards, we were taken into the village proper, and greeted by the acting chief and his family. We were officially welcomed into their family with a traditional Kava ceremony. We were then invited to stay with them for dinner, sampling many local delicacies. The views from the village were also breathtaking. 

Navala and the Parish in Ba offered us both such a warm welcome. We were overwhelmed by the hospitality and faith that these wonderful people shared with us. Thank you for having us and sharing with us. St Teresa of Kolkata once said, “ Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier,”- this had certainty been our experience of Fiji. Vinaka!

By Hannah Smith a Catholic school teacher from the Archdiocese of Birmingham in the United Kingdom

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