Students and Principal cut the cake
Xavier College in Ba, Fiji, was founded by the Columbans in 1953, and on the 12th February of that year, its first staff (Frs Michael Cryan, Gerry Hurley and Kevin Fleming) “taught” the following subjects – 45 minutes of Latin, 45 minutes of grass cutting, 45 minutes of algebra and 45 minutes (again!) of grass cutting. It is now a thriving Form 7 College with a roll of 700, neatly manicured lawns and state-of-the-art classrooms and auditorium and about to become the site of the Western Division’s only half-Olympic swimming pool and Futsal complex.
These developments – on the occasion of the 70th (Platinum) anniversary of the school, were celebrated at a Mass offered by the Archbishop of Suva, Rev Peter Loy Chong along with the Ba Parish Priest Fr Pio, alumnus Fr Veremo Dovorua and Fr Pat Colgan, representing the Columban missionaries. Bishop Chong praised the dedication of the staff, management and students, along with the Columbans, Marist Sisters and Monfort Brothers, who over the years brought the school to the peak of academic excellence that it enjoys. However, it was the ‘extracurricular’ activities (sport, nation wide talent and IQ quests, retreats, Masses etc) that the Bishop singled out as being most conducive to young human development, of which Xavier also has a proud history.
The Fijian students showed their cultural prowess in offering a full traditional ceremony (usually done by elders) to the Archbishop and we also saw their singing and dancing skills during the 2 day festival (15-16th Sept 2023) which also served as a fundraising for funds needed by the Parents and Friends’ Association to begin the FJ$1.6 million swimming pool project.
A newly commissioned statue of St Columban was unveiled by Fr Pat (only one of two such in Fiji, and the largest by far) and both he and the Society of St Columban was referenced in the statue’s plaque, particularly his phrase: “A life unlike your own can be your [best] teacher” – very apt in a multicultural college like Xavier.
Chief Guest for the first night of the Festival was the Deputy Priminister of Fiji, Hon. Viliame Gavoka, who was an alumnus from 1969-1970. He fondly remember the Columbans’ efforts to making learning a joyful thing, as well as their Irish ability to ‘play with’ words – something he claimed that helped him enormously in his lifetime in the tourism sector.
Fr Pat was Chief Guest on the final night and encouraged the new parish-based lay management in their efforts to not just maintain the academic reputation of the school, but to send out into Fiji and the world excellent young people, at home in their own cultural skin and open to God, each other, and all earth creatures for whom we have responsibility.
The Parish of Ba continued to celebrate after the Festival, because it hosted the First Mass of a son of the parish, Fr Iosefo Lui, ordained in Suva on 16th Sept 2023. He too is an ‘old boy’ of the school, along with 7 other alumni who became priests.
It was an honour to be present at all these events. The Regional Director of Oceania, Fr Peter O’Neill, sent a congratulatory message to the School Manager Mrs Margaret Muller, expressing our support and hope that the Columban spirit so evident in the school (they won first prize in Oceania’s Columban Creation competition in 2022) continue to flourish.
Ad multos annos, Xavier ! Thank you for keeping the Columban flag flying, even if Columbans cannot physically be with you. May we all take the good Saint’s advice to heart:
“Be persistent in study, unshaken in turmoil, joyful in suffering.” (Letter to a Young Disciple).
More pictures below:
Archbishop and Ba Parish Priest bless the statue, with Ana Vusama assisting
Newly commissioned statue of St Columban outside the Xavier Auditorium
With the Deputy PM, Hon Viliame Gavoka
First night of the carnival, with Maciu (an alumnus)
With the newly ordained Fr Iosefo Lui
Plaque under the statue