Fr Dan Ahern spent about 43 years in Fiji from 1956 to 2009. In 1966 he came to Fiji, settling in and teaching in Corpus Christi teachers’ college from 1966 to 1976. Like everybody else his first impression was the friendliness and welcoming of the Fijian people and also their distinct culture and their great sense of identity for the two major groups; Indian and Fijian.
He was in Xavier College from 1977 to 1987. He first went in there as a teacher and later appointed as Regional Director. He was teaching and at the same time functioned from their as Director of the Region. During that time Fr. John Doyle was the principal of the College and later posted to Namosi. So Fr. Dan was appointed principal of the school and also the last Columban principal of Xavier College.
Generally it was Bishop Foley’s idea to start up a secondary school in the West to cater for the Indians in the West; mainly Ba and Lautoka. It was more like Bishop Foley’s Missionary outreach and also part of evangelization in the sense of providing education for those children who were hungry for education in the West.
Columban’s contribution to Xavier College started from the initial stage of the establishment of the school. Before the establishment of Xavier there was only one school in Ba which was run by the Marist Fathers. It was more like a seminary. Later moved to Cawaci in Ovalau and the Columban were asked by Bishop Foley to run a secondary school in Ba to look after the Indian in the West. The intention is not to make converts, but for students to have a feel of Christian way of producing education. John Doyle was very much part of the establishment of Xavier College and was very keen in improving education. He made arrangements for fundraising and building schools.
His appointment to a secondary school on the western side of Fiji, and the difficulties he had to overcome there, teaching different denominations. Religion class consisted of three different groups; Catholics,(very smaller number) Christians (others) Hindu and Muslims (bigger number). There were instruction class for Catholics, one for Methodist and others and one for non-Christians and Fr. Dan generated this class which he said was very challenging and he liked it very much. They were keen to share their Muslim and Islam faith and belief. And also when it came to Diwali/Eid festival, they would tell the class what was being done or what is so significant about this festive season. It was a kind of a beginning of little faith dialogue in that sense. Fr. Dan was the only catholic in that group and what was interesting is that the students were always keen to participate in the class. In that sense is very interesting and the little catholic group was kind of bored with religion.
Some of the things that the school values were good discipline and serious studies and work and also a sense of respect for students and that is something the students themselves value. It was a well-run school and good results and students appreciated that. The school was involved in soccer which was the main game in those earlier days, so Xavier was a strong soccer set school.
Happiest memory in Xavier was teaching. Fr Dan loved teaching and he loved Maths as he was a Maths teacher in Xavier College .
His final mission in 1989 was to assist native Fijians in becoming Columbans. In 2001 he was appointed Director for the Columbans in Fiji. He retired in 2006.