Fr Felisiano Fatu is a Columban Missionary Priest who hails from Matahau village in Tongatapu, located in Tonga west of the country's capital. He was a bailiff officer in Tonga before he became a Columban. Fr. Felisiano grew up in Tonga but dreamed beyond.
In this column, read the motivating narrative of moments of his life as a Columban and reflections on both Fr Felisiano’s diaconate and priesthood ministries in Fiji.
” My only contact with Columbans before going to the seminary in Suva, Fiji in was when Fr. Frank Hoare visited my home in Tonga to interview me and administer the required psychological tests. So, for me, all was new when I entered the Columban initial formation program in Suva, Fiji in 1994. The priests in charge were Irish. I found myself living in a community of Tongans, Fijians and Indo-Fijians. It turned out to be a great experience of living with other cultures and races. Being only 19 years of age, I was open to learning new things. A new place, new languages, new horizons, all gave me a sense of excitement”
“I found the four years in the seminary in Suva to be positive and enriching. Sharing life with other young men searching for their way broadened my appreciation of human diversity. I realised that I could learn a new language, that I could make friends with people who were not Tongan. This process of cultural and personal enrichment continued for me during my spiritual year in Manila, which was a time of intense focus on our relationship with Christ, his love for us and his call to mission. Having completed my initial theological studies, I was ordained priest in Tonga in 2004 at the age of 29 years, and then spent a year in Fiji waiting for a visa to Pakistan, my next mission assignment.”
Diaconate Ministries in Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, Lautoka
“I was assigned to begin my diaconate ministry at the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Lautoka in 2003. At the time, Fr. Cecil Williams was the parish priest while Jone Daunivucu was also in resident. I spent my time there from February until November 2003 just before I headed for Tonga to prepare for my sacerdotal ordination. After ten years in Columban Formation, I was very enthusiastic to begin my diaconate ministry with pastoral commitments. I was glad and happy that Lautoka presented me with opportunities to serve people. Apart from serving as a deacon in daily Eucharists, I also gave homilies, visiting and giving communion to the sick and also did the burial rite in funerals. I also enjoyed immensely the opportunity to minister to the Catholic inmates at the Natabua Prison with Sunday para-liturgy and having talanoa with them afterward. I also visited them during the week. I also regularly visited the home for the physically challenged children that were looked after by the Marist Sisters. This was always a highlight for me to chat with the kids and be present to them.”
“In hindsight, what I appreciated from this significant period of ministry was having the concrete pastoral opportunities to put into practice what I have acquired during the years in Columban Formation. These pastoral opportunities gave me insights in working, relating and serving the sacramental needs of the parishioners. I also learnt about myself through these concrete interactions both with priests, religious and the people. I truly appreciated their moral support, affirmation and encouragement while ministering to them. I also reciprocated the same. I grew in confidence in my abilities to be of humble service to people but at the same time I was able to deal maturely with challenges I encountered in the context of service and relationship with people. I would characterize my time in Lautoka as a deacon as happy, fulfilling, humble service, a time of learning and a time of personal growth and vocational affirmation. My diaconate ministry in Lautoka still remains a fond and relishing experience in mind and heart.”
Priesthood Ministries in St. Pius X Parish, Raiwaqa
“Due to the long delay in acquiring my to visa to Pakistan, I requested the Columbans if I could come from Tonga to Fiji to be in a Columban parish. The director at the time Fr. Dan Ahern was happy to have me in Fiji and especially to Raiwaqa. I assisted Fr. Gerry McNicholas at the parish while awaiting the Pakistani visa from Canberra. I appreciated the encouragement and the trust afforded me by Fr. Gerry to be able to minister in the parish and to gain pastoral experiences and insights. I truly relished my time of celebrating eucharists, of hearing confession, of doing baptisms, visiting and giving communion to the sick, accompanying the parish youth and giving occasional seminars to the parishioners. I was content and truly ground myself as a newly ordained Columban by ministering to people in the parish. It was the best preparation I could ever ask for in terms of my missionary assignment to Pakistan despite the long delay in acquiring the visa. I appreciated the moral support, encouragement and affirmation afforded by the parishioners and I reciprocated the same to them. In hindsight, Raiwaqa parish was the most apt and nourishing ambience for a newly ordained Columban like me. I was truly blessed and grateful indeed to God for such a wonderful and endearing opportunity to be with a fellow Columban and the parishioners. I appreciated how the parish celebrated my one-year anniversary of priesthood. It remains a fond and relishing experience and memory for me after all these years. I am grateful to God and all those who contributed to my pastoral and ministerial experiences both in Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Lautoka and St. Pius X in Raiwaqa.”
“FOR THE GREATER GLORY AND PRAISE OF GOD.”
by Fr. Felisiano Fatu