William Lee from Labasa joined the Columban formation program in 1998. When the senior students went to the Philippines for spiritual year in 1998 and then went on FMA or to Chicago there were just four students left together in Suva for two years. Willie had worked in the farm business at home for 6 years, so he found it challenging to get back to an academic environment and to adjust to a more structured formation program. It was also a challenge that there were no senior students there. On the contrary, he had to take some leadership responsibility as well as adapt to new learning processes:
“Even though we were few and beginners I learnt a lot by taking up responsibility, as I learnt from taking responsibility on the farm. I was in charge of doing the weekly shopping with Lino Seru. We worked as a team. We had house meeting every Saturday in two parts – business matters and then personal sharing on how we were feeling during the week. This second part was new to me and it was a learning experience. It is difficult in the Fijian culture to get in touch with feelings and to share them. How to do so was becoming clearer to me in the second year. I realized that it was helpful and that I was beginning to understand myself more. If I had differences with Lino I was able to share them and say how I felt about them. It wasn’t confrontational but it allowed for a more honest relationship”
Fr. Willie found that not only was trying to understand the cultures of the formators a challenge to him but that he and his Fijian companions had important cultural differences among themselves. Fr Willie Lee, originally from Dogotuki was ordained in Labasa in 2009 and ministered for more than six years in Chile until he was appointed back to Fiji as Vocation Director in 2016. Due to the COVID 19 outbreak that reached our shores in March 2020 (whilst on Vocation program on the island), Fr. Willie has been held back in Kiribati.
The Turning Wheel
by Fr. Frank Hoare SSC