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Covid-19 won’t halt growth of the Faith in Fiji

LAST year, one of Missio Scotland’s two supported projects in the continent of Oceania concerned a programme aimed at growing the Faith in Fiji.

With the island country facing grave situations often exacerbated by climate change, it would, perhaps, be understandable if Fijians were to encounter a crisis of faith, but Stephen Hall—the New Zealander leading the Missio Scotland supported project in the country—explained how they were working hard to prevent that and encourage faithful development.

“The Archdiocesan Synod held in Suva in 2018-19 identified the need for a diversified youth ministry, which catered for the different needs of young people of different ages,” Stephen said. “The Archbishop, Peter Loy Chong, saw that a post-Confirmation programme was needed, as a large number of teenagers who had been Confirmed had fallen through the cracks afterwards and stopped their involvement with the Church. So Missio Scotland is funding the programme developers to create a programme which engages young people and helps them commit their life to the Church.”

The programme has been designed by consecrated members of the Focolare Movement—which Stephen, who works as a teacher, is part of—and has been developed in collaboration with the Youth Commission of the Archdiocese of Suva. It aims to:

  • Respond to the call and prayer of the Suva Archdiocesan Synod: “Connecting in Jesus, and with our neighbour, to be His heart, mind, eyes and ears, hands and feet to All Creation.”

  • Help the youth to be formed and accompanied so they encounter Jesus; feel they belong to their parish as active members; and use their gifts to be Jesus’ disciples to serve him in their neighbours and in creation.

  • Engage young people through a methodology of ‘Head, Hands, Heart,’ reflecting Pope Francis’ vision, where young people are enabled to explore and live out their faith in their local context, and where they can find relevance for their faith in the challenges that young people meet today.

  • Build their confidence to bear witness to their faith by providing opportunities to contribute fully to the life of the Church and the growth of a just society.

The programme draws on Gospel based spirituality and experience of the Focolare Movement in engaging with teenagers as well as the teachings of Magisterium with the aim of training the young people to be youth leaders and Catechists.

Like many projects throughout the world, it was put on hold as a result of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, but, after a long wait, Stephen finally arrived in Fiji at the end of February to start making the programme a reality, as he explained to Missio Scotland.

“For my first month and a half, I was very blessed to stay in the Pacific Regional Seminary where men from all over the Pacific train for the priesthood,” he explained. “In New Zealand, we have a cheeky saying that due to the country’s natural beauty, New Zealand is ‘God’s Own Country.’ However, being in Fiji and seeing how deeply the people here, pray, I had a new thought. Yes, New Zealand is God’s Own Country, but Jesus must be Fijian! In the seminary, I was very struck by the Tongan students’ wonderful singing, so I finished up like this: New Zealand is God’s Own Country, Jesus is Fijian, but in Heaven they sing in Tongan!

“While staying at the seminary, I heard many wonderful stories of faith from Fiji and got a feeling for the local Church. I also met many people involved in youth ministry in Suva. All of these contacts gave new insights as to what the Post-Confirmation Programme we are tasked to write should look like.”

“Recently I have been involved in discussions with local formators involved in delivering the current Confirmation Programme who have also been developing materials to use with the post- Confirmation youth,” Stephen added. “These discussions are ongoing and will help to develop a programme proposal to the Archbishop, His Grace Peter Loy Chong shortly. It is our hope to consult widely with Catechists and others involved in youth ministry around the whole Archdiocese once the initial programme proposal has been approved.

“People are so grateful to hear that Missio Scotland is making it possible for the Post-Confirmation Programme to be developed as it is a widely recognised need. As I was writing this, it was the feast day of St Peter Chanel, the Patron Saint of Oceania. I am sure he is watching over our efforts to continue handing on the Faith as he did so heroically in the islands of the Pacific.”

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