On Thursday, August 9, 2012, a group of about 250 priests, lay missionaries, Companions in Mission and Rabi islanders boarded the Lomaiviti Princess for the long journey to Rabi, the home and place of ordination of the newest Columban priest, Taaremon Matauea. During the 20 hour voyage, we stopped at the ports of Savusavu and Taveuni, finally berthing in the open sea off Rabi. A succession of small fishing vessels then arrived to ferry us to a beach where we would await transport to the Catholic Mission station. In true island style, these procedures took a lot longer than expected, and it was very dark when we arrived at the halls, classrooms and churches where we were billeted and fed. The sounds of kava being pounded, animals being slaughtered for the feast and people and trucks coming and going all night filled the night air; we could feel the enormous excitement and struggle of the people to give us their best.
The next morning saw us all assembled under the iron roofing of the large shed built for the ordination. Ominous clouds cleared to brilliant sunshine as we witnessed the Archbishop of Suva, with about 25 priests from Fiji, the U.S. and Taiwan ordain Taaremon, dressed in his traditional costume which was only shed when he was clothed by his relatives in the soutane of priesthood. It was extraordinary to see the cultural procession of Bible and gifts, as well as hear hymns sung in i-Kiribati, Fijian, Hindi and Spanish, a reflection of Taaremon’s missionary journey to date. After an enormous lunch, shared with and in part provided by the majority Methodist community, we had an afternoon of dancing performed by the children of the various Rabian schools. Celebrations only came to an end when the diesel generator had to be turned off to preserve precious fuel at 1 am!
By that time, many of us were already on our way back to the beach to await our trips to board the Princess, which had waited all day. By 6 am, all were accounted for, up went the drawbridge and within an hour we were having Sunday Mass at sea, thanking God for His protection and asking it to continue for the next 24 wave-washed and sleepy hours! Taaremon returns to Taiwan in February 2013 – indeed, what a journey!