Archbishop Petero Mataca, R.I.P.

July 3, 2014

Fr. Petero Mataca and Fr. Charles Duster

Word was received of the death of Archbishop Petero Mataca, 81, the Archbishop Emeritus of Fiji on June 30th in the capital city, Suva after an extended illness.  Archbishop Mataca was the first indigenous Fijian Archbishop and the first archdiocesan priest to hold that post.  He was ordained Bishop on December, 8, 1974, at age 41, and Archbishop two years later.  He served 36 years in that leadership role until his resignation was accepted by Pope John Paul II and a successor was appointed, Archbishop Peter Loy Chong, in 2012

Archbishop Mataca had many connections with the Columban Fathers over the decades.  They first went to Fiji in 1952 and are still serving there.  His pastor on his home island in the Yasawa Group when he was growing up was Father Martin Dobey, the only person from Fiji to attend Father Mataca’s ordination which took place in Rome in 1959.  He celebrated his first Mass in the Columban House there.  At one time, the Columban Fathers staffed about half of the parishes in the country and served in various administrative roles in the Archdiocese including the office of Vicar General.

A kind, genial man, very informal and a keen golfer, Archbishop Mataca was always very supportive of the Columban Fathers efforts in Fiji often aided by the financial help and support of Columban benefactors in the building of new parishes, schools and particularly in the training of lay leaders.  He was especially interested in and followed closely Columban efforts to train and send missionaries, both ordained and lay, from Fiji to other parts of the world: Peru, Chile, the Philippines, Pakistan Korea Ireland and the United States.  He presided at the ordination of young Columban Fathers from Fiji as well as the mission sending ceremonies of lay missionaries, young men and women serving overseas for three or more years.

Archbishop Mataca will be greatly missed and left a huge imprint on the development of Fiji since it gained its independence in 1970.  He was informal in his dealings with people of all faiths and loved nothing more than a hotly contested game of cards while sitting on the floor enjoying the companionship of his far flung flock during a village visitation.  “May his good deeds follow him.” (Revelations 14:13)