From the Director
As a tall, athletic youth, Fr. Tom Rouse was a valued player on any rugby team. He was also a diligent student, who excelled in history and math. However, when he felt God's call to become a missionary priest during his high school years, there appeared one dark cloud on the horizon.
From his birth, Tom had a hearing impediment that not only impacted his ability to comprehend others, but resulted also in speech difficulties. As a child, he obtained professional help to address these difficulties, but his struggle to participate fully in conversations resulted at times in feelings of frustration and embarrassment.
However, Tom was determined to follow his dream and, after high school, was accepted into the Columban seminary. There, his outgoing personality, his academic ability, and athletic talent enabled him to move steadily towards his goal. Yet, that dark cloud on the horizon threatened to spoil it all. Despite a significant improvement in his speech thanks to the guidance of a speech therapist, his seminary guides still wondered if his difficulties would become a major obstacle to learning a new language in a mission country. To his relief, however, it was decided that he could continue his preparation for Columban missionary priesthood.
After his ordination, Tom was assigned to Fiji, where he and a few other Columban companions began studying the Fijian language. Daily life presented the new missionaries with opportunities and excitement, but also with difficulties and confusion. The local people were friendly and hospitable, but the limited language skills of Fr. Tom and his companions made communication very frustrating. There were many moments of uneasiness and misunderstanding, which caused the new missionaries to feel embarrassed and discouraged. Sometimes they felt dismissed or ignored because of their language limitations.
Such moments were particularly difficult for Fr. Tom's companions who had been accustomed to fully engaging others. However, for Fr. Tom, such experiences had been part and parcel of his life since childhood due to his hearing impairment. He already had a lot of practice in negotiating moments of misunderstanding and confusion. More importantly, he had learned to laugh at himself! Now, in this new mission, these difficult experiences strengthened his belief that, with patience and perseverance, he could learn to communicate effectively in the Fijian language.
Fr. Tom succeeded in his language studies and formed many close friendships with the Fijian people. Looking back over the decades, he realizes that the same dark cloud that hovered threateningly at times on the horizon, also helped form a magnificent display of colors whenever he allowed the sun to shine through it.