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Another Historic First

Xavier College, Ba, Fiji
A Feast Day for St. Francis Xavier

By Fr. Patrick Colgan

Readers of these pages may be getting used to the name of Xavier College, Ba, after being handed over to the Parish of Christ the King on Jan 1, 2021, and from the founding of a unique and multifaith charity arm called “From Mind to Heart” which continues to give groceries and help students during the pandemic-related lockdowns.

December 3, 2021, was another historic “first” for the College. It was in the first time in anyone’s memory that the school celebrated its Feast Day of St. Francis Xavier. This was due to COVID-19’s rearrangement of the academic year, meaning that classes (for years 12 and 13) stretched right into December, which would normally have been in the early weeks of the long summer holidays.

St. Francis XavierThe new management took full advantage of the opportunity, crafting activities for students and staff (the vast majority of whom are not Catholic) to come to know, pray to, and honor the great Apostle of Asia. Some of the activities included laying flowers at his statue during a simultaneous morning prayer and video presentation in all classrooms, followed by being treated to lunch by the Parents and Friends’ Association and ending with an evening Mass and dinner hosted by the surrounding Catholic community of St. Francis Xavier, Namosau.

We all know in broad strokes the story of St. Francis. He was a Spanish Jesuit who lived as missionary in the 1500s. He was one of the first seven members of the Jesuit order and travelled extensively, particularly in India, Southeast Asia, and Japan. Exhausted by his travels, he died at the age of 46 on December 3, 1552, at Shangchuan Island, Jiangmen, China and is a co-patron of all Catholic missions.

During his visit to the parish for Confirmations, the Archbishop challenged our schools to be more Catholic, not necessarily in the amount of doctrine taught (because that is now regulated by the government), but by increasing the Catholic atmosphere of the compound and the daily/yearly rituals of the Church. This was a good example of using a Feast Day, whose date everyone knew but had little idea of the person and reason behind it and using it to create an experience that non-Christian students will remember long after the math, physics and geography lessons have faded.

I was struck by an email sent by the Vice Principal of the College to her staff yesterday. She is a devout Hindu, but these were her words, which speak volumes of the spirit already in place:

“Wishing everyone a most blessed Feast Day of St. Francis Xavier, patron saint of missionaries. May his life of sacrifice and devotion to sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ remind us all of our own baptismal call to share the hope, peace and love of Jesus Christ with others.”

Please keep all missionaries who serve our Lord both home and abroad in your prayers. May the Lord bless you and keep you! St. Francis Xavier, pray for us!

Columban Fr. Patrick Colgan lives and works in Fiji.