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The Fijian for Philosophy

A group of Fijian men sitting around the yaqona bowl

By Fr. Frank Hoare

Four of our Columban seminarians are studying philosophy at the Pacific Regional Seminary (PRS). During our community night one Sunday evening someone asked one of them who was serving the yaqona (local beverage made of roots) what the Fijian for philosophy would be. Being somewhat at a loss he said “talo” (serve the yaqona) and began serving the yaqona. We all laughed and then agreed that “bati ni tanoa” (chat around the yaqona bowl) would be a possible translation for philosophy!

A few weeks later I was conducting a focus group discussion of single mothers in a village as part of the consultative phase of the diocesan synod preparation. The catechist was present and was serving the yaqona. He became so interested in the ladies’ discussion that a long period passed without any yaqona being served.

I said, “I Vakavuvuli (catechist), recently we had a discussion in Suva about the Fijian word for philosophy. One of the students said that the word, ‘Talo’ might be a good word for it.” “Oh!” said the startled catechist. He immediately served a round of yaqona.

An Interview with Novices

The Good Shepherd Sisters from Australia contacted me some months ago. They asked if I could do personality assessments for three I Kiribati girls who had applied to enter their novitiate. Sometime later I visited Tarawa, the main island of the Kiribati group. The three girls came to meet me. I administered some tests and interviewed each girl in turn. The lengthy interview explored very personal issues.

I went to their convent the following day to complete the tests. The Sister-in-charge told me that the girls talked to her on their return to the convent the previous evening. They said to her that it was a good thing that the priest interviewer was not a young handsome man.

I told this story to my sister in Ireland today. Being well up in the ways of the world, she retorted, “What they really meant was they were disappointed that you weren’t a young handsome man!”

Columban Fr. Frank Hoare lives and works in Fiji.

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