I am teaching and counselling seminarians at the Pacific Regional Seminary in Suva. One of my senior student counselees, Joe, lives in a small group of students under the direction of a priest. The students ignored some rules. The priest confronted the group. The students reacted with indignation and refused to apologize. A conflict ensued.
Joe admitted that the priest’s challenge reminded him of his father criticizing and punishing him severely. He also admitted privately that most of the priest’s demands were correct and just. However, he could not admit this publicly out of loyalty to the group. Hence the impasse. The tight unyielding solidarity of the group made rational argument by the priest fruitless. The power struggle was tied up with transference of unresolved issues from family in the past. Cultural values and group dynamics were operative in the present.
In the counseling situation Joe decided to accept his responsibility, as a senior member of the group, to become a bridge between the priest and seminarians. He spoke with both sides. The standoff was freed up, and they celebrated the reconciliation by drinking kava together.
Columban Fr. Frank Hoare provided this excerpt from his diary.