THE late Archbishop Emeritus Petero Mataca would have died in his childhood at the hands of his father — Gabirieli Daunivucu — if fate had not intervened through his aunt.
He was only four years old when during an argument with an elder sister, lost his temper, headed straight for the kitchen where his mum — Akeneta Lewawiri — was cooking, grabbed a piece of firewood from the fire and threw it at his sister. But it missed her and instead burnt the dried thatched walls of their bure, destroying their home.
That was the day the young Mataca said the longest prayer in his life after seeing his mother with his baby brother run towards the plantation where his dad was.
He knew his dad would not be easy to handle. So he said: "Oh my God, help me."
"My dad got hold of me without even speaking and almost threw me into the fire. He was actually on the verge of throwing me in because his hands were moving towards the fire, when my aunt ran towards us and grabbed me."
That incident was his turning point. It made him appreciate his father's work as a catechist and the passion to become a priest was born.
In 1937 Mataca started his primary school days at Cawaci on Ovalau while secondary school was at Xavier College in Ba and at Saint Johns College.
At the end of 1954, he was given a place to study philosophy at the Holy Cross College in Dunedin, New Zealand.
He was urged by Bishop George Folley to further his studies in Rome.
"I declined because I wanted to complete my philosophy in NZ. Bishop Folley wrote to the college requesting that I travel to Rome to further my studies."
In Rome he completed his studies that paved the way to becoming the first local archbishop of Fiji and Rotuma.
In that interview held in 2006, he said: "I never dreamt of becoming the head of the Catholic Church but because of humility and obedience, I have come this far. These are very important factors of life — obedience and humility. If you want to go far in life, then possess these two elements."
A humble and soft spoken man from Vuaki who had time for the people, he will be sorely missed.
Ni sa moce saka. May your soul rest in peace.