A new chapter for St Pius X Parish

The St Pius X Catholic Church at Raiwaqa, Suva. Picture: JONACANI LALAKOBAU

RIGHT in the heart of Raiwaqa in Suva — a place once well-known for its atrocities in the past — the St Pius X Parish was established in 1968.

Fifty years on, the parish marked its golden jubilee celebration, bringing people of different races and ethnic backgrounds together last Saturday.

Chairman of the Parish pastoral council and organising committee for the 50th anniversary celebration Dan Burese recalled growing up in Raiwaqa when the parish was first established.

“I have been part of this parish all my life and throughout these 50 years we have had 18 parish priests. In the beginning this was no easy place to live in but we managed to overcome those challenges” Mr Burese said.

A publication by the parish to mark its 50th anniversary stated that a handful of families within Raiwaqa laid the platform to which the Parish would grow.

“These families believed they had quite a substantial number to call meetings and discuss matters of mutual interest,” the publication highlighted.

One of the many discussions was the need to reach the Sacred Heart Cathedral for mass every Sunday, where one of the group’s members would collect a few shillings from everyone to pay for transport to and from the cathedral.

“Any leftovers from the collection would be banked and the procedure was repeated the following week.

“The Archbishop in Suva, then His Grace George Pearce, assigned Frs Dutton and Malone to the area on a regular basis to conduct prayer meetings at these Catholic homes, Burese’s, Crocker’s, Baraiwai’s, Santos’, Lavulo’s, Kutty’s, Dunne’s, Hale’s, Nasen’s, Baledrokadroka’s and the Shaw’s.”

According to Mr Burese, the church was built in 1971.

“Given the challenging background of this place, a lot of people from all over the country came down to live here. It was a new housing development project, but the bishop at the time saw the need for a church to be built to cater for the influx of Catholics into the area,” he said.

He said the parish then saw the need to establish a youth arm in 1975.

“We saw the need for a youth organisation to bring the people in and that was a big attraction for them then. We still have youths today but their manners and attitude have changed compared to other years with the influence of technology,” he said.

He said the church had grown from a few families to thousands of people of different races and ethnic backgrounds.

“From those humble beginnings the church grew and that is evident in the number of people from overseas who have come to be part of the celebrations; our priests who served here in the past years so all in all we have experienced a huge growth in the parish spiritually and in numbers as well. We have at the most 3000 parishioners to date,” Mr Burese said.

Parish priest Father John McEvoy said the celebration had bought so many people together, a challenge the parish had been facing.

“Well I suppose the challenge like a parish in Raiwaqa is always about unity, bringing about unity and diversity to so many ethnic groups and they have been living together like this for years. But you just try to keep at it,” Fr McEvoy said.

Mr Burese said the parish would now need to journey together within the next 50 years with the theme of this year’s celebration “A New Chapter, A New Beginning”.

“Keep journeying on together and try to be more of a missionary church rather than being a church that is centred in itself reading scriptures and singing, but to go out to meet the poor and help them with the problems they face, the real problems they face.

“I think that’s what the church should do, put faith into action,” he said.

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