From classroom to church – Achieving his childhood dream

Reverend Fereimi Cama. Picture: SUPPLIED

WHEN the announcement came that he was to be appointed as the new archbishop of the Diocese of Polynesia, Father Fereimi Cama became emotional and thought of his late wife Mereadani.

It’s a far cry from those early days in his village in Ono-i-Lau in the Lau Group where he once had a carefree childhood and that he had a staunch Methodist family.

He remembered telling his mother as an eight-year-old that he wanted to be a Methodist minister when he grew up.

He achieved this but under the Anglican Church.

“My wife was an Anglican I was a Methodist,” described Fr Cama.

“We both taught in rural schools and there weren’t any Anglican churches there so we attended the Methodist church most of the time.

Throughout my life and ministry, my wife had been a great supporter and pillar of strength. I believe I am here because of her and I would have loved for her to be here beside me and share in the fruits of our work.”

Mereadani had passed away in January last year. Father Cama said it was the events of the 1987 coup that influenced him to become an Anglican. The 62-year-old chose to join his wife at the Holy Trinity Cathedral congregation in 1987.

“In 1988 I was a member of the cathedral vestry, in 1989 a lay minister, and in 1990 I was ordained a deacon on the prompting of the then dean the Rev Dr Winston Halapua.”

“I have never looked back since. Fr Cama becomes the first Fijian to be elected the Archbishop of the Diocese of Polynesia after many Europeans, Samoans and Tongans have served in it. He becomes the seventh Bishop and Primate or joint leader of The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.

“Being the first has been part of my journey all along. I think the support of the people that have …including my experience as a school teacher for 18 years has been a great help in my ministry. Of course with God’s help I’ve been able to achieve all this,” he said.

Throughout his 18-year journey, Father Cama has seen quite a lot of events. But his best highlight was taking communion to the parliamentarians that were held hostage at the Fiji Parliament back in 2000. During the 56 days the hostages were held at gun-point by coup perpetrators, he was walking in their midst to provide spiritual help.

“It was through the request of one of the Fijian of Indian descent hostages that I was there.

He was a practising Anglican.

He befriended one of the CRW soldiers and asked if he could have an Indo-Fijian Anglican priest to carry out communion for them.

The then Archbishop Bryce came to me and asked ‘what do we do?’

“I told him that I would go. He told me that there won’t be any guarantee on my safety. I took my communion sets, we said a prayer then I was escorted down into parliament by one of the CRW soldiers.

Our Fijians of Indian descent parliamentarians were on the ground floor. There were four CRW soldiers, two outside and two inside with the parliamentarians.

I introduced myself, we shook hands and then I carried out the communion, and it was not just the practising Anglican who took part but other Hindus and Muslims that were present.

After that, I went to the iTaukei parliamentarians to give their communion. And interestingly some of them were almost alcoholics and I used to come there with a bottle of water and a bottle of wine and they’d say to me – ‘Father there’s plenty water here, next time you fill it with more wine. So when I gave the communion cup to one of them they would gulp the whole thing. It lightened the mood during those times.”

“It has been quite a journey but I was grateful that my wife stood with me throughout. I dedicate this post to her.”

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