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Address at the Ordination to the Priesthood of Deacon Pat Roland Michael Visanti.

November 24, 2017       Sacred Heart College Saint Joseph Hall, Suva.

Your Grace The Most Reverend Archbishop Peter Loy Chong;

The Reverend Donal Mcllraith, Regional Director of the Missionary Society of St. Columban;

The Reverend Pat Roland Michael Visanti;

Distinguished Guests; and

Ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys.

Noa’ia e Mauri, Ni sa Bula Vinaka and Good Evening to you all.

I wish to firstly thank you for your invitation to witness the ordination of Fiji’s first Columban of Rotuman descent – Reverend Pat Roland Michael Visanti. 

My wife Sarote and I were very honoured to be part of a solemn and auspicious ceremony at the Sacred Heart Cathedral.

We are doubly honoured to once again join many relatives and friends, for the reception this evening, and for this opportunity for me to express our gratitude and appreciation.

On our behalf, and on behalf of our beloved Nation, I wish to convey our heartfelt congratulations to Reverend Visanti.  Undoubtedly, this is a historical moment for you and our kainaga, many of whom are gathered here this evening, and others who await your visit to our home island of Rotuma.

It is also a historical moment for the Columban Society. And from a national perspective, today is yet another important development as we welcome an additional ‘Man of the Cloth’ into the Church and our nation.

As a developing country with increasingly easier access to all the trappings of modernity, Fiji needs our religious leaders, religious organisations and civic-minded people to help guide our young and innocent children to understand the responsibilities they need to bear to become good citizens of our beloved nation.

I have every confidence that you will rise to the occasion not only in spreading the word of God, but also in winning more souls to our Lord Almighty.

I am also confident that you will continue the tradition of the good missionary and nation-building work that the Columban Society is renowned for. 

I read with interest the history of how the Society of St. Columban was formed in Ireland on June 29, 1918, through the initial efforts of Father Edward Galvin. I also read how the Columban Society was established in Fiji in 1952.   And, importantly, of how the Society has contributed to strengthening the spiritual foundations of our people and communities through the establishment of numerous Parishes and educational institutions. 

It is very encouraging to learn that the Society established some of the best schools in Fiji like Xavier College, Holy Family and St. Bedes College, among others.

Ladies and gentlemen, as we gather to celebrate the ordination of the Reverend Visanti, I wish to seek your support towards building a successful nation that has people of high moral courage who can decisively address the ills of society.

Our world is fraught with so many challenges. One such major challenge facing humanity right now is the issue of climate change, where the world is now suffering the effects of excessive carbon emission. 

The end state is that many low-lying nations in the Pacific and around the world are forced to relocate entire villages to higher ground due to the rising sea levels. 

Fiji is no exception. Government has relocated a number of villages and predicts that more will need to be relocated. 

This is why Fiji has taken on the huge responsibility to preside over the world’s climate change negotiations. 

Our Prime Minister, Honourable Voreqe Bainimarama with a dedicated team from Government, the private sector and civil society organisations, have just returned home after very successfully leading the world’s climate change negotiations in Bonn, Germany as President of COP23. 

Our nation’s goal is to help save humanity and Planet Earth from the effects of climate change and to leave no one behind, irrespective of where one resides.  

The Honourable Prime Minister had requested the nation and all churches and church leaders in particular to pray for the journey to Bonn and the work that we have to do thereafter.  The negotiations in Bonn may have concluded. But we have so much work before us to implement the commitments made in Bonn.

Incidentally, I had a very inspiring meeting with the Head of the Catholic Church in the world, His Holiness Pope Francis, in Rome in March of this year. During our conversation, His Holiness presented me with a copy of his book the Laudato Si or Encyclical on the Environment.  The Laudato Si is essentially a call on world leaders to develop the moral responsibility to take better care of the environment and humanity.

It is this same call that we must make even here in Fiji in our own homes and communities. We can help address climate change by our everyday actions at home where we can learn to grow more trees and greenery, and reduce polluting the environment.  

There are many other challenges that I wish to raise with you today, but in the interest of time, I will limit this to the one thing that is within our control and that is the unnecessary spread of Non-Communicable Diseases. You may have heard that over 80-percent of deaths in Fiji are caused by NCDs. These are illnesses like diabetes, heart attack and stroke, among others. 

As Fiji’s champion in the campaign to eliminate NCDs, I encourage you all to practice healthy living by choosing to eat locally grown and fresh foods, by reducing your alcohol and kava intake, quitting smoking, and exercising daily. These actions will not only be good for you individually, but it will be good for your families as you will spend less on medical bills, and live longer and happier lives.  These measures will also be good for the nation because we will also save up on the cost of providing health services for diseases that are within our control.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have chosen to speak to you on these issues because they require moral courage from the individual and community levels. 

Our gathering to celebrate the Reverend Visanti’s ordination will take on an even greater traction if we pledge to work with him in saving souls and saving lives.

I once again congratulate the Reverend Visanti on his successful ordination as the first Fijian Columban Priest of Rotuman descent.

May God bless you, and May God continue to bless our beloved nation, Fiji.