The Fijian Catholic Chaplaincy across greater Sydney cares for a small, but faithful group of people from the South Pacific island nation who enjoy getting together once a month for Mass and shared community fellowship.
Marist priest Fr Brian Wilson, who spent more than 30 years as a missionary in Fiji, is the official chaplain for the Fiji Sydney Catholic Chaplaincy, which takes in the Archdiocese of Sydney and the Dioceses of Parramatta, Broken Bay and Wollongong.
“We meet once a month at (Holy Name of Mary Parish) Hunters Hill and we would have about 150 people at each gathering,” Fr Brian says.
“So it’s not a huge chaplaincy, but it’s quite a strong little community.
“It’s not meant to replace their involvement with their local parish, which is where the real focus is, but to supplement it.
“The ideal situation with migrant communities is not that the need for chaplaincy goes on and on forever, but that people become part of the parish, part of the local church and it has to be said that the Fijian community has been very good at doing that.
“So much depends on language when it comes to fitting in with the local parish and all Fijians learn English at school and it’s the main medium of learning at school, so their spoken English is very fluent, which makes it easier to fit in.
“But, having said that, they do like to get together where they can and have a Mass in Fijian once a month.”
The Sydney Fijian Catholic Chaplaincy also has a vibrant social media presence, with their Facebook page showcasing some of the community’s social gatherings, including Pacific Island dance nights, curry nights and fundraisers for Catholic causes in Fiji.
The Marists have been present as missionaries in Fiji since 1844 and today retain a strong presence there, along with a range of other religious congregations and diocesan clergy, although the Fijian Catholic Community is comparatively small, as most Fijian Christians are Methodists.
Fr Brian has a close relationship with the Fijian community in Sydney after his years spent in different parts of the island nation, including time as Director of Catholic Education there, following appointments in several schools, both teaching and as Principal, as well as a period as Principal of a teachers’ training college and as parish priest.
He says his role as chaplain to the Fijian community in Sydney is to work with parish priests to support Fijian Catholics in their faith.
“One of the regular things I do is visit people in hospital when they are sick, so in that capacity, I’m very familiar with Nepean Hospital and other hospitals in western Sydney,” he says.
“And my visit there would be in addition to the care they already receive from the hospital chaplains.
“But, when it comes to the sacraments and things like that, it’s all done through the parish, so that hopefully, three Sundays out of four, the members of the Fijian Catholic Community are present in their parish church, contributing their own wonderful cultural gifts to the broader community.”