Next week, from 5 – 10 February 2023, dozens of bishops from across Oceania, including Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, will gather in Suva, Fiji for the Federation of Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania (FCBCO).
The FCBCO happens every four years and includes the Catholic Bishops Conferences of Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands and the Episcopal Conference of the Pacific which includes the Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, New Caledonia, Northern Mariana Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Wallis and Futuna.
The event will focus on several themes including care for the oceans, synodality and mission. Catholic Outlook spoke to Sister Carmel Pilcher RSJ from Lapstone in the Diocese of Parramatta, who is helping organise the event.
Catholic Outlook: What is your role in the Conference?
My role in the conference is to coordinate the liturgies for the six-day event. This includes an opening Mass in Sacred Heart Cathedral, Suva, that will be presided over by Cardinal Michael Czerny, the Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. It also includes five other Eucharistic liturgies and a Fijian cultural Mass. We are also preparing morning and evening prayer for each day of the conference. I am ably assisted by a team of seven Fijians, many of whom are skilled musicians.
CO: How long have you been preparing for this event?
We began working on this process in August 2022, but it is only in January that I have been able to join the team in Suva to attend to the final details. Until now, we have had weekly meetings via Zoom, and in between, the team has been working on the liturgical music especially.
CO: Is there anything unique about this event?
This event is different. Its timing coincides with the continental stage of the Synod of Synodality. For that reason, the FCBCO will be engaged in preparing the final document that will be presented to the Synod to be held in Rome.
CO: How did you come into this role? Do you have a connection with Fiji?
I have spent many years, at the invitation of Archbishop Peter Loy Chong of Suva, giving liturgical workshops in the Archdiocese of Suva. I have also taught liturgy and sacraments at the Pacific Regional Seminary in Suva – first as a sessional teacher and in the past three years, as a full-time member of staff.
CO: What are you most looking forward to with this event?
I and the team are looking forward to the privilege of assisting the participants in the important task of praying and coordinating the liturgies. We have created special prayers that we ask everyone to pray.
CO: Why is it important to pray for our bishops and church leaders?
It is always important to pray, especially for our church leaders, that the Holy Spirit will guide their deliberations. This is especially important at this time when they are making a significant contribution, not just to the church in our region of Oceania, but also universally.
Please join us to pray for all the bishops, church leaders and organisers of the FCBCO. You can find out more about the FCBCO here: https://fcbco.org/
Sister Carmel Pilcher rsj is a Liturgy Consultant who has been serving in the area of liturgy for more than 50 years. As well as teaching, preparing significant liturgical events, including two papal liturgies, she has also worked in leadership roles in liturgy, in many dioceses of Australia, and internationally. She is currently assisting our First Nations’ peoples with inculturating the liturgy, especially in the Diocese of Broome and Darwin.
Sister Carmel is a member of St Finbar’s Parish in Glenbrook.