Letters tell of tropical mission hardships
The Mission of Our Lady of Sorrows Collected letters translated by: Father John Crispin Publisher: Star Printery
WHEN Catholic missionaries first arrived in Fiji they faced a cold reception from the chiefs and people. Deprived in a large part of food and shelter, the priests and brothers of the Society of Mary (Marists) eked out a living on coconuts, fish, wild yams and whatever vegetables they could plant. The Fijians treated them in the main objects of interest, as perhaps one would exotic animals.
The only other Europeans living in close proximity to these missionaries were Wesleyans – English men and their wives. At every opportunity the Wesleyans used their influence on the chiefs to ensure that the new mission would not take hold as they battled for the hearts and minds of the Fijian people.
The year was 1844 – less than 30 years since the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte to the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo. Yet on the island of Lakeba in the Fijian Archipelago, Anglo-French hostilities were played out by the Englishmen and women of the Wesleyan mission and the Frenchmen of their Catholic enemy.