Aug 5th and 6th, 2017 : Memorable Days in Noro Guanellian Mission
April 4th to 7th – Gizo priests’ meeting and their sharing on their priestly life, report of the activities in the parish, pastoral plan etc., took place in that cozy place, Betanio. All the priests were present and the Bishop guided the sharing and the deliberations.
It was here in the meet, the bishop took the views of the priests on the request to diaconate ordination of Bro Dominic, who had been with the priests in Noro for almost a year, assisting them in their ministry in every possible manne. And the bishop announced, to the joys of all present, that the priests had unanimously said ‘aye’ . Of course Bro Dominic’s joy knew no bounds, so too that of the parishioners in Noro and the Gilbertese in Canaan.
The date was also fixed. Aug 6th, the first Sunday in the month, when normally the parish of Noro celebrates its parochial festival of St Eusebius. Taking advantage of the bishop’s presence, visit of Canaan (Kohingo) and the Confirmation of children in the evening mass there were also fixed for Aug 5th .
Hectic preparations started in both the places, Canaan and Noro. Catechesis for the children to be confirmed, cleaning up, making a pathway (Mamma Maria highway, the people have named it) form the sea shore to Manieba in Canaan, filling up with gravel the slushy puddles, mowing the lawn, erecting stalls, giving a face lift to the Church, temporarily extending the parish Church on either side to accommodate additional guests and devotees, flood-lighting the campus, accepting gifted pigs and seasoning the meat and diving at night in the moonlight for fish, etc., The grotto of St. Guanella was also receiving final touches. The choir was trained to its perfection, with lyrics in the languages of the few ethnic groups. As busy as a beehive at 3.00 pm, both Noro and Canaan were for the past 3 weeks. Men and women, without distinction, taking up hard and soft jobs and children and youth too. People from the sub-stations lent a helping hand by supplying provisions for food.
The priests of the parish were around always, encouraging, prodding, patting, supplying water, biscuits and bananas, adjusting mass and prayer timings to suit the campus works, and always to be seen, heard and to guide .
Aug 5th was the day and the bishop arrived in Munda (airport for Noro) at the right time and was picked up by the PP, brought to the Church campus and after a little rest, taken to the wharf for the short boat trip to Canaan. And at the shores of Canaan, the people were gathered lining the two sides of MM highway they had made and festooned with the palm leaves. The bishop was literally carried on a cradle of dovetailed hands from the boat to the shore and the mass, with a warm welcome by the Secretary of the Zonal parish committee, started with lusty singing by the congregation. 40 children, 15 of them from Noro, were conferred the Sacrament of Confirmation. At the end of the mass, the Bishop was greeted and thanked for his visit and for what he has done to the people of Canaan, prominent among them was the starting of the St Margaret Kindy (KG School) . A memento was also presented to the bishop and after a light refreshment, all travelled back to Noro.
On the morning of Aug 6th, the entrance procession escorted Bro Dominic in his traditional costume and with his parents by his side and with five concelebrants (Frs Eligio, Tanis OP, Stanis, Mathias and Tony) the bishop moved upto the altar for the festive mass of the ordination to diaconate of Bro Dominic, with robust singing of the choir at the background.
After the Gospel reading the diaconate ceremony was started with a running commentary of the service by Fr Mathias and after a ‘bar-be-cue’ homily of the bishop, the deacon promised a life of celibacy and obedience to the bishop(s) who prayed over the candidate by laying his hands on his head, followed by the priests. The stole was vested on him by Fr Stanis, the PP of his mother parish, Sacred Heart in Waghena. With a hug of peace by the bishop and the priests, Bro Dominic was inducted into the family of the clergy of Gizo diocese.
The offertory procession by the children of Noro was so solemn that the congregation stood entranced. The deacon assisted at the Mass and he gave communion to his parents and the congregation.
After the final blessing by the bishop, he and the guest priests were seated in front of the altar, to be greeted, on behalf of the people, by the PPC (parish pastoral committee). Mr Augustine, the chairman of the PPC spelt out the various initiatives of the bishop for St Eusebius’s parish and the congregation applauded him with an ovation, He was presented with a memento and the sports items gifted by Fr Luigi SdC from Italy, were also presented to the chairpersons of PPC and ZPC (Zonal pastoral committee) of Canaan. The new table for tennis and lawn tennis items were given to Noro and the new hand soccer table and the repaired Table for tennis were handed over to Canaan. (Games and sports are an important ingredient of Salesians’ youth ministry and so the Bishop, a Salesian himself , was very happy to receive these from SdC for the parish of Noro).
Bro Dominic too spoke a few words of thanks to his parents, the bishop, his teachers and professors, the parish priests of Wagheena and Noro and after a few concluding words by the bishop (he also announced here the arrival of a third missionary Fr Anil SdC on 9th Aug and the departure of the first missionary Fr Tony on Aug 8th) this session came to an end and the heavens opened to ‘pour down rains’ on Noro.
The bishop had his lunch in the presbytery and left at 2.00 pm for Munda to fly his sea plane back to Gizo. Around 3.00 p.m, the people of Noro, gathered in Church campus for ‘feasting’ watched a light aircraft circling over Noro and recognized it as their bishop’s, waved joyously to him and bade him good-bye.
When the rains had subsided, the people had their lunch, prepared both in the campus by the women and brought from home, as per their drawn lots, two weeks before in the Church.
And now started the dances and singing, the people had been waiting for. Groups of young people, children, adults and women, from the different places (Gizo, Nusabaruku, Wagheena, Canaan and of course Noro), specially dressed for the occasion and with graceful movements of their limbs to synchronize with the cadence of music, enthralled the hundreds of people gathered in the campus. This went on into the night and when I got up in the morning, the campus of sprawling lawns looked deserted, but with tons of litter left behind. Cleansing operations were started Monday, Aug 7th, noon and the campus looked clean and green again by dusk.
Aug 5th and 6th, 2017 will be remembered by the people of Noro, not only for the parochial festival, but also for the bishop’s visit to ordain Bro Dominic a deacon, the campus of Noro spilling over with guests and friends coming from far and near, for the colourful dances and for the extraordinary spirit of camaraderie that characterized this community in this season.
Let the Bishop, his diocese, the parish community of Noro be blessed by God, with his showers of amazing graces, like the rains in Noro.
Fr S Tony, PP