In 1952, the village of Naselesele on the island of Taveuni, Fiji, built a small wooden church to serve the growing community.
By 2010, the membership had grown too large and the building was beyond repair so the parishioners sought their bishop’s permission to build a new church — a big task for a small village. The community was able to raise about 18,000 Fiji dollars, about $10,000, with money received from relatives and friends and a local fundraiser, but it was far short of the funds needed for the new church.
Father John Crispin, a Marist Missionary, is in charge of the churches on Taveuni. He visited Holy Cross parish in Wairiki and decided to ask Msgr. Edward Lofton, director of the Office of the Propagation of the Faith in the Diocese of Charleston, S.C., for assistance. Msgr. Lofton met with the local parish building committee to determine their needs and agreed to assist with the new church.
In February 2010, Msgr. Lofton celebrated Mass for the last time in the old structure. It was then taken down and the villagers began digging the footers for the new church by hand.
Soon concrete was mixed and poured and the new church was underway. Helena Moniz, coordinator for the Office of the Propagation of the Faith, and Msgr. Lofton began raising funds for the project through the Missionary Cooperative Program.
To date approximately $60,000 has been raised and spent for the project, thanks to the generosity of both the pastors and the people of the Diocese of Charleston.
“The villagers have made great progress on the church doing all the work by hand and as volunteers,” Msgr. Lofton said. “Everyone in the community is involved, even the women who provide afternoon tea for the workers.”
The walls are up and the roof is just about completed. There are sufficient funds to finish plastering the walls and putting in windows and doors. Archbishop Petero Mataca in Suva invited Msgr. Lofton to celebrate Mass in the semi-completed structure, which was attended by hundreds of villagers.
“What a great day it was for the parish to see their new church become a reality,” Msgr. Lofton said.
“There were many tears of joy. We still need about $20,000 to finish the building and our fundraising efforts will continue in the diocese. I am confident that we will be successful in helping the hard working people of the village of Naselesele see their church completed. I look forward to the day when the church is dedicated.”
For more information about the project contact the Office of the Propagation of the Faith at (843) 875-5002.