The word “pastoral” is defined by the Oxford Advanced Dictionary as “the work of a priest in giving help in personal matters”. The way I define “pastoral” is, “giving my time and self for others for a certain amount of time, putting their needs before mine”. During my pastoral work I have experienced different thoughts and feelings that have taught me new things about myself.
My first taste of pastoral work was with Br Gerald. He took me to visit the beggars, shoeshine boys and the old people of Pearce Home in Suva. My feelings and thoughts while visiting these people were a mixture of embarrassment, fear and the thought of people looking down on me.
First we visited the beggars and to my surprise I found them to be just as normal as my next door neighbors. In fact, there was nothing to be embarrassed about. The thought of bystanders looking on as I chatted with the beggars stopped bothering me. It was very interesting listening to them while they told their stories. I used to think that giving beggars some money was doing good. However, I found that stopping and giving them 10 minutes of my time to listen to them is even better.
From visiting the beggars, it was off to visiting the shoeshine boys. Again those negative thoughts and feelings were coursing through my head and body. But, to my surprise they were just as normal as my friends from the neighborhood trying to make a living. I used to think that going to the shoeshine boys to shine my shoes was good, but getting to know them and interacting with them was even better.
After visiting the boys, Br Gerald and I made our way to visit the old women at Pearce Home in central Suva. Visiting the old women brought back memories of my brothers and me sitting around the tanoa listening to our grandmother regaling us with stories from the past.
After our visitations I wanted to shout or to cry; I just didn’t know what to do. I think it was the feeling of exaltation and deep peace that filled my soul and hit my heart for the first time. This had been the first time in my life to spend my time with the poor and I felt so blessed.
Upon reflecting on my pastoral work, in various pastoral placements, I have learnt many things for myself. I have learnt not to judge people who I meet for the first time. I have learnt that it takes trust and constancy in order to build up a relationship with the people I minister to.
Pastoral work isn’t easy; it takes time and effort. Someone once told me that pastoral work is for the brave and strong. To be brave and strong means that no matter what, whether the sun is shining or it’s pouring with rain, if it’s time to go on pastoral then I must go, and not make excuses. Pastoral work and prayer go together. It is of no use just praying for people and neglecting to visit them. Words without action are of no use to anyone.
Chevalier Training Center is an apostolate of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. It was founded in 1992 to assist youths from broken families, those who come from a background of abuse and crime. The Center provides a two year skill training program in Carpentry, Cabinet Making, Motor Mechanics, Welding & Metal Work and Farm Management. Through the training given to the youths, the Center aims to find permanent employment making them more successful and self confident members of society and preventing them from commiting crime. Our priority is to assist those who have least hope. At present the Center has about 65 youth from the age of 17- 25 years.
Each year it cost around FJD$120,000 to run the Program. Even though the Center generates about 30% of the expenditure it largely depends on on the generosity of our benefactors.
I minister to a group of young men on the streets of Suva. I work with them on the streets, in court, and in prison. I’m in contact with them 3 times a week (twice on the streets and once in prison). Their needs are for clothing, medicine, toiletries, education, school fees and food. Many of the boys dropped out of school because of lack of money and found themselves on the streets. I have been able to get some of them to do a few more years of school (but that depends on whether I have the money.) They mostly shine shoes for a living. They earn a dollar a shine. They are often pressured into committing petty crimes like stealing.
There are 40 young men from backgrounds of poverty and rejection; most live on the streets, some in prison. I work alone with the approval and support of my MSC Community and Superior. The youths in the parish (St Agnes) often do pastoral work with me.
When the financial need arises I write to people to help out. At this moment I don’t have any financial resources. Over the years I have asked for donations so as to help the youths on the streets. Fr Adrian has often helped.
My objective is to help disadvantaged young men, usually between 13-24, who can return to school, achieve better prospects of gaining employment and so improve both their health and income potential. In this way these youths can better their lives, stay out of prison, contribute to society and lead crime-free lives.