Two months from the day the first Marists were professed in Lyon, France, seven adventurous Marists set sail for Oceania. The date was December 24, 1836 and they represented one-fourth of the Society's members.
Between 1837 and 1849 alone, Father Colin sent 117 Marist missionaries to the region. Isolation, disease, death and the martyrdom of St. Peter Chanel did not change the Marists' commitment to be with the peoples of Oceania, a collection of island nations in a vast area of the southwest Pacific Ocean north of New Zealand and east of Australia.
Today the Province of Oceania includes six independent nations and two French territories. It covers an area as big as western Europe.
This vast province embraces a great political and cultural diversity. Languages are diverse, and, while not universally typical in Papua New Guinea alone, there are more than 600 languages and over 1000 dialects. Most other countries have their own languages, however more and more people have a lingua franca of either Pidgin (or Bislama), English or French.
Language differences are one aspect of the diversity in cultures in Oceania, and just one of the challenges to all who follow in the footsteps of the first Marists and continue the spread of the Gospel in Oceania.
Marists in Oceania are engaged in parish and vocations work, education, and the creation of enterprise businesses for individuals and communities desiring to take charge of their financial futures and securities.
As Marists, we're mandated...
Since 1836, when the Society of Mary was entrusted to send missionaries to Oceania, we have continued to hold a very special relationship to this sensitive part of our world.
From our 1872 Marist Constitutions:
269. The Society’s first duty with regard to these missions is indicated to us by our Lord Jesus Christ himself, when he says: The harvest is great but the laborers are few; ask therefore the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his harvest (Mt 9:37-38). Since therefore it is we, though few in number, whom the Lord in his mercy has commissioned to reap the abundant harvest of Oceania especially, we must above all ardently and continually entreat this most kind Father to send new laborers to join us in reaping this harvest.
270. Our second duty is to spend ourselves and all we have with great love so that these sheep of Oceania and others, however lost and wild, which the Supreme Pontiff may entrust to the Society, may hasten to the sheepfold of Christ. Let no difficulties or deprivations, therefore, deter us from this enterprise, but let us trust in the Lord, praying to him daily for the conversion of sinners and unbelievers, following the example of the blessed Virgin, who prayed unceasingly for the redemption and salvation of the human race.
Map of The Pacific Islands
(click on map to see a bigger map)
Growing up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Fr. John Galvin was an altar boy at his Marist parish. He first heard about South Pacific missionaries from a priest he met in Boy Scouts. He remembers: "I went to minor seminary in 1950, and when the provincial came to visit every year, I would tell him I wanted to be a missionary." Ordained in 1963, Fr. Galvin taught for two years in Detroit. At the request of the bishop in the Solomon Islands, Fr. Galvin completed a MA before he realized his dream of becoming a missionary.
The experience of moving to the South Pacific was "surprising – there was no real way to prepare for this," he said, but Fr. Galvin quickly learned from other Marist missionaries and religious, and quickly became bilingual in one of the islands' 50 languages, Lau. Fr. Galvin taught high school and was a parish priest before he went to San Cristobal four years ago to oversee the rural training center on the island, founded by Dutch Marist Fr. George Vanderzant.
At the center – situated two-and-a-half hours from electricity and Internet access, 92 young adults are trained in agriculture, animal husbandry, small engine maintenance, home economics, religious education, child care and leadership/communication skills.
Between pastoral visits and marriages, Fr. Galvin finds time to continue to work on his great passion. In fact, he has built an international reputation in bee-keeping. The hobby began in 1978, when he started a Scout troop at the Marist school where he taught biology. He encouraged his scouts to build hives. "Everyone got stung – the kids found the process pretty exciting," Fr. Galvin remembers. Soon the hives were producing enough honey to earn $4,000 a month, which helped support the school and, eventually Fr. Galvin created a honey producers co-op with markets in Australia, New Zealand and Germany for his "exotic and totally organic" product.
Along the way, Fr. Galvin connected with bee keepers around the world, and developed a reputation for not only bee keeping, but domesticating wild Asian bees. From their remote island community, Fr. Galvin and his student helpers "are part of a large bee keeping community around the world."
Fr. Galvin is pleased by where God has placed him. "I hope to spend the rest of my days here," he said. "I love the people and their attitude to life…their culture and tradition equips them: they have little but are happy with what they have."
Fr. Galvin does hope one day to have electricity at the Styvenberg Center. "With electricity we could fish and have refrigeration. With a generator or solar or water power, we might have computers and the ability to be in touch with the outside world"
Fr. Galvin welcomes notes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We share with you this prayer for Pacific Islands.
A prayer for the environment
Michael Gormly SSC
Creator of the universe,
we pray in gratitude and praise.
You were there at the beginning of all things,
shaping our world and preparing it for us.
You have provided the mountains and the trees,
the waters and the earth.
Help us to be caretakers of your gifts,
protecting the land from abuse,
and ready to share with all in need.
Show us how to use our science and technology in creative,
not destructive ways.
Deepen our awareness of our connectedness
with all your creation,
So that future generations will also enjoy every blessing.
Caritas State of the Environment Report
The Caritas State of the Environment for Oceania Report 2015/16 follows how five key environmental issues are affecting people in Oceania:
• Lack of food and
• Coastal erosion and
• Offshore mining and drilling
• Impact of extreme weather
• Climate finance
Issues Faced by The Pacific Islands
• Climate change is already disproportionally affecting the islands of the Pacific. Although islanders have done little to contribute to the cause – less than 0.03% of current global greenhousegas emissions – they are among the first to be affected.
• People in the Pacific are uniquely vulnerable to economic and natural shocks due to the countries’ unique geography and economic openness.
• There is widespread concern about the potential dangers of the toxic chemicals being imported into islands in increasing amounts.
• Industry causes air and water pollution in island countries.
• The Pacific Islands region is perhaps the part of the world to have suffered the most from the effects of nuclear activities of the great powers since the last war.www.sprep.org
Issues at the Pacific Islands Forum in Marshall Islands
AdvocateAsian Pacific Island Affairs Subcommittee (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops)
"At its core, global climate change is not about economic theory or political platforms, nor about partisan advantage or interest group pressures. It is about the future of God's creation and the one human family."
US Catholic Bishops
Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence and the Common Good, 2001