The students in 1972
By a complicated set of circumstances, the Holy See entrusted Eastern Oceania to the apostolic care of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, popularly known as the "Picpus Fathers". In 1827, Father Bachelot and his companions arrived in Hawaii to begin their work. They were soon expelled from the area, but, under Bishop Rouchouze, a more successful start was made in the Gambiers and later in Tahiti.
By a still more complicated set of circumstances, Western Oceania was entrusted to the then tiny Society of Mary. Their first missionaries, under the direction of Bishop Pompallier, appeared in that vast area in 1837. The original Vicariates were successively carved up as the work progressed in spite of massacre, disease, disaster and the human limitations of the best of men. It was only after the Second Vatican Council, in 1966 that the local hierarchy was established in the islands of the Pacific.
On the return of Archbishop Pierre Martin of Noumea from the Synod in 1967, invitations were sent out to the Bishops of the Pacific to attend a meeting in Suva the following year. There, on 26th March 1968, the Episcopal Conference of the Pacific - Conferentia Episcopalis Pacifici, (CEPAC) - was formally inaugurated. Archbishop George Pearce of Suva was voted President with Archbishop Martin vice-president; the members designated were the Metropolitan Archbishops of Papeete, Noumea and Suva, and the Bishops of the Dioceses of Taiohae, Wallis-Futuna, Port Vila, Apia, Tarawa and Tonga. Bishops Coadjutor and Assistant Bishops were also named as members by right.
Since then, some of the dioceses have changed their names and the metropolitan Archbishop of Agana, Guam, and the Bishops of the Dioceses of the Caroline Islands, Chalan Kanoa, Pagopago, Rarotonga and the Prefecture Apostolic of the Marshall Islands, together with the Missions sui juris of Funafuti and Tokelau, have joined the Conference. Under the leadership of Archbishop Pearce, and then, in turn, of Archbishop Martin, Archbishop Mataca, Bishop Finau, Bishop Lambert, Archbishop Calvet, Archbishop Apuron of Agana, and now of Bishop Soane Patita Mafi (Bishop of Tonga) CEPAC has undertaken vigorous action in many fields, particularly in the important fields of priestly recruitment and formation.
One hundred and twenty years of sporadic effort and meagre results had already passed when Bishop Rodgers of Tonga, through his representative, Father White, asked the first meeting of CEPAC to give thought to the establishment of "a seminary and religious houses of formation in Fiji". The Conference urged interested dioceses and the Society of Mary to explore the matter and make recommendations. They did so and in 1970, CEPAC decided to establish its own seminary in Fiji. Thus came into existence the Pacific Regional Seminary of St. Peter Chanel.
The Bishops and the Marists recalled their students from Springwood in Australia, Mosgiel in Christchurch and Greenmeadows in New Zealand. Father Ross, Secretary to CEPAC, was nominated the first Rector. Accordingly, on 6 March 1972, eighteen students gathered in an old house in Hercules Street, Suva, and with Father Ross, assisted by Fathers Bourke CM and Robichaud SM, constituted the new seminary community. A new site was then acquired and new buildings erected. In June 1973, the community transferred to its present home on Queen Elizabeth Drive near Suva Point.
Student numbers doubled twice over the first four years, and in 1983 they stood at over 100 in residence with twenty in pastoral work. Accommodation for this large number had to be provided together with kitchen, dining and laundry amenities, lecture rooms, chapel, library and recreational facilities and administrative offices. In the late 70s and early 80s many religious congregations who had been boarding and living on the main campus started to move and set up their own community scholasticates outside the Diocesan College. We now have the Marists living on their own campus next to the Diocesan College, the Columbans at Nasese, the MSCs and the Vincentians at Wailoku and the Salesians at Nakasi.
The main campus is now the residence only for the Diocesan seminarians and their formators. This year 2012, there are 108 students enrolled in the academic program of the Pacific Regional Seminary with a further 15 on Pastoral Year and another 13 on special spiritual formation. There are 54 diocesan students residing on campus in the Diocesan College in 2012.
Pacific Regional Seminary has been offering training for the Roman Catholic priesthood for the various dioceses in the Pacific and for religious congregations with houses affiliated to the seminary since 1972.
During this year, 1973, we are celebrating our 40 years at the present site at Nasese, Suva Point. The celebration is centred on the last weekend of August, 23rd to 25th August with three day of presentations on the documents of Vatican II as they relate to seminary formation and to priestly life. All former students and faculty are invited to join in the celebration either by coming in person or joining in spirit from the different parts of the world. The same invitation is expressed to former staff members.
If you are coming, please notify us by email to email@example.com , if possible by early July. [Alternatively by mail which can be sent to Private Mail Bag, 79, Suva, Fiji]