Reverend Kurt Zion Pala

My Indian Fathers in Fiji

By Fr Kurt Zion Pala

Father Kurt was ordained in his native Iligan City, Mindanao on 21 November 2015. After his ordination he spent some months in Our Lady of Remedies Parish, Malate, Manila, before moving to the Columban house in Cagayan de Oro City where he has been involved in vocation work, mission promotion and fundraising. He will be leaving for his new assignment in Myanmar early this year.


Father Kurt, center, with Abba Sam Daniel and Reverend Roneel Avinay

‘“Abba”, call me that,’ my host father responded when I asked him how I should call him. ‘Abba’ is the Hindi (Indian) word for ‘father’. Sam Daniel would be my third host-father in Fiji. He is Anglican and lives with his wife near their church. They have a son, Roneel, who is now an Anglican priest. Abba works as the school manager of the Anglican Church-run schools in Labasa. He would wake up to feed the chickens. After breakfast he would drive me to the Catholic church for my Hindi lessons and he would report to school. In the afternoon, we would then meet at a small shop near the school and have small talk with his friends. In the evening some of the neighbors would come over and we would have a game of cards and enjoy a big bowl of kava.

When Church Means Home

By Fr Kurt Zion Pala

Father Kurt is from Iligan City, Lanao del Norte, and was ordained priest in November 2015. He spent two years in Fiji on First Mission Assignment while still a seminarian and a year in Malate Parish, Manila, first as deacon and then as priest. He is currently based in Cagayan de Oro involved in vocations work and mission promotion. He will be taking up an assignment in Myanmar early in 2017. You will find links to previous articles by Father Kurt here.


Father Kurt with altar servers in Malate Church, Manila

Just after I had celebrated Mass in Our Lady of Remedies Church, Malate, Manila, an altar server came up to me and told me that a youth who had decided to leave home wanted to speak to me. I saw a bag in the guard house and I got nervous thinking the story must really be true. I knew the boy in question and when I found him his eyes were red from crying. So I invited him to one of the counseling/confession rooms in the convento. He sat down and started to sob.

After an argument with his mother she told him to leave the house unless he stopped being an altar server. He explained that he had done everything his mother had told him to do but could not leave the church or stop being an altar server. He said, ‘Ang simbahan po para sa akin ay tahanan hindi tulad sa bahay’ (‘The church is like a home to me, unlike the house I live in’). He felt at home and free to be himself in the church.  I tried my best to calm him down and asked him to go back home. After a little more convincing he told me he would.

Diaconate Ordination Reflection

By Reverend Kurt Zion Pala

The author wrote this reflection some time before he was ordained deacon in the Columban House of Studies, Quezon City, on 15 March this year by Bishop Honesto F.Ongtioco of the Diocese of Cubao. Immaculate Conception Cathedral is within walking distance of the Formation House. This article first appeared on the website of the Columbans in the USA.


Carlo & Kurt
The Road to Priesthood

In this video made in Fiji while both were still on First Mission Assignment, Carlo Jung, ordained in Seoul on 1 November 2014 and who will be going later this year to Myanmar on his first assignment as a priest, and Kurt Zion Pala, ordained deacon on 15 March this year, reflect on their vocations in the context of their presence in Fiji.

 

Back from Fiji

Kurt Zion Pala is a Columban seminarian from Iligan City. Earlier this year he returned from his two-year First Mission Assignment (FMA) in Fiji. Here he is interviewed by Anne B.Gubuan, assistant editor of Misyon and Columban Mission.

What happens now after your FMA in Fiji?

I will continue my studies in theology another two years. (Editor’s note: these began last June.)Then I’ll be ordained deacon. Less than three years more. I’m getting nervous. I’m almost there. It’s more of an excitement, can’t wait to reach that stage already. Living in Fiji, I’ve seen my life as a missionary priest. That’s where my choices were affirmed.
It was tough but I was happy. Life on the missions is full of challenges that you will not really experience if you are in your own place.

Members of the traditional Indian Mandali Catholic prayer group  of which Kurt is also a member.

At first I thought I was ready for the missions. I had my spiritual year, then philosophy, then theology,not to mention all the exposure trips and the experience of being immersed in different pastoral situations. I tried ‘nibbling’ at it all in to nourish me and prepare me for the journey ahead. But right now, I can really say that nothing will prepare you for missionary life.

Living in an Indo-Fijian Village

By Kurt Zion V. Pala

Fiji is a multicultural country. The Indians who arrived in the country were brought by the British about 100 years ago to work in the sugarcane plantations across the country. Now they have settled in the country and are considered Fijians. They still have their distinct Indian culture and traditions but have well established themselves in Fiji. I have from the beginning been assigned to live and work with them and so learned their language and lived in the village with one Indo-Fijian family for a period of five months.


Riding on the tamtam with Nana (‘Lolo’) Barabhabu

It was already about five in the afternoon but I had told my host father that I would be home by around one so I told them I have to leave because it was getting dark. I often get scolded for coming home late. But I always have my good reasons. ‘Khub ghar ghar ghume?’ my host mother exclaimed. She told me that I’d been roaming around the village the whole day. So I just put on my best smile and greeted them. I lived with an Indo-Fijian family, Uncle Bhola and Auntie Mary, for almost five months.

Right after my Hindi class with Master Gyan, I would walk back home from the Mission House. I had to climb a hill and on the way passed by about 10 houses. On any given day people would call out for me to have some tea or yangona or on some special days even get free lunch of goat curry, rice and dhal. This is what I enjoyed most when I was living in Paharkhaala, up in Naleba in Labasa, not just the food but also the people.


Together with Fr. Frank Hoare, Auntie Mary and Uncle Bhola

Aja, aji , salaam walaikum!’ I greeted the Muslim couple that I never miss seeing on my way home. Aji never fails to greet me when she sees me and says everytime, ‘Go my child and take care’. She’s fond of children. That includes me because none of her children are with them anymore.

From the top of the hill, I could see the girls waiting for me. I sometimes help them out with their homework. ‘Namaskaram brother!’ I heard them greeting. Auntie asked me to have lunch first. Sitting on the veranda I saw old man Barabhabu riding on something driven by two big bullocks. I knew what it was so I exclaimed, ‘Nana, aapke tonton? ‘Is this your tonton?’ Nana just laughed and told me that it is called tamtam, not tonton. After revising their homework I told them I had to go.

Just a few steps further on is Almilu attha’s place. I saw her sitting under the tree and so I called out, ‘Attha, kaise hai?’ Almilu attha is my host father’s older sister. Before I could say no, she had already set a cup of tea and pudding cake before me. I told her I would be celebrating my birthday with the children the following Sunday. I finished my tea and left.

A Royal Indian Wedding

By Kurt Zion V. Pala

The author, from Iligan City, is a Columban seminarian and recently went to Fiji for his two-year First Mission Assignment.

I had only been two weeks into my first missionary assignment here in Fiji when I witnessed an Indian wedding for the first time. Fiji is multicultural society – the population is composed of ethnic Fijians, Indo-Fijians, Chinese and others. Most of the Indo-Fijians are descendants of the girmitiyas, indentured laborers from India who came to work in the sugar fields of Fiji more than a hundred years ago. Within the Indian population here in Fiji, one can also find diversity in ethnicity and religion. Their ancestors came from different parts of India. There are three major religions practiced by the Indo-Fijians namely Hinduism, Islam and Christianity. Christians in Fiji comprise many groups, mainly Methodist, Catholic and Pentecostal.

The Road To Agoo

by truknoiz (Kurt Pala)

The author, from Iligan City, is studying to be a Columban priest.

‘Christi simus non nostri. Perigrinari pro Christo’, I chanted repeatedly as I walked in the dark on my last day towards Agoo. I had been walking for days and sleeping wherever darkness caught me. During the Spiritual Year, the first year of formation, it has become a tradition for Columban seminarians to go on pilgrimage either from Malolos, Bulacan, to Manaoag, Pangasinan, or from Apalit, Pampanga, to Agoo, La Union. Without money, we ask for food and water from the people we meet on our way. At night we also ask around for a place to sleep. We tell people we are on pilgrimage and don’t disclose that we are seminarians unless they ask who we really are. The pilgrimage has always been optional; each of us decides if we will make it or not. We were the sixth batch to go on the pilgrimage.