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An Interview with Lasarusa ‘Martin’ Koroiciri, Columban Seminarian
By Mary Joy Rile
I guess what most interviewers are excited about is the uniqueness of the encounter in every interview, much more if the interviewee is of a different culture. Thus every interview is for me a privilege and a joy. This time, let me tell you about Lasarusa Koroiciri, known as Martin, a Fijian Columban seminarian. Martin is a jolly person and easy to get along with. In conversation with him, I was amazed at his sense of history. Don’t expect me to share historical facts but rather an inspiring vocation story.
Martin started by sharing about Columban Fr Martin Dobey who was his parish priest when he was in high school. He observed how Father Dobey dealt with people with his ever ready welcome and how he adapted to Fijian culture. He was speaking with pride as he said that Father Dobey was more Fijian than Irish. The visits of the priest to his home added to his admiration of him as a witness who brought inspiration to the mission where he was living.
Martin was struck by one incident that awakened his interest in the liturgy. One time Fr Dobey fainted in the middle of Mass and was asked to just go home and rest. He was already weak with old age but was eager to continue celebrating the Mass. ‘I'd rather die at this altar before the Eucharist than go' were his striking words that brought Martin to realize how the priest drew strength from the Eucharist. Fr Dobey gave the celebration of the Holy Mass a new meaning to Martin.
Fiji, Cross Walk 2006
The value of the Eucharsist was instilled in Martin through the inspiration of Fr Dobey. It brought him closer to the One Who is mysterious yet living in the person of Christ. I commended him when he said that the life of the Eucharist and the life that we live are the same thing. It is not just a meal we receive on Sundays but rather the climax of our daily life. I liked the imagery he used in trying to describe the value of the Eucharist in bringing about the transformation of the communicant. He compared us human beings to the face on one side of a coin. Polishing it allows us to see no longer the face there but a reflection of the face of Christ. We are invited to be like Christ, 'until Christ is formed in us.'
Martin with Columban Frs Dominic Nolan, Frank Carey, Brian Gore (all Australians) and Fr Seán Coyle, editor.
Eyeing where God must be leading him, Martin joined the Missionary Society of St Columban in 2008. He is inspired by the mottos lived by St Columban, 'Christi simus non nostri’ and ‘Peregrinari pro Christo,' 'Let us be of Christ, not of ourselves’; ‘To be a pilgrim for Christ.' These motivate him as he sees them present in what the Columbans are doing. He is inspired by the way the Columbans share together their dedication and love for people, by their commitment and daily works. Their history tells of their option for inculturation, going to the people and doing what Christ wants them to do rather than converting the people to their way of thinking. His belief in the Columban community was strengthened by the words of his formator Fr Michael Mohally, 'It's not about joining but about living the charism, living the Christ in us.'
When told his spiritual year would be in the Philippines, he was happy and excited as he had not expected this. He is the only Fijian in the batch. When asked of his expectations before coming here, he mentioned three things: the challenge of eating balut, to visit Smokey Mountain as he was aware of the touching experiences of some Fijians who had gone there, and to see a lot of playgrounds as they only have a few in Fiji.
Martin with fellow seminarians
He arrived in Manila on 17 May 2010. Fr Darwin Bayaca, the first Filipino Rector of the Formation Program, and Lanieta ‘Lani’ Tamatawale, a Columban lay missionary from Fiji, met him at the airport. He was surprised at the amount of traffic. The huge buildings made him feel like an ant. He was amused at the country's large population as there are only around one million in Fiji. Standing in a mall at one time, he was puzzled as to where the people were coming from as they popped up from every direction. He also noticed his complexion was different from that of others. These are just a few of the things that led him to deal with his own uniqueness.
Language is always a barrier for those who are starting in a new country. Martin felt embarrassed at times hearing the native language because some of the words seemed to have a rude meaning. He had to take courage just to clarify what some of the words commonly used by Filipinos really meant. He can only laugh at it all now.
Martin on his exposure in Zambales
He didn’t have a problem adjusting to Filipino food but he observed that people here eat plenty of rice and eat pork almost every day. In Fiji, they are not used to eating rice for breakfast and pork is served only on feast days. They cook it in the lovo, an oven dug in the ground. He has been to a number of places here with Columban connections and hopes to discover more beauty here.
As someone starting his formation journey, I asked him what he hopes and prays for. He shared with me how he was inspired by a text from Thomas Merton written on a stampita of his grand-aunt: 'Lord, lead me blindly on your way. Because if I see I might not follow You.' His words re-echoed in me. I am also in the process of learning how to fully surrender to the will of God and I know this will help me as it does Martin.
‘Who else can know Christ better than Christ?’ Martin’s desire to be molded like Christ himself is motivating him as he hopes to know Him more deeply. Grace will make it happen for Martin, and for all of us. The call to holiness, to be like Christ, is a vocation for all.
Martin with Misyon staff
I thanked him for his words. I am amazed and grateful at how God uses us as instruments to allow us to learn from each other. For Martin maybe this occasion was just an interview, but for me it became a point of pondering for the coming days. He is walking in the path seemingly unseen for humans but visible to God. In the same way I also follow the calling of my Master.
We each have our own call. We need to learn the art of a meaningful life. To dance with the call is never easy. But the Spirit will grant us the grace to enable us to learn the steps of the rhythm. We simply have to sway with the waves of God’s leading. And Christ himself will be our guide.
Joy and Martin dancing to a South Pacific Beat.
I thought it would be good to have a touch of 'Fijian in a kind' before ending the encounter. By demand, Martin sang so well Isa Lei, a Fijian song. We in the office also requested him to do a Fijian dance though he was hesitant at first. To convince him, we danced along with him as he taught us a few steps to the South Pacific beat. It was a fun way of saying goodbye as he rushed to catch the plane back to Manila.
You may email Martin at email@example.com