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News inserted on 04/05/2017

Catholics celebrating in Maré, New Caledonia

During the week of 21-27 November 2016, the Catholic Church celebrated the 150th anniversary of the arrival of Father Beaulieu, Marist, bringing Catholicism to the island of Maré, the most southern island of the Loyalty Islands, in New Caledonia. Sister Danielle Le Moullec and I represented the congregation for these festivities

SMSM SistersThe following lines would like to give you a little glimpse of the program of these four days, starting by underlining how much the Committee of the festivities and the whole population of the island mobilized to celebrate this event and to welcome the participants coming from the main island and Vanuatu: it was a great success!

The plane dropped us off at Maré in the early morning of November 24th. We deposited our luggage in La Roche, in the old house of the sisters, hosted by Sister Marie Pierre, superior general of the PFM congregation and a group of Petites Filles de Marie. Then we went by bus to Papesimo , on the plateau of Medu: where Father Sao celebrated the baptism of 23 young people, from 6 months to 16 years old, at the place where, 150 years ago, the first baptisms were celebrated: it was really moving!

SMSM SistersIn the late morning, the same bus took us to Medu for the meal, a real party meal! In the afternoon, Father Grossin sm who arrived on the same plane as us and who knew that I had never been to Maré, kindly took the two of us by car (rental car made available to him by the Committee of the festivals) to show us several historical places of the island. I was happy!

We stopped first at Eni, on the seashore, where Father Beaulieu landed in 1866. An altar was erected there: the day before our visit, the Mass had been celebrated there. Then we stopped at Ure where a monument, called "To the Innocent Saints", recalls the massacre in 1880 of 13 children and 8 adults by the Protestants. The Protestants, implanted in Maré before the Catholics, did not accept their presence! Ecumenism did not exist at that time! It must be pointed out that relations with the Catholics have since become very cordial!

SMSM SistersAnother memorable stop was in Tadine, on the seaside. A monument is set up in memory of La Monique, a boat which, in July 1953, left to go to Noumea and never reached its destination! On board, was our Sister Marie Jeanne Bruneteau and 125 others 'disappeared'! We never knew what happened and the boat has never been found.

SMSM SistersAt 4 pm, we arrived in Pemalu and we joined the group. From Pemalu, we went on foot to the church of Penelo: Leading the procession was the Cross of the 150th. We prayed the rosary while walking. The procession stopped at the Calvary statues erected for the 100thanniversary. Then we went into the church to enthrone the cross for the 150th.

At 6 pm, there was an open-air celebration of the Mass, very close to the church. A Protestant choir sang the entrance hymn beautifully. The evening meal was served by the people of Penelo.

The vigil first with games and dances continued with a procession of the Blessed Sacrament and a time of worship until 4 am. 

On Friday at 9 am, we met at the Church of La Roche, dedicated to the Virgin of the Visitation: it was the First Communion of 46 children. The Catholic school dedicated to Father François Beaulieu led the ceremony. Every child in the choir - we were right behind them, on the right of the church –wore a T-shirt with the portrait of Father Beaulieu on the back! The church, renovated for the celebrations, was full to overflowing. The crowd was silent and praying.

In the afternoon, theatre and dances provided by the students of the school in front of the big faré (meeting place) where we had our meals. The faré itself is very large and was furnished with six very long tables. Abundant meals were served there. The cooks surpassed themselves!

At 3:30 pm, Mr. Clément Gaica, himself a native of Maré, gave a very documented and interesting lecture on the early days of the Catholic Church in Maré. Panels in the background, to the right of the faré, illustrate his lecture. We saw in particular the photos of the twenty Marist fathers who have served Maré until today. Other panels are devoted to the Petites Filles de Marie born in Maré and our sisters: There is mention of S.M. Veronique who spent 51 years at the dispensary of La Roche between 1896 and 1946! The day ended with a penitential ceremony in the church.

The next day, Saturday, November 26, we were again at La Roche, and it was Confirmation. Although Fathers Colomban and Sao left for Nouméa to ensure their parish ministry at Auteuil and the Vallée des Colons, our bishop arrived in the early morning.

The ceremony began at 9 am. Those to be confirmed numbered forty. Among them were 11 Protestant women. Married to Catholics, they first made their profession of Catholic faith and their first communion. It was very moving, it must be said!

In the afternoon, ever festive, traditional songs and dances succeeded each other. Good mood and enthusiasm were part of the enjoyment. At 6 pm a torchlight procession left the church to go to the cemetery, where Father Beaulieu rests. Each of us had a small candle and we were invited to put one candle on a tomb. At the end the whole cemetery was aglow. It was beautiful. At seven pm we had our meal. Then a time of silent worship at the church was scheduled until 10 pm.

SMSM SistersAt last we came to Sunday, 27 November. At 9 o'clock was the Mass of thanksgiving for the 150 years of the catholic presence, held in Nengone ground, led by Archbishop Calvet, of course. After the homily, six new catechists, all Mareans, received the Cross and the Bible from his hands. As on the previous days, the Church was packed.

Then followed the meal at 11.30 am (complete with the cake!) and all the customary gestures of goodbye and thanks. Throughout the afternoon, traditional dances followed one after another. It is worthy to note particularly the participation of the Protestant tribe of Nakone, who performed a very beautiful dance: the dance of the yam.

It only remains for me to give thanks to the Lord! I do this as best as I can.

Sr Marie Cécile de Mijolla smsm

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