Paulo’s calling to serve ‘Learning to trust in God and not in man’

Paulo Vatunitu at his home in Qaravutu Village, Tunuloa on Vanua Levu. Picture: SERAFINA SILAITOGA

Catholic priest Father Paulo Vatunitu knows what it’s like to serve God’s calling in a country where parishioners freely carry firearms even to church.

The Qaravutu lad of Tunuloa, Cakaudrove, who served in regions of the Philippines for six years, described his experience as challenging, yet promising years of his life as a priest.

This is because he only saw God’s hands save him many times from frustrated and unhappy parishioners who did not agree with some decisions made by parish leaders including Father Paulo.

He was based in the northern region of the country and was parish priest at Ilikano in the Ilikos region.

“It’s part of our calling in serving God. We get to face all types of trials and situations and being in the Philippines for six years hasn’t been easy because it’s a different environment compared to Australia where I lived for my studies and my home Fiji,” he said.

“I remember a particular day in which a parishioner wasn’t happy with some decisions made and he approached me with a gun and threatened me to do something about the situation.

“I was shocked and scared as well because anything could have happened. But I kept my cool and trust God for his protection.”

Father Paulo then spoke to the frustrated parishioner and they reached an agreement.

“That’s the kind of life we face while carrying out work for God and it teaches us to trust in God alone and not man.

“We need to be doers of his Word and not only hearers and most importantly we need to hear our parishioners and while we cannot satisfy everyone, we need to be wise with our decisions.

“I was sent to the Philippines from Australia where I was based to complete my seminary term and to become a priest.”

Seeing life in the Philippines, Father Paulo said could easily move emotions as children and family members combed dumpsites in search of food.

Comparing Fiji to the Philippines, Father Paulo said we were more than blessed.

“We have food always available especially for us in the villages and we have land to farm.

“But during my term in the Philippines, it’s always sad to see the struggles and level of poverty, but always satisfying to help out wherever we can.

“The Philippines has mostly Catholic believers and so it makes our work easier when we visit as we share the same faith.

“There are a lot of rich people in the country as well who have always helped the less fortunate.”

The best thing about the Philippines that Father Paulo loved was the food.

“It’s the best. They are good cooks and their food is tasty, healthy and delicious and that’s what I fell in love with when I arrived in the country.

“Having your church members bring your food around almost everyday can never be refused because it’s a blessing.”

In 2020, Father Paulo left the Philippines and returned to Australia.

In December of the same year he headed home to Tunuloa where he spent Christmas with his family members.

“I have been stuck in Fiji due to the COVID lockdown, but soon to return so during my stay here, I have continued with my duties of serving the Lord and have celebrated mass in villages around here.

“No matter where we are, our calling never stops and we need to continue serving the Lord.”

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