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2444: Mount St Mary's, Martintar, Nadi, Fiji
Mt St Mary, Martintar, Fiji
Mystery Worshipper: AMB3182.
The church: Mount St Mary's, Martintar, Nadi, Fiji.
Denomination: Roman Catholic, Archdiocese of Suva.
The building: The church sits on a small hill within the grounds of Mount St Mary's Catholic Primary School. The original church looks as though it was built in the 1960s and now forms part of a larger church completed in 2011. The building reflects the needs of the Pacific climate with large verandahs on three sides, louvre windows and ceiling fans suspended from the roof. The sanctuary contains a large altar in the shape of a tanoa bowl and a finely carved wooden crucifix. There is nothing notable about the design or architecture of the building. The church entrance is dominated by a large statue of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception.
The church: The parish is served by two priests from the Society of Mary (more commonly called the Marist Fathers), Oceania Province, and both of them are Fijians. The congregation are comprised of members from Fiji's principal ethnic groups and Rotumans and part-European, part-Fijian citizens.
The neighbourhood: Nadi is Fiji's third largest conurbation and a centre for tourism and commerce. The runway of Nadi International Airport is about 500 metres from the church. The church welcomes large numbers of visitors who are holidaying in Fiji in the nearby resorts and islands.
The cast: The Revd Iosefo B. Nakavulevu SM. The altar servers were barefoot but looked very smart in green cassocks and white surplices.
The date & time: Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 23 September 2012, 9.30am.

What was the name of the service?

How full was the building?
More than 50 per cent full. The pews in the front section held a scattering of people.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Not formally, but a few parishioners said "Bula" (hello) or "Yadra" (good morning). The parish spokesmen who read the parish notices at the end of the mass gave a warm welcome to the visitors, which I thought was a nice gesture of fellowship.

Was your pew comfortable?
The pews are wooden with wooden kneelers – not really built for comfort.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Quiet. I watched the four altar servers process in the Blessed Sacrament chapel just prior to the mass and kneel before the tabernacle to say some prayers before returning to the sacristy.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
There were no books. A pew sheet was provided with the mass readings in English and Fijian.

What musical instruments were played?
There was a choir made up of members from one of the parish sector areas. Guitars accompanied the singing.

Did anything distract you?
The decal designs applied to the windows in the sanctuary to simulate stained glass were really tacky and kept drawing my eye away from the altar.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The worship was dignified and prayerful. The mass was said in English. All the elements of the Catholic mass were present. The priest was very diligent and considered in his celebration of the rite except for the Lord's Prayer (see below).

Exactly how long was the sermon?
6.5 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – The priest, I discovered, was recently ordained and it seemed like he is still feeling his way a bit when it comes to preaching. For example, a teacher at the seminary must have said, "Always get a laugh" or something similar, and so there was the obligatory humourous incident that the congregation duly acknowledged with laughter. But I thought that given the length of time, he managed to elucidate quite clearly the theme of the gospel passage.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The gospel reading for the mass was Mark 9:30-37 ("Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me"). We must not be childish, but rather childlike in wisdom. Just look at our altar servers (this was the obligatory humourous bit). We must be as honest as an angel and humble in everything.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The range of colourful fabrics and patterns used to make the bula shirts for the men and boys and the sulu and jaba for the women and girls was vibrant and lovely to look at en masse.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
When the priest asked everyone to join hands to say the Lord's Prayer. I am not used to doing this. Fortunately I was at the other end of the pew and the lady nearest me did not attempt to stretch out her hand to me.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
People smiled warmly but no one engaged in direct conversation. However, I did note a strong sense of community in the gatherings of groups outside the church after the mass.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was no after-service coffee, although it was possible to purchase a freshly baked banana cake to help with the fund raising for the church extension.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – The liturgy was celebrated with dignity and the singing was lovely to listen to even if the songs were a little too modern for my taste.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. There was a genuine sense of prayer and worship.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The barefoot altar servers.
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