Father Epeli Qimaqima

I was born in Nausori Town Hospital which is an hour outside Suva. This is on the main island of Viti Levu in Fiji. I was baptised on the 22nd of November 1978 – the Feast day of St Cecilia, patron of musicians.

My mother was a catholic and my father is a member of the Wesleyan Church. Mum passed away just months before my move to work in Australia. Their good example, dedication, teachings and love remain as beacons in my life to this day.

I attended St John Bosco Primary School which was our parish school. The parish is called Our Lady of Fatima in the suburb of Nadera about 30mins from the CBD. I also attended a public school called Kalabu Fijian School for three years of my elementary education.

For high school, I went to Marist Brothers' High School where I was greatly encouraged to learn music. We were exposed to the musical traditions from around the world during our time in high school. The most influential teachers for me during high school were Br. Theophane Brailey and Br Samuel Eathorne. Br Theophane passed on to me his own musicianship. He was a talented mathematician and skilled athlete, both traits unfortunately was beyond my abilities. He taught me everything he knew about music and the human voice but above all to listen to their hearts first before hearing the sound of their voices. He taught me that through love, patience and gentleness can the heart be opened to sing and express that love in song. I think he was a true son of St Marcellin their Founder. St Marcellin encouraged his Brothers to tell children that Jesus and Mary loves them. This is what Br. Theophane taught us by how he lived his life and vocation as a Marist Brother. Br Sam was crucial in helping me understand our catholic faith and grow to love it so that I can share and explain it well. He was always very encouraging and a man with a sharp intellect and a very good sense of humour.

I was greatly inspired by Fr Leone Raselala (RIP) as a young altar boy because he admonished me for being playful as I served at the altar during one of his Masses. I quickly learned the sacredness of the Mass that day and ever since.  He too was a primary school teacher (trained in Wagga Wagga) and a talented musician. He was a gentle but firm priest and was always an inspiring preacher.

After high school, I trained to be a primary school teacher at the Corpus Christi Teachers' College in Suva. It was a three year programme. I graduated in 1999. This is the only Catholic Training College for Primary School teachers in the Pacific Islands. So the college had a lively and refreshing mix of cultures and traditions from the Pacific. I have remained in contact with most of my contemporaries since.

I first taught at St Agnes Primary School for two years. My first class was a Year 8 class. My second class was a Year 7 Class so that I could carry them forward to Year 8. God had other things in mind so I migrated to Australia on the 5th of January 2002 to teach at Redfield College in Dural. This is an Independent School and I worked there for four years. I was a Year 3 Class teacher. Working at this school increased in me the desire to follow the Lord's will to become a priest. Some of the students I taught are now studying to be priests as well. Thanks be to God.

As a young boy I was concerned by the local people's need for priests. A prayer I loved to pray was: Lord what do you want me to do for you and your people? During my time in teacher's college I came to see through grace that the Lord wanted me to be a priest. This was what he wanted me to do for him and his people. This prayer I continue to pray today as I seek to serve him and his people here.

I entered the Seminary in 2006 and by God's grace was ordained a Deacon on the 10th of December 2011. In the Lord's mercy, I was then ordained a Priest at St. Mary's Cathedral on the 4th of August 2012 (the Feast Day of St John Vianney).

After my ordination I was appointed the Assistant Priest for our Parish here in Bonnyrigg. It has been a very formative and truly encouraging experience thus far. May the merciful Lord always help me by his grace as I continue to seek him in prayer and in the hearts of his good people here. Amen.