Fr Silio Naduva: Focolare pioneer in the Fiji islands

He passed away recently at the age of 53. His passions were building bridges between peoples and cultures, and forming the new generations.

Young people were the primary focus of Fr Silio Naduva’s work as a priest in the Fiji islands, in the South Pacific. He died recently at the age of 53. He dedicated his profoundest energies to ensuring a human and spiritual formation and education for the youth of one of the most remote islands of the archipelago. He realised that globalisation which brings the world into their homes cannot equip these young people with the knowledge and instruments needed to continue their lives in an informed, free and fruitful way.

He got to know the charism of unity of Chiara Lubich in the late 1990s. What fascinated him was “the capacity of the ideal to create a sense of family, forge union between people, and in particular with the flock the Lord entrusted to him,” so described Roberto Paolini, a volunteer member of the Focolare, who collaborated with Fr Silio in a series of formation weeks in his parish of St Anne, at Napuka last summer. “In the spirituality of unity,” Roberto continued, “he discovered an incredible driving force” which helped him face moments of great pain and suffering.

Born on 28 February 1967 in Serua province, in the small village of Namuamua in the interior of Fiji’s main island, Silio was the seventh of nine brothers. From an early age he demonstrated great generosity, resilience, resoursefulness and a caring nature towards his family members and everyone else. He attended a Marist school and at the age of 17 was conscripted into the Fijian armed forces. Silio was posted on two missions which involved traumatic experiences, but he never lost his profound sense of humanity.

Only after the death of his father in 1996 did Silio enter the regional Pacific seminary to start his formation. The very next year he met the Focolare Movement. Silio was ordained priest on 1 January 2005, at the age of 37, beginning his ministry in the parish of Vudibasoga, in Nabala. He was diagnosed with a serious illness in 2013, but this did not hold him back in serving and using all his energies for his parish.

In 2018 Silio accompanied a group of young people to the Genfest at Manila in the Philippines. He returned with the ardent desire to encourage his young parishioners to follow this pathway. He guided and educated them, he encouraged them to join him in building bridges towards the youth of other communities, who despite having different cultures and languages, are part of our same family. One of the last things he did was to promote a meeting for youth from his own parish with young people from other parishes nearby, organized last August in collaboration with Focolare and with the local Caritas agency. In such a fragmented community, where the social network is lacerated by poverty and violence, Fr Silio worked to unfold a wider horizon to these youth. He offered them a vision and experience of how living alongside each other can nurture solidarity, and how peoples separated by large distances, by differences in traditions, cultures and language, can meet together in mutual respect and with a shared desire to build real relationships as brothers and sisters of the same family.

Claudia Di Lorenzi

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