The Vincentian charism calls us to connect our internal, spiritual growth with service to those at the margins of society. Our international mission on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands embodies that practice: metaphorically as an island whose center is never far from its edges on the Pacific Ocean, and as a place that challenges and transforms our missionaries.
The modern history of Guadalcanal is a troubled one. The mountainous island remains physically scarred from one of the most brutal battles of the Second World War. More recently, the nation of the Solomon Islands has known ethnic violence, political instability, and devastating cyclones. Currently 46% of the country’s residents live on less than 2 US dollars per day; the mean number of years of schooling for adults is only five. But ask our confreres on Guadalcanal about their mission, and they will speak of a beautiful people and a compelling, but at times, demanding ministry.
The VSO has witnessed some of the challenges confronting our confreres. A key work of our International Mission of the Solomon Islands is Good Shepherd Parish, established in 2003 in Red Beach on the northern side of Guadalcanal. For several years the parish used a small temporary shelter for liturgies and other gatherings. Then the VSO assisted the mission in financing the construction of a permanent church and pastoral center for the parish, obtaining grants from the Archdiocese of Cologne, Missio Aachen, Kirche in Not, and the Pontificium Opus a Propagatione Fidei, and also using monies from individual donors and the Vincentian Solidarity Fund (VSF). The construction, however, was hampered by storms and chronic shortages of skilled labor and building materials, and required over five years to complete! But the outcome is a beautiful and well-constructed worship space reflecting the local culture in style, and an adjoining building with a parish office, meeting room, classroom and handcraft room.
Our confreres at Good Shepherd Parish have also lacked a reliable vehicle to visit the parish’s 13 dispersed communities, reachable only over rough and often muddy roads. With monies from the VSF, the VSO cofinanced the purchase of a Toyota Hilux, double-cab pickup truck for the parish with the Province of Oceania.