Celebrating Mass for an Olympic hero

It’s not every day a member of your parish brings home a gold Olympic medal, writes Columban missionary Fr Pat Colgan from Fiji. 

I was very happy to meet Olympian Waisea Nacuqu from Votua after his two weeks’ quarantine, plus some ‘down time’, in the village.

I have known Waisea for a long time and used to meet him at the Hong Kong 7s when I was serving there. I organised his marriage to Maree Nacuqu earlier this year with the help of a neighbouring local priest who was in possession of a marriage licence.

During my visit to the home of our Olympic gold medalist, I reminded him that it’s not the gold that is most important, it’s the fact he is using his God-given talents to provide for his family, and to give us all joy and pride in our village and our nation.

It wasn’t an easy journey for national rugby 7s player Waisea Nacuqu before making it to the Olympics.

It started after he dropped out of school at class six with the aim of donning the national jumper one day. This was a dream he kept close to his heart as he worked on sugarcane fields and caught fish to provide for his family.

Columban missionary Fr Pat Colgan with Waisea Nacuqu and his wife Maree.

Tuwai [another rugby player from the same village] was Nacuqu’s motivation, encouraging him to be patient as his time would come.

The Ba man played football representing Tavua in various competitions from 2011 until 2012 when his rugby chapter started with Nadi-based Westfield Tokatoka Barbarians.

Nacuqu never looked back as his dream began to unfold after being drafted in the 2013 national squad by the then coach Alifereti Dere.

In the same year, when Ben Ryan took over as coach, Nacuqu’s dream became a reality – making his debut for Fiji at the 2014 Gold Coast 7s.

The 28-year-old was disheartened to miss out on the 2016 Rio Olympic Games but remained steadfast to continue working hard.

Speaking to FBC Sports, Nacuqu said that to play in the Tokyo Olympics was a blessing.

One week after my visit to their home, Nacuqu’s father, who is gardener at our Catholic school of St Columban in Votua, asked me to come celebrate a Mass of thanksgiving.

I happily agreed to that, picking the readings Isaiah 40:6-11 (“All flesh is like grass with withers and flowers that fail”) and Matthew 25:14-30 (use of one’s talents). I congratulated him once again on his gold medal and for always making the Sign of the Cross when he scores. I also reminded him that all God’s people have talents, and his successful use of his serves to inspire others to use their gifts more courageously and consistently.

After Mass, we sat down to the customary bowl of kava, and root crops were presented to me in appreciation.

It’s not everyday a parishioner brings home an Olympic gold medal, and it’s not everybody that asks for a Mass of Thanksgiving.

We wish Waisea, Maree and their family every blessing as she continues her service as a teacher, he in his rugby, and their future children, whatever gifts God chooses to give them.

Congratulations Waisea!

Previous articleAnniversary Mass for Fr Rufus Halley in Butlerstown
Next article“Bombed but never Broken”