The design of the chapel of the Pacific Regional Seminary, built in 1985, is the result of eighteen months of consultation involving the bishops of the Pacific, the seminary community and other interested persons. It culminated in an architectural competition among the architects of Fiji.
The aim was to find a design that would provide a suitable space for public worship and private prayer for the seminary community which would fully conform to contemporary liturgical standards while harmonizing with Pacific architectural forms. Use was to be made of natural materials, allowing for maximum air circulation.
The building is octagonal in shape, not unlike a Samoan ‘fale', with an eccentric skylight over the sanctuary. The seating capacity is 200, and a further 200 ca be accommodated on the surrounding covered verandahs. The building is constructed in Fiji timber throughout. The trellised doors, providing natural ventilation, are hung in such a way that, when opened, the chapel is open practically right around.

The low roof line and the width of the peripheral walkway provide protection from sun and driving rain, and acts as a buffer during hurricanes. It also creates an intimate human scale and a reflective atmosphere. The chapel sits comfortable and unobtrusively in the natural environment among trees and tropical plants. The rock-lined retaining walls create platforms around the

chapel, not unlike the ancient Fijian “bure kalou” (house of God).
Besides the main chapel, the building incorporates the following: Blessed Sacrament Chapel, Marian Chapel, Reconciliation Room, Sacristy, Preparation Room and Rest Rooms. The congregation is seated in the form of a semi-circle around the sanctuary. A particular Pacific feature is the main structural column just behind the altar, very much in the style of the central post in the traditional type of Fijian house – covered with miles of plaited coconut fibre.
A planetarium forms a backdrop to the sanctuary. The chapel can be entered from any side, through the peripheral verandah. The surrounding landscaping was designed to create space for overflow of congregation or as informal outdoor meeting or as contemplation areas. The body of the chapel is in fact, a continuation of the exterior space to the interior. Seating is arranged in an 180 degree arc allowing optimum involvement in liturgical activity and gives a feeling of togetherness. The subdued lighting, the slope of the roof, floor finishing – all assist in drawing the faithful towards the sanctuary.
The sanctuary is the dominant area of the chapel, with the skylight providing natural light on the altar. The sanctuary floor is finished in marble with the walkways in aggregate paving. Three of the five seating sections have permanent seats; the other two are covered with floor matting in Pacific style. Much of the internal walling is paneled with island matting, coming from different parts of the Pacific, including Kiribati, Samoa and the Cook Islands.
These and other dioceses have contributed the liturgical furnishings of the chapel, mostly crafted by hand in their respective countries. The liturgical elements in the sanctuary are all components of trees. The altar, a gift of Fiji, carved from a kauri tree trunk in the shape of a kava bowl, is a replica of the ancient “buburau”, used by ancient Fijian priests as an oil dish in religious rituals.

The carved motif around the top edge is a combination of carvings from several island groups, and gives a sense of identity and belonging. The lectern echoes the “roots” motif of the altar. The presiding chair, a gift of the Diocese of Tonga, is hewn from the trunk of a huge rain tree, engraved with Tongan designs. The large cross, gift to the presiding chair, is draped with traditional yellow masi (“masi rega”) used for the installation of high chiefs and symbolising the resurrection and exultation of Christ.

The tabernacle in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, fashioned from a hardwood tree in the shape of a Melanesian house, came from New Caledonia. The shell sanctuary lamp came from Tahiti. The Stations of the Islands, were fourteen months in the making, each taking one hundred hours. The Statue of St Peter Chanel was specially carved for the chapel by Father Pelenato Fotofili of Wallis Island.
The picture of the Black Madonna in the Marian Chapel is the gift of Pope John Paul II when he visited Fiji, November 1986. The brass lamps on the internal columns signify the Indian cultural element in the Pacific. The patterns on the back-rest of the chapel seats are representative of different countries within the region and were adopted from designs found on tapa, mats and
other artifacts. All vestments used are handmade in different parts of the Pacific, using local island symbols and patterns. A set of “tam-tam” drums from Vanuatu, standing vertical in a shelter near the chapel, are used to call to prayer and worship. Indirect lighting (high pressure sodium) gives a golden glow, adding to the religious atmosphere. At night, the light of the skylight creates a beacon from a distance. Spotlights enable the main focal points (altar, lectern and presidential seat) to receive special emphasis as needed.
Because the seminary belongs to the Pacific region as a whole, a deliberate attempt was made to have the chapel representative of the Pacific countries, by using various identifiable elements of the cultures unobtrusively. Pacific Regional Seminary of St Peter Chanel is a regional seminary serving the fourteen dioceses of the Episcopal Conference of the Pacific (CEPAC). The dioceses stretch 8,000 kilometres from the Mariana Islands in the northwest to the Society Islands (Tahiti) in the southeast.
A tremendous richness of cultures is to be found among students of so vastly differing backgrounds. They come from the three great cultural divisions of Micronesia in the north (such as Caroline/Marshall Islands, Guam and Kiribati), the Polynesian nations in the east (Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Wallis & Futuna, Cook Islands, Tahiti and Marquesas) and the Melanesian countries in the west (New Caledonia and Vanuatu). Altogether they account for one and a half million people.
Pacific Regional Seminary was established in 1972. It is situated in Fiji because of its central Pacific position. It is a regional, interdiocesan seminary, also attended by students of several religious congregations – Marists, Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, Columban Fathers and Vincentians The Patron saint is St Peter Chanel, who was martyred on Futuna Island in 1841. St Peter Chanel's Day, April 28 th , is a special day in the seminary each year.
From 18 students in 1972, the numbers rose steadily over the years and by 1987 had established at around 110. After four years of academic studies, a student spends one year in pastoral practice in his home diocese, returning to the seminary for two years to complete his studies. Students then work in their local dioceses for sometime before being called to ordination as Deacons and later to the Priesthood. Seventy priests were ordained from Pacific Regional Seminary up to 1987. The new seminary chapel, dedicated October 27 th 1985 was a landmark in the growth of the seminary.
461 Queen Elizabeth Drive,
Nasese, Suva
Phone: (679) 330 2224
Fax: (679) 330 3882
P.O Box 79, Suva
Fiji Islands
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