By Sr Sesilia Sala FMA
The Episcopal Consecration of the first local Catholic Bishop Peter Houhou, was held on 14 October at the St Augustine Catholic Cathedral in Auki, Malaita Province.
Archbishop Kurian Mathew Vayalunkal, Apostolic Nuncio for Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands – was assisted by Honiara Archbishop Christopher Cardone OP and Archbishop Douglas Young SVD from the Archdiocese of Mount Hagen, Papua New Guinea.
The concelebrants were Emeritus Archbishop Adrian Smith SM alongside various diocesan and religious priests.
Fr Giogio Licini PIME, Catholic Bishops Conference General Secretary, and Sr Marilyn MSC were among the special invited guests.
Addressing the congregation in his homily, Archbishop Vayalunkal reminded the new bishop that his first task is to love God, love his priests, and the people of God.
“Holy mother Church is entrusting you with three important responsibilities: To teach, to sanctify and to govern the People of God,” he said.
Archbishop Vayalunkal thanked the family for the precious gift of their son and invited all to pray and support their new bishop.
The presence of the Prime Minister Hon Rick Houenipwela and his delegation; the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Hon John Maneniaru with his wife; the Premier of Malaita Province, Hon Peter Ramohia and wife, represented the government along with distinguish guests from other provinces as well as oversees.
The ceremony commenced with emotional cultural rituals.
The whole family of Bishop Elect Fr Peter from Marau, East Areare and Ulawa presented him to the Church in the presence of Archbishop Vayalunkal.
This brought tears to the eyes of the entire gathering as the relatives expressed their joy and sorrow through their chants.
The solemn Eucharistic celebration was unique and represented the different deaneries and parishes of the Diocese of Auki.
The entire ceremony was explained by the Master of Ceremony, Fr John Adai.
In expression of their gratitude and appreciation speeches were delivered by PM Rick Houenipwela, Archbishop Vayalunkal, Mr Ramohia, and the newly consecrated Bishop Peter Houhou.
Congratulations were offered and gifts presentations were presented. The people were very hospitable and took care of the visiting guests.
Bishop Houhou paid tribute to his predecessors, the late Bishop Gerard Loft SM and Bishop Christopher Cardone OP.
He highlighted the work of the Marist missionaries and Diocesan priests who have built the Church and the Catholic faith of the people.
In particular, he mentioned the first two local priests, Fr Michael Aike and Fr Donasiano Hite’e.
He invited all in the diocese and the Church to work together to strengthen the Catholic faith in Solomon Islands.
He also called on the Provincial and National Government to work together to address the many issues and challenges that face the community and society.
Words of gratitude were expressed to many people who made it possible for the occasion to run smoothly, especially the many who were behind the scenes.
“Thank you to the Diocese of Auki for hosting the historical event,” he said.
A special acknowledgment was expressed to Fr James Angisia for his role as administrator of the diocese for the past two years.
“May the blessings of the Lord be with you as you journey together with the newly consecrated Bishop,” Fr Angisia said.