Island resident June Hosking said island women sewed gorgeous tivaivai and eis for the unveiling and a well rehearsed local choir resounded throughout St Michaels Church as they led the congregation through numerous songs during the service.
The service was conducted by Bishop Paul Donoghue, who was carried on to the church grounds on a pa’ata, amidst scenes of colourful celebration.
Writing for CINews on Friday before sending the newspaper photos of the unveiling, Hosking said at the end of the service a Powerpoint presentation showing highlights of Father John’s long life was shared on screen.
“Just about everyone on the island was there to celebrate Father John’s life because he lived here for such a long time and he was known to everyone.
“A musical group sang worship songs as many people representing various diocese, islands and groups were called up to remove the veils covering Father John’s headstone.”
Hosking said feeding the large number of visitors who arrived for the ceremony was an island-wide affair.
“It was not just the Catholic community that catered for the huge crowd. Some were here for land court hearings in the week leading up to the ceremony and they were fed each day as well as being invited to today’s event. Air Rarotonga aircraft have been coming and going which has also been the cause for excitement as we usually only get them on Mondays and Fridays.”
During the lunch that followed the ceremony, students from Apii Mauke entertained with dances, mamas and papas sang songs played their drums and stringed instruments and some mamas even got up and danced, adding spark and joyful calls of “woohoo!” to a great meal, Hosking said.
“The island is alive with people and now as I write in my classroom as dark crowds in outside, I can hear vehicles going past, people on the back of trucks and on motorcycles chatting and laughing away.
“It’s a reminder that we are blessed to be a part of a very large body of believers.”
During the ceremony Bishop Donoghue told the crowd that people might be surprised to learn that when he had originally been asked to go to the Cook Islands Father John hadn’t been too sure about it.
“The Cook Islands was not on his radar. He had been thinking he would be going to Brazil or Indonesia where a relation of his was a priest. Not the Cook Islands.
“’It is such a small place’,” he said. “He asked, ‘What am I going to do there? Who will I talk with? If I am not happy, can I be shifted to somewhere else?”
“Imagine Father John not having someone to talk to?
“Well, for 60 years he had someone to talk to. He was a happy man!
Photos, pages 8&9