Father Camille DesRosiers R.I.P. – 25 years the only priest in Tuvalu

Legendary Marist missionary priest, Fr Camille DesRosiers (Fr Kamilo) died on 16 May St Augustin Quebec Canada.

He spent 25 years as the only priest in Tuvalu, which is about two hours, by air, north of Fiji.

In 2010 Tuvalu’s population of 8,357.

When Kamilo arrived in 1986 there were just 26 Catholics and when retired in 2011 at the age of 82, there were 123.

In addition to the usual priestly ministries: Word, Sacrament and Leadership, Kamilo also repaired the road, built houses, and established better supplies of fresh water.

In 2007 a visitor to Tuvalu, related an encounter with Kamilo.

Once in a while he slows down his vehicle, pointing out a well-constructed house.

“I built this one. And that one.”

Asked whether he helped the families get funding for construction he responds with pride: “I physically built these houses.”

“I rolled up my sleeves, brought my tools and built them.”

However, Kamilo once said, “No matter how much work I had to do, I always put prayer first!”

How did Fr Camille DesRosiers end up in Tuvalu?

In November 1985 Kamilo was asked by Cardinal Pio Taofinu’u of Samoa-Apia and Tokelau  to introduce Bishop John Rodgers to the people of Tuvalu.

Having previously served as Vicar Apostolic of Tonga and Nuie and later Bishop in Tonga, Bishop of the Cook Islands, and Auxillary Bishop of Auckland, Rodgers had been appointed to be the “Superior Missio Sui Iuris” in Tuvalu

A Superior Missio Sui Iuris, is a rare type of missionary pseudo-diocesan jurisdiction, ranking below an apostolic prefecture and an apostolic vicariate, in an area with very few Catholics, often desolate or remote.

However, shortly after his appointment Rodgers had a stroke, and he nominated Fr Camille DesRosiers to the Apostolic Nuncio to be the man for Tuvalu.

56 Years in the Pacific Islands

Fr Camille DesRosiers was ordained on the 4th of June 1955, along with two other Marists, he had already been invited by Fr Lawrence Ross to “follow me to Samoa.”

He and Fr Bertrand Soucy bought a car and had many adventures driving across the United States, from Boston to San Francisco, arriving in September of 1956 .

Here they boarded the “Oriana” and sailed to Honolulu, then on to Suva, then on to Samoa arriving on the 9th of November. He remembered it as being “hot”.

He spent 10 years in Savai’i, 10 years in Upolu, 8 years in American Samoa, and 2 years in Tokelau.

Nine times he was called in by his superiors to ‘rescue’ situations, when the priest in that post was in difficulties for one reason or another.

Fr Reynaldo Getalado MSP, is at present the Superior of the Catholic Mission on Tuvalu.

Previously, he worked for some time in the diocese of Auckland.


Additional reading

News category: Asia Pacific.

Tags: , ,