Society Matters | Volume 31 No. 1 | Autumn 2021

7 Volume 31 No. 1 | Autumn 2021 After taking his final vows in Melbourne in March 2006, Akuila was ordained to the priesthood in Tonga that same year and arrived in Argentina in 2007 to take up his first missionary assignment. “Since I arrived in Argentina, I’ve worked mainly in parish ministry,” he says. “All of the parishes that I’ve worked in are made up mainly of poor disadvantaged families. I also work part-time at the local high school, mainly with the students, teachers and sometimes with the parents.” In the early days of his assignment, Akuila worked mainly with youth and making pastoral visits to families living at the outer mission station. “I am currently working as parish priest with a lot of emphasis on families,” he says. “Most families are poor and lack formal education due to the economic situation they come from. This creates a vicious cycle of problems such as a lack of formal and/ or stable jobs, which creates more problems, such as kids turning to drugs and gangs. Not to mention the early school drop-out rate, child pregnancies and family separation.” Akuila says that when he arrived in Argentina there were three main challenges – the language, the diversity of people and cultural backgrounds, and the food, all of which he continues to learn and adapt to. Before setting off for his first assignment in 2007, Akuila says his pre-conceived idea of missionary work was about helping and being of service to others. “I wanted to be an instrument in God’s mission and have an impact on the life of others,” he says. “What was a real eye-opener to me was the joy of discovering the presence of God amidst the joy and suffering of the people that have been part of my life in mission. “Administering the sacraments was the core part of my daily pastoral work but I soon discovered that the life of the people, its context, joy, suffering, concerns and way of life, is in itself a sacrament. “Because it became the medium that led me into a profound encounter with God. It is through them that I discover the presence of Emmanuel – God-with-us. “For people to allow you to be part of their journey in life is a blessing that will last my whole life. “So I am thankful to the SVD for giving me the opportunity to be part of its mission, which is God’s Mission, and to all the people who allow me to be part of their life journey and who are now part of my life and mission.”