“The Year of Faith has brought a tremendous impetus of faith life into our parishes and in the pastoral mission of our diocese,” Fr. Faitau Lemantu, pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Alao, told CNA Dec. 12.
Fr. Lemantu explained that at the beginning of his assignment, “there were three to four people for daily Mass, and the parish was pretty much dead.”
“But now, we have around 100 parishioners attending Sunday Mass and liturgical services, and the faith is growing.”
He credits this growth largely to a series of seminars conducted during the Year of Faith, which recently came to a close.
The seminars focused on reflections from Benedict XVI on such topics as the sacraments, devotions, and vocations.
“Now we have to pick up from the seminars and prepare our laity to proclaim the Gospel and to live the life of faith,” said Fr. Lemantu.
Sacred Heart parish is one of 18 in the diocese, which is served by Bishop Peter Brown and 16 priests. Alao is located on the eastern coast of Tutuila, American Samoa's largest island, and Sacred Heart parish serves the villages of Amouli and Aoa as well as Alao.
Sacred Heart is a special name in the territory. Fr. Lemantu explained that “Samoa” itself is a compound of two Samoan words: “sa,” meaning sacred, and “moa,” meaning heart.
American Samoa is an unincorporated territory of the US located in the South Pacific. It is located east of Samoa, and northeast of Fiji and Tonga.
Nearly all American Samoans are Christian, with Catholics forming about 20 percent of the population.
The Samoa-Pago Pago diocese has lay catechists commissioned for each town to help the local priests in doing catechesis, and Fr. Lemantu said he hopes to train more lay people to spread the Gospel and bring families together.
According to a local priest, the Year of Faith was a significant kick start to the Diocese of Samoa-Pago Pago, which serves the 14,000 Catholics who live on the 76 square miles of islands comprising American Samoa.