Apostolic Vicariate of Central Oceania

Apostolic Vicariate of Central Oceania

The Vicariate Apostolic of Central Oceania was a Roman Catholic missionary jurisdiction in the Southern Pacific.

History

The whole of Oceania had at first been entrusted by the Propaganda Fide to the Society of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary (1825); but the territory proving too large, the western portion was afterwards formed into a vicariate Apostolic and given to the Society of Mary (1836), Jean Baptiste Pompallier being appointed Vicariate Apostolic of Western Oceania.

In 1842, the Propaganda created the vicariate Apostolic of Central Oceania, comprising New Caledonia, Tonga, Samoa and Fiji Islands. By a further subdivision, the vicariate included only the Tonga, the Wallis Islands, Futuna and Niué. The Tonga Islands extend from 15° to 22° S. lat. and from 173° to 176° W. long. Niué is three hundred miles to the east. The Wallis Islands lie in 13° S. lat. and 178° W. long.; Futuna, in 40° 14' S. lat. and 179° 33' W. long. These archipelagos were divided among several more or less constitutional monarchies; the Kingdoms of Tonga, Niué, Wallis and the two Kingdoms of Futuna. Tonga and Niué are under British protectorate, Wallis and Futuna, under French.

By the early 20th century freedom of worship was theoretically recognized everywhere except in Niué, which was exclusively Protestant; Wallis and Futuna were entirely Catholic. In Tonga there were Catholics, Methodists belonging to the Sydney conference, independent Methodists forming a national Church, some Anglicans, Adventists and Mormons. The total population was 34,000, with 9200 Catholics.

There were 35 Catholic churches; 21 European and 1 native Marist priests, and 3 native secular priests; 28 schools with 2039 children; 2 colleges; 1 seminary. The establishments for girls were under the care of 52 Sisters of the Third Order of Mary. The boys' schools were conducted by native lay teachers; the colleges and the seminary by priests. The islands were divided into districts, with resident missionaries assembling every month for an ecclesiastical conference. There were annual retreats for the priests, for the sisters and for the catechists, besides general retreats for the faithful about every two years. In each village there was a sodality of men (Kan Apositolo) and another of women (Fakafeao). The yearly number of baptisms averaged 310; of marriages, 105. Mgr Bataillon was the first vicar Apostolic, succeeded by Mgr. Lamaze, at whose death (1906) succeeded his coadjutor, Mgr Amand Olier, S.M., from (1910) vicar Apostolic. The vicariate has given to the Church the proto-martyr of Oceania, Bl. P. Chanel.

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