King George VI of Tonga, we’re coming to say hello
WHAT started off as a small dream has turned into a pilgrimage to Tonga for six ladies from Gladstone's Star of the Sea Catholic Church.
The trip of a lifetime for the ladies came about when Tongan-born Father Aliki Langi was in discussion with the ladies over dinner one evening.
"We got to talking about Tonga," he said, "and I suggested that for them to understand Tonga they should go to Tonga and see where I came from."
Because of Fr Aliki's connections, he has been able top secure places at one of the nation's most celebrated ceremonies for all of the ladies, and himself.
King George Tupou VI has ruled the island country since his brother King George Tupou V died in Hong Kong in March 2012. However he has never been crowned as king. His coronation will take place while the group from Gladstone is in Tonga.
"There are limited numbers of people who will be able to attend the coronation, and I've been able to pull some strings and get places for our whole group," he said.
"I've had word from Tonga, and I've passed it on to the ladies, that they will have to be very well dressed and they will have to wear hats."
While in Tonga the group will visit Ahopanilolo Technical Institute where they will attend the blessing of some stainless steel bench tops, the funds for which were donated by the Marist Fathers of Australia following a visit from the head of the order to Gladstone.
"The principal of the college is a nun who I worked with in the Philippines, and she visited Gladstone last year," said Fr Aliki, who has put together a busy itinerary for the group.
As well as the coronation, on Saturday, July 4, and the visit to the technical college, the group will get to meet Catholic Cardinal Mafi - the youngest cardinal in the world, have a picnic lunch at Pangaimotu Beach, where the first mass was held in Tonga and they will visit Fr Aliki's village, Kolvali.
While the ladies will leave Tonga for home on June 7, Fr Aliki will stay on to attend a family reunion, which is to be held on July 9. Fr Aliki is one of 22 siblings in his family.
- ALLEN WINTER