Pauperes Evangelizantur

Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Indonesian Province & 40th year of the Presence of the Oblates in Indonesia

(Publishing Year 2013, 236 pages)

Evangelizare pauperibus misit me is at the soul of the groups of Oblates from different nationalities and which is becoming fully present in Indonesia. A group of Australian Oblates came and started working in Java in 1972, in the diocese of Purwokerto, and a couple of years later, also settled in the Archdiocese of Semarang and the Archdiocese of Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia. In 1977, the two separate groups of Oblates, namely French and Italian, set foot on the island of Borneo: one in the East, in the Archdiocese of Samarinda, and one in the West in the Diocese of Sintang. Most were Oblates who had been expelled from Laos, due to political reasons. They were searching for a place similar to Laos within Asia and found Borneo/Kalimantan to harbor their missionary hearts (p. 44-52).

Separately, in their respective delegations, they worked hard with and for the people until they began to discern the possibility of merging and forming a single Oblate province. The processes began with several sessions, meetings, and retreats. Finally, with the approval of the General Administration, a vice-province of Indonesia was born on May 21, 1993. This solemn moment was realized in the presence of then-Father General Marcello Zago, and Father Angelito Lampon, at that time the counselor of Asia-Oceania (p. 53-62).

What is the core mission of the Oblates? Our Founder, St. Eugene de Mazenod, invited all his sons to live in community as brothers and then work zealously outside of it for the salvation of souls. By living together as a community the Oblates were able to live “charity, charity, charity among us..” and so set out to spread the Gospel for the salvation of souls. Living the charism of the Founder, the Oblates choose to become “the servant and priest and brother for the poor” and give their lives wholly to them. The Oblates lead people to act like human beings, first of all, and then like Christians, and finally help them to become saints. With this mission, the Oblates live and work in countries spreading to the five continents, including within Indonesia (p. 25-43).

 

What are the works for the souls in Indonesia? The Oblates work in two of the main islands of Indonesia in six archdioceses. They collaborate with the local Church as well, since most of the Oblate works are basically parish ministries. It is true that the Oblates live as parish priests; but they came as missionaries, and the Oblates’ missionary spirit is clearly revealed in their ways of doing ministry. Thanks be to God that the bishops have seen and truly appreciated the presence and works of the Oblates in their respective dioceses (p. 11-26).

 

Within parish ministry, the Oblates work wholeheartedly for the poor. In the context of Borneo, with its jungles, rivers, and groups of tribal peoples, the Oblates work tirelessly in reaching out to the people to bring them the Good News of salvation. In both the West and the East, Oblates encourage families to send their children to school. The Oblates provide lodging to children from various isolated villages in boarding houses connected to the presbytery or under the guidance of some trusted families. It saves a lot of young women and men or teenagers from a “culture of marriage” at a young age. Many of them are even able to continue their studies at a higher level either in the university or any of the vocational schools. It takes a long time to change the mentality of the people and continues to be so even now.

Visiting families is another option for the Oblates in doing their ministries. Riding by “motor” in the muddy roads, travelling by small boats in the unpredictable weather, and staying overnight with people with limited facilities and sanitation provide the background for their “art” of being close to the people. We have lost two zealous Oblates in road accidents. Despite this cost, Oblates also enjoy the harvests such as hundreds of youth achieving various higher levels of education, thousands of people who know and follow the Savior, great contributions toward preserving local cultures, the works of JPIC, and of course, great missionary witnesses for the sake of the Church which our Founder loved so much - the glorious inheritance purchased by Christ the Savior at the cost of his own blood. The Oblates have done a lot of church-building as pioneers in order to pave the way for a future ministry of faith among the people (p. 127-186).

The island of Java is the most populous island in the world (the UN census 2013 notes its population as 135 million persons). The Oblates from Australia arrived in Cilacap, Central Java and then spread their wings to the west of Jakarta for more ministries and to the east of Yogyakarta to begin houses of formation. The Javan Oblates have tackled some significantly different challenges compared to the Oblates in Borneo. The main issues are poverty and unemployment. People have no money to improve their living standard or to send their children to school. Right after their arrival in 1972, the Oblates became involved in some social projects for the benefit of the people by building roads, sanitation facilities, schools, micro-credit, and empowerment of the housewives to raise incomes for the family. All those projects are done in the context of parish ministry. The Oblates work for the poor without neglecting the original mission with in the Church. Cultivating faith by administering the sacraments, visiting families, and opening a national Marian Grotto in Kaliori, Central Java, have been expressions of the Oblate religious charism. Moreover, Oblates engaged in parishes are conducting ministry to youth such as Roses, Antiokhia, and Oblate Youth Encounter every two years, and show their concern for the support of families in ways such as encouraging couples to join Marriage Encounter weekends. Building churches are also part of the missionary zeal among the Oblates engaged in parish ministry. By doing all of these, the Oblates have been much involved in the local Church as well as in the broader society of Indonesia, their appreciation for the Oblates being notably expressed when Fr. Charlie Burrows received the Ma’arif Award from a prominent National Islamic Institution in 2012 (p. 64-107).

The future of the Oblate congregation lies at the heart of formation. The presence of the Oblates attracted some young men to join, which gave hope to the continuation of the mission as well as presenting the need of setting up formation houses. In 1982, after some discernment involving the delegation of France and Italy, the Australian Oblates began a joint construction project for the scholasticate and novitiate in Yogyakarta, an autonomous region well-known as a city of culture and study.

In 1990, the novitiate moved to the new location, about 3 kilometers north of the scholasticate. The number of vocations is always up and down but they were prosperous during the time of the unification of the three delegations. Although the number of novices and scholastics were fantastic, the number went down dramatically after several years; but, thanks be to God, the number has recently been going up again. The future looks brighter and brighter for the Oblates in Indonesia. The average age of the Oblates is between thirty seven and forty five. The vocation of brotherhood has also increased in recent years, which gives more hope for doing ministries in a broader context and variety (p.108-126).

What are the challenges of the mission in Indonesia? The issue of transferring to a new generation and continuation of the mission is one of the major concerns among the Oblates. The magnificent works of the expatriates (former three delegations) is slowly being handed over to local Oblates, which requires both trust and accountability among all of them. Despite the differences in backgrounds, way of being missionaries, and the lack of personnel, the commitment remains the same: the Oblates will carry on the mission of the Founder, bringing the Good News to the poor and abandoned. The Oblates serve the unserved: the poor among the rich in the city, the isolated people in the jungles, the dynamic-modern youths, the issues identified by JPIC, and, of course, the service to the Church. With one heart and one soul, cor unum et anima una, and through congresses and meetings, the Oblates as a community, holding hands with an abundance of faithful lay men and women (p. 199-212), look forward to firmly assuring that the poor have received the Good News. Many have received and many more will receive. (Henricus Asodo, omi)

(As published in Oblatio, No. 7/Year 2014, Rome)

 

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