The remote central province has only 24 diocesan priests and 11 Passionists. The pastoral mission of the Church is made difficult by the lack of priests. The ceremony drew thousands of Catholics. Frs Hendrik and Fransiscus talked to AsiaNews about their path of faith.
Ketapang (AsiaNews) – The ordination of new priests in the Diocese of Ketapang (West Kalimantan) is an "extraordinary" event for both the local Church and their community. It is not only a "prestigious" event for the family and for the relatives of the priest, but also a festive celebration of faith, to which the whole community is called to participate.
St Mikael's Parish in Simpang Dua experienced this joy on 29 June when Mgr Pius Riana Prabdi, bishop of Ketapang, ordained two local tribal men as diocesan priests: Fr Hendrix Yusri Basri Rius and Fr Fransiscus Suandi.
The pastoral mission of the Catholic Church in the province of West Kalimantan is difficult because of the lack of priests to serve the vast and remote area, which includes four dioceses (Pontianak, Sanggau, Sintang and Ketapang).
Because of poor road and travel infrastructures, the few priests that are available visit local communities every three or four months, and only when weather conditions allow them, trekking for hundreds of kilometres on rough roads and barely navigable rivers.
Together with Mgr Pius Riana Prapdi, AsiaNews made a ten-day trip to some of the farthest and most inaccessible parishes, where they met the two new priests and gathered their testimonies of faith.
Frs Hendrik and Fransiscus hail from local Catholic Dayak ethnic families. They completed their elementary education at the school in their native village, and later attended a Catholic school in Ketapang. Both of them later entered the St Laurentius Minor Seminary at Payak Kumang, in central Ketapang.
After graduating, the two were sent to Malang, East Java, to attend a one-year spiritual course for novices. In Malang, they also completed their philosophical and theological studies before moving to Pontianak for postgraduate studies in theology.
The two priests say that the seeds of their religious vocation are attributable to three main factors: the teaching of spiritual values by a good Catholic family, the testimony of the mission by local priests and communities, and a Catholic education.
Fr Fransiscus said that his father's spiritual life contributed decisively to his personal desire to become a priest. Because the number of clergymen in the diocese was very limited, he used to go along with his father in his trips to the island’s remote areas to perform pastoral services.
In the absence of a celebrant, no Eucharistic celebration was celebrated on these occasions, but his father used to bring the Word of God to the faithful.
For his part, Fr Hendrik said that the serious shortage of priests in the Diocese of Ketapang led him to become one.
Although its territory is much bigger than Central and West Java provinces, West Kalimantan has only 24 diocesan priests (some of whom come from the Diocese of Semarang in Java on temporary assignments) and 11 Passionists.
According to Fr Joko, pastor of Simpang Dua parish, the ceremony of priestly ordination of the two and the following celebration drew thousands of Catholics from across the Regency. The head of the local district Martin Rantan SH took part in the festivities, along with dozens of nuns, some men religious and 46 priests.