Jakarta (AsiaNews) – The Indonesian Catholic Church celebrated the ordination of 18 deacons on the same day in three remote cities: Belitang, in South Sumatera province, Rantepao, capital of Tanah Toraja regency (South Sulawesi), and Kabanjahe (North Sumatera).
In the recent past, it has become customary in Indonesia to celebrate priestly ordinations in places far from the diocesan cathedrals located in provincial capitals.
The purpose is to promote vocations among local youths since these ceremonies are a source of excitement and are "extraordinary events" among many Indonesian Catholic communities.
Belitang lies about 200 kilometres from South Sumatera’s provincial capital of Palembang, seat of the local archdiocese by the same name. Five deacons were ordained on Wednesday, and three seminarians became deacons in the Church of St Mary's Conception (which is located in the sub-district of Tegalrejo) (picture 2).
Mgr Aloysius Sudarso led the ceremony in the presence of some 5,000 worshippers, hundreds of priests and many senior local government officials. Three of the new priests belong to the Congregation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, two are Salesians and one is diocesan.
Rantepao, in Tanah Toraja regency, is more than 300 kilometres and eight hours drive from Makassar, the provincial capital South Sulawesi.
Archbishop John Liku Ada ordained seven diocesan priests (picture 3) at a time of grieving in the community, which lost two of its priests: Fr Paulus Ata Patunggu, who died in a road accident last Sunday, and Fr Stephanus Tarigan, Vicar General of Makassar, who suffered a fatal heart attack during the preparation for the Fr Paulus’s funeral.
"There were at least 7,000 people, hundreds of traditional dancers and a joyous choir,” said Sister Maria Monika Ekawati, who was present at the ceremony, speaking to AsiaNews. Tanah Toraja is a place where local Christian communities, Catholic and Protestant, are flourishing.
In Kabanjahe, in the Archdiocese of Medan (North Sumatera), Catholics celebrated the consecration of five diocesan priests and one from the order of the Holy Cross (pictures 1 and 4). Sister Bernadette said that the members of the Parish of Sts Peter and Paul, where the ceremony was led by Fr Anicetus B. Sinaga, were full of joy.
Wednesday’s record ordinations have made the Indonesian Church proud, coming in the wake of those of July, another fruitful month for vocations.
In Yogyakarta (Central Java), Mgr Robertus Rubiyatmoko consecrated six Jesuits and eight diocesan priests. Bishop Yustinus Harjosusanto, archbishop of Samarinda, ordained three Missionaries of the Holy Family, one of whom originally from Madagascar.
In Manado (North Sulawesi), Mgr Benedictus Estephanus Rolly Untu consecrated a priest and 13 deacons. On 7 July, the Diocese of Ketapang diocese (West Kalimantan) celebrated the ordination of two ethnic Dayak priests.
Over the past 20 years, religious vocations have declined in Indonesia, religious vocations. This is partly due to family planning policies (Keluarga Berencana), imposed by former President Suharto to control population growth.
Another cause is the loss of "interest" among young people towards religious life.
Still, despite the decline in vocations, in some dioceses of the country, the number of young people entering the seminar is still high.