Jakarta (AsiaNews) - The Diocese of Purwokerto (Central Java) organised a weekend retreat for young people in order to promote vocations, strengthen the faith and increase enrolment at the major and minor seminaries in the province.
In recent years, the area has seen a progressive drop in ordinations. For this reason, local Church leaders have launched a series of initiatives to encourage priestly vocations.
Frs Frans Kristi Adi and Yeppy Emmanuel are behind the initiative. For weeks, the two diocesan priests handed out flyers and promoted the retreat on social networks.
Their efforts brought in 28 young men from various parishes, who responded enthusiastically to the call.
Traditionally, the provinces of East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) Regency and Central Java have provided the largest number of priests and nuns in Indonesia. Central Java includes the dioceses of Semarang and Purwokerto.
If in NTT has always been fruitful in terms of vocations, the second has seen a progressive decline over time.
Still, the two days of retreat and prayer over the weekend (pictured) have brought renewed hope for the future.
"We started with Vespers during which young people pledged a commitment to active participation in the programme," the two priest said.
Frs Emmanuel and Frans Kristi are responsible for primary training of seminarians, providing them with the basic knowledge that they need before starting more in-depth theological and philosophical studies in Yogyakarta.
Inspired by the theme Choose love and love your choice, the 28 participants were introduced to the basics of consecrated vocation by the priests.
"We encouraged them to become 'agents of change and growth' in the life of the diocese," Fr Frans Kristi Adi said.
The young men shared their life experiences and talked about the difficulties they face in their choices.
Priests are excited about the "variety" of candidates, who include high school and university graduates. Their task is to direct them towards the "diocesan priesthood" to meet the actual needs of the community.
The St Paul Major Seminary in Yogyakarta welcomes young people from all over Central Java province.
At present, 61 students are taking theology and philosophy courses at the Sanata Dharma Catholic University.
"The majority, 43 in all, are from Semarang," Dean Fr Kristanto aid, "whilst the others are from Jakarta and Purwokerto."
Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation. Catholics are a small minority of about seven million, or 3 per cent of the population. In the Archdiocese of Jakarta, the faithful represent 3.6 per cent of the population.
The country's constitution recognises freedom of religion, but Christians have become the victims of acts of violence and abuse in the recent past, especially in areas where Islamic extremism is well rooted, like Aceh.
Catholics are nevertheless an active component of society and have contributed to the nation's development as well as to emergency operations when they arise, as was the case in last year's devastating flood.