Jakarta (AsiaNews) - In order to improve the training of diocesan priests in Indonesia, often inadequate when compared to that of the members of religious orders or congregations, Unio Indonesia organised a retreat attended by 26 priests from all over the country.
The eight-day seminar was held in late January at the Girisonta Ungaran Jesuit Centre, in the capital of Semarang Regency, in Central Java.
Fr Gusti Bagus Kusumawanta, who chairs the diocesan priests association, said that the recent meeting "is the second event that Unio Indonesia has successfully promoted" since last year.
It was a pivotal moment for some clergymen in their personal growth. Until recently, they never had access to training courses that provided them with opportunities to upgrade their training to perform better their mission.
Fr Kusumawanta noted that priests are always examples and leaders for the faithful and the community, in particular with regard to morality and lifestyle.
However, many of them have left the priesthood in the past without an explanation, said the former head of the Seminar Office of the Indonesian Bishops Conference (KWI).
For this reason, "through the spiritual training promoted by Jesuits teachers," these meetings could be "a great opportunity to renew the commitment to the priesthood."
The presence of other diocesan priests from all over the archipelago represents a fundamental "way" of support, said Unio Indonesia president. It shows that they "are not alone" in their journey.
Jesuit Frs Siegfried Zanhweg and Go Budi, from the Girisonta Centre, organised the retreat in late January in cooperation with Mgr Pujaraharha Blasius, bishop emeritus of Ketapan (West Kalimantan province).
They were joined by another diocesan priest and a layman who dealt with practical matters and logistics for the participants.
The initiative involving 26 diocesan priests in Semarang follows another event held a week earlier in a house of prayer in Hening Griy, Baturaden, in the Diocese of Purwokerto.
A group of local priests and some nuns from different congregations, but all working in the diocese, took part in a spiritual retreat organised by two Jesuit clergymen.
Fr Mahendra Christy, the new parish priest in Sidareja, Purwokerto, stressed the "immediate benefits" brought about by the training and prayers, such as learning about the "way" to conduct better "pastoral activities."
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.