04/11/2017, 14.54
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West Kalimantan gets Indonesia’s first state Catholic college

by Mathias Hariyadi

STAKatN was known as the Santo Agustinus Pastoral Institute. State recognition is the result of the support of important local Catholic leaders. The lack of priests and catechists is one of the biggest problems for Kalimantan’s Catholic community. For Mgr Pius Riana Prapdi, the lack of Catholic educators is the main obstacle to spreading the Faith.

Pontianak (AsiaNews) – Indonesia has its first state Catholic college. The State Catholic Institute (STAKatN) opened on 6 April in Pontianak, the capital of the province of West Kalimantan.

Originally founded in 2006 as the Santo Agustinus Pastoral Institute, the new government-run educational institution began the long process of state accreditation in 2010, which ended this week with the official approval of the Religious Affairs Ministry.

Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saiffudin, West Kalimantan Governor Cornelis M H, Pontianak and Archbishop Mgr Agustinus Agus took part in the opening ceremony.

Andreas, a local Catholic, spoke to AsiaNews about the event. "This milestone was achieved thanks to the great support of important local Catholic figures, such as the provincial governor, the bishop and priests."

In its ten-year history, the institute saw more than 1,250 students graduate, 31 of whom have since embarked on an academic career. More than 700 other vocational students have found jobs.

During the inauguration ceremony, Mgr Agus invited all former students to adhere to the Church's mission in the province, so that Catholic education can remain strong for the local community.

"Providing a religious education to our people in this vast territory has been a great challenge for us because of the lack of catechists," the archbishop said. "Not only are there not enough teachers with a Catholic education, but teachers as a whole are a rarity in this province."

In Pontianak, the Education Department noted that only 355 schools in this huge province have teachers trained at Catholic schools. Overall, "we have 1,222 high schools across the province," Mgr Agus said.

Out of 4,341 primary schools, only 1,603 have Catholic teachers. Out of 378 senior high schools, only 89 have Catholic teachers," the bishop added.

The lack of priests and catechists is one of the biggest problems for the Catholic community in Kalimantan. The huge island ha only four dioceses in the western province, and only one for each of the central, southern, and eastern provinces.

Speaking to AsiaNews in 2016, Mgr Pius Riana Prapdi, bishop of Ketapang (West Kalimantan), said that the lack of Catholic educators is the main obstacle to spreading the Faith.

The difficult economic conditions in remote areas of Indonesia, exacerbated by the lack of infrastructure, put "human development" at the centre of the Church's mission.

According to Mgr Pradpi, one of the best ways to meet this goal is to offer the best possible education to local youth.

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