Marian month in Indonesia: prayers and charity in the name of the Virgin
by Mathias Hariyadi

A parish of Semarang organised a day of reflection and action, with activities ranging from the provision of food and drink for the needy to the Eucharistic adoration. In the Marian grotto in Mojosongo, the faithful took part in vocational activities. The Archdiocese of Jakarta plans a "special novena" for business people and commuters at the end of working hours.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - As the month of May got underway, the Indonesian Catholic Church has begun organising a number of activities devoted to the Virgin Mary. However this year, humanitarian activities and initiatives for the poorest and most disadvantaged will be carried out alongside prayers, the Rosary, and the Eucharistic adoration.

Yesterday for example, compassion inspired a number of initiatives of reflection, prayer and action at St Francis Xavier Parish in Kebon Dalem, Archdiocese of Semarang (Central Java), which organised two separate activities that included handing out food and drink to the needy.

The parish priest, Fr Aloysius Budi Purnomo, spoke to AsiaNews about the initiative. "At first, the call to prayer and action raised more than a few eyebrows among the faithful," he explained, "because this had never been done before and because they (the faithful) were unfamiliar with this kind of charity."

In the morning, young parishioners cleaned up the rectory and the surrounding area. In the afternoon, they prepared food and drinks that they eventually handed out to the city's poor.

Some young people then "drove around on their motorbikes to hand out packages," the priest said, "to strengthen morals and reinvigorate the spirit of understanding towards underpaid workers, like street sweepers."

Devotions, prayers and the Eucharistic Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament kept in the small chapel of the rectory followed the charitable activities. 

Yesterday, many Catholics also went on a pilgrimage to the Marian grotto in Mojosongo, Solo (Central Java), where various vocational activities were on the agenda, including community leaders bearing witness to their daily relationship to faith. The Eucharist was celebrated later in the evening.

Like every year, a "special novena" dedicated to the Virgin Mary is also planned in Jakarta. The event has become a tradition among Catholics in the capital, especially for business people and commuters who can this way reflect and pray at the end of their day of work.

This year, the agenda includes interventions and personal reflections by cultural and financial leaders, as well as the Archbishop of Jakarta Mgr Ignatius Suharyo.

Catholics are deeply devoted to Eucharistic adoration and Marian devotion, especially in the two months the Catholic Church has set aside for Our Lady, namely May and October.

On these two occasions in the calendar year, thousands of people from across the country take part in pilgrimages and visit the closest Marian grottoes for prayer and worship.

Catholic groups and associations also organise trips to some of the country's (and the world's) most important Marian centres for moments of prayer and recitation of the Rosary.

Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation in the world (86 per cent, mostly Sunni).

Although it upholds constitutional principles of basic personal freedoms (including religious freedom), it has increasingly become the scene of violence and abuse against minorities.

Christians represent 5.7 per cent of the population with Catholics just over 3 per cent. Hindus are 1.8 per cent; 3.4 per cent belong to other religions.

Catholics are a small minority of about seven million people, or about 3 per cent of the country's population (3.6 per cent in the Archdiocese of Jakarta).