The anniversary was celebrated a few days ago with a Mass, whilst a film retracing the history of their presence in the country was screened. For Bishop Mencuccini, the missionaries “have experienced many ups and downs,” but “with the spirit of St. Paul of the Cross”, they were able to cope with them.
Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Celebrations were held recently in Sekadau, West Kalimantan, to mark the 75th anniversary of the presence of the Congregation of the Passion of Jesus Christs (Passionists) in Indonesia.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, Passionist priests gathered to celebrate Mass led by Bishop Giulio Mencuccini of Sanggau. For the occasion, the 25 years of priesthood of Fr Gabriel Asun, an ethnic Dayak, were also celebrated.
"Our works around the world date back 300 years. We have been in Indonesia for 75 years and have experienced many ups and downs," said Bishop Mencuccini in his homily. “But with the spirit of Saint Paul of the Cross we were able to carry out our service in this country”.
The local district chief praised the works of the clerics. During the celebrations, a film that traced the history of the missionary presence in the country was screened.
The first members of the Congregation of the Passion arrived in Ketapang from the Netherlands in 1946. At the time, the remote areas of West Kalimantan where ethnic Dayak lived could only be reached by boat from the city of Pontianak.
The then Apostolic Nuncio to Dutch Borneo promoted the presence of the missionaries since the Capuchins of Pontianak were no longer able to carry out their pastoral service in Ketapang.
In 1952, two missionaries drowned while crossing the Pesaguhan River. The following year, Fr Gabriel Sillekens arrived to replace them; he later became the bishop of Ketapang.
Five Augustinian Sisters also arrived in 1949 and developed their mission in the field of education together with Passionist priests.
In the years following Indonesia’s independence from the Netherlands, Indonesian President Sukarno forced missionaries to give up Dutch citizenship or leave the country.
In the 1960s, the first Italian missionaries arrived, including Bishop Giulio Mencuccini, the only foreign prelate in Indonesia.