A dayak to lead Sanggau: all Indonesian dioceses now have local bishops
Pope Francis has appointed Msgr. Saeng, a 53-year-old Passionist religious, as the new bishop of the West Kalimantan border territory. He takes the place of Italian missionary Msgr. Giulio Mencuccini, who led this church since 1990. The new prelate: "Pray for my new mission."
Sanggau (AsiaNews) - Fr. Valentinus Saeng, an ethnic Dayak Passionist religious, has been appointed by Pope Francis as the new bishop of the diocese of Sanggau in West Kalimantan province. He takes the place of Msgr. Giulio Mencuccini, also a Passionist religious of Italian origin, who had led the diocese since 1990 and is now leaving due to age limit. With this turnover, the Catholic Church of Indonesia will no longer have any foreign missionary bishop leading its own diocese. "As soon as the new prelate of the Sanggau diocese is ordained in the coming months, I will return home to my native country," Msgr. Mencuccini told AsiaNews.
The diocese of Sanggau is located in the border regions of Malaysian Sarawak: with its huge territory to serve, Bishop-elect Msgr. Saeng will be called to a challenging task, in a border area where much remains to be done to improve the quality of life for people. Established as an apostolic prefecture in 1968 and elevated to the rank of diocese in 1982, this local Church covers an area of more than 18,000 square kilometers where, according to official statistics, 344,117 Catholics live, representing 53.7 percent of the population. With its 25 parishes, this large diocese is pastorally administered by only 49 priests, 15 consecrated laity and 47 nuns.
Bishop Saeng was born Oct. 28, 1969, in Keramuk, in the Diocese of Sanggau. He entered the Passionists and was ordained a priest in 1998. After furthering his studies in Rome at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas-Angelicum since 2001, he has been a Passionist formator and student superior in Malang and lecturer at the Faculty of Philosophy at Widya Mandala Catholic University in Surabaya and at St. Thomas Catholic University in Medan.
The new bishop explains to AsiaNews, "The first thing I ask is that you pray for me and support my pastoral work. I left Sanggau a long time ago because of my current commitment as a faculty member and responsible for the formation of my fellow Passionist seminarians. As is well known, our diocese is located on the border with Malaysian territory, and in recent years many things have happened in the region, both good and bad, which will need to be addressed appropriately."
Among the social plagues is the phenomenon of growing alcohol and drug addiction, which touches more and more young people, including Catholics. "It is widely known by our people that narcotics are smuggled from the Malaysian territory to the Indonesian regions, and it is really difficult to detect and discourage these illicit practices, as the smuggling takes place through unconventional road accesses," a local priest explained to AsiaNews in 2017 during a trip to the area.
The hope that Msgr. Saeng's appointment will be an opportunity for greater attention to the problems of this region is also expressed by dozens of young natives of the Sanggau diocese who are now pursuing their studies in the East Java town of Malang, where they were taking Msgr. Saeng's courses. "There are no access roads," Sofia and Johana recount, "for those who live in remote areas that can only be reached through the course of rivers. We really hope that the bishop-elect will address these challenges in cooperation with the local government."