Elisa Petra, the nun on the motorbike who assists the pregnant women of Tanjung
The story of an Augustinian midwife nun, a native of Central Java, who has been carrying her work in the diocese of Ketapang for 8 years. "With all my limitations and personal knowledge, I always have the desire to keep the spiritual flame as an Augustinian nun burning in my heart. Doing what is best for God and for the good of others"
Ketapang (AsiaNews) - The diocese of Ketapang in the province of Western Kalimantan is little known even for most Indonesians who have no idea where this diocese is and its profile. The territory of the diocese of Ketapang is in fact much larger than the province of Central or Eastern Java.
This is the story of Elisa Petra, an Augustinian midwife nun who worked in the remote area of Tanjung, a 5-6-hour drive from downtown Ketapang.
For eight years she was on a professional and spiritual mission, entrusted by her Sister Congregation in the health service. The health service was started by the Dutch Augustinian missionary sisters in 1955.
This is the long distance "conversation" with this Javanese Augustinian nun - after an impromptu meeting in Ketapang and elsewhere - who voluntarily joined the Sister Congregation OSA based in Ketapang of West Kalimantan, simply because "My conscience is was suddenly fueled by a passion to serve the Church and others as my eyes were captured by a very touching image of a nun standing firmly with other nuns in a small wooden boat. "
That is why Elisa joined OSA in Ketapang rather than other religious congregations of nuns based in Java.
"Since I also want to work out my own spiritual path, this kind of service in remote areas of West Kalimantan province could be the right choice for my path to serve others."
Here is the complete story of Sister Elisa Petra, a Javanese nun who joined the OSA congregation of nuns in Ketapang whose majority members are Dayaks, completely different in terms of social values and daily "habits" from her Javanese culture.
Experience in a remote area
This new experience took place at the “Mutiara” BP-BKIA (Medical Center for Maternal and Child Health) in Tanjung. Approximately 5-6 hours drive from Ketapang city in West Kalimantan province.
That afternoon, a couple expecting a child, accompanied by some relatives, visited the clinic to meet Sister Elisa for a maternity consultation. "By asking for advice from midwife at the Mutiara BP-BKIA clinic in Tanjung, to find out if the mother should give birth in Tanjung or in Ketapang," said Sister Elisa Petra, OSA, 40.
Based on her tests, the nun said, the mother would have given birth to twins at any moment. Of course, it was impossible to take the mother to travel for 5-6 hours to Ketapang safely on a bumpy road. "Thank God, in our clinic, Mrs. S. gave birth with two male twins in a safe way. The children were also well and in good health," said the nun recalling the special events that really "tested" her experience as a midwife in remote areas.
Tanjung is a small village.
"I gave thanks first as a midwife and then as an Augustinian nun, at that moment, because surprisingly things went very well and the birth was a great success," recalls Sister Elisa Petra OSA.
The idea of being an Augustinian midwife and nun in a remote area of Tanjung never occupied her mind until one day her conscience was suddenly emotionally "blocked" by a photographic "advertisement" found in a Catholic calendar. That photo (see photo) caught the attention of Novi Narmasari, her maiden name before joining the OSA congregation. “That impressive photo touched my heart. It shows Sister Agneta Tan Nailoy, OSA, now 75, daughter of Mr. Tan A Hak, a Catholic lay missionary from mainland China who brought Christianity to Ketapang in 1911. The photo showed Sister Agneta's journey with three other nuns from Menyumbung to another health clinic within their service area," the nun recalls her initial call to become a nun.
Menyumbung is very far from Ketapang, about 6-7 hours drive by car and can sometimes only be reached by boat.
"The image in the photo suddenly indicated to me that someday in the future I might even be able to create 'other stories' of my faith adventure with God. And that's why I became an Augustinian nun - instead of joining another religious congregation in Java - but in remote Ketapan g so you can experience such a special thing,” explained the nun, a native of Muntilan in Central Java.
Muntilan has been widely considered the "Nazareth of Java" due to the national influence of the charismatic Jesuit educator Father van Lith, who paved the way for the Catholic mission in Central Java. In fact, on December 14, 1904, the missionary priest baptized 171 villagers in the Kalibawang region in Sendangsono, Kulon Progo. This event is regarded as the birth of the Catholic Church among the Javanese.
The baptismal site has become Java's most popular pilgrimage destination known as Sendangsono.
The choice of West Kalimantan
This was really a "strange" choice. Narmasari is a young Javanese woman who intentionally chose a congregation of religious nuns based outside Java rather than in her own territory. But this is what Novi Narmasari did when she joined the OSA Congregation based in Ketapang in West Kalimantan rather than religious congregations whose pastoral works in the health service are numerous in Java as well.
"I joined OSA when I was already 21, much older than the others in the group who are only high school graduates. After three years of practical work experience, I joined the OSA with my parents' consent," says the eldest daughter of Julius Waluya and the late Maria Goretti Winarsih.
"After my first profession in 2005, the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Augustine of the Mercy of God (OSA) immediately asked me to become a midwife based on my quality and personal experience".
Her day job was in the BP-BKIA “Mutiara” in Tanjung.
But as a midwife, she often made impromptu trips and frequent visits to remote areas as she could not go to give birth in Tanjung due to the remoteness and lack of access roads to the "city".
Sometimes she rode her motorcycle to remote destinations for a "heavenly" cause. At times, she says, she had doubts about her ability to perform this service. But her moral conscience made things clearer. It is more than just a "mandatory" professional call. "But this is a spiritual mission as I look after the human life of both the mother and her child," said the nun who made her perpetual vows in 2011.
Since 2012, as she gets used to her mission as a midwife in a remote area, she gradually loves these acts of love and compassion. "With all my limitations and personal knowledge, I always have the desire to keep the spiritual flame burning in my heart as an Augustinian nun. Do what is best for God and for the good of others," she concludes.
It is within this spirit that she considers her bi-weekly trip to Tanjung-Ketapang no longer a "burden" but a mission to be accomplished with magnanimity.
“Every time she comes to the OSA headquarters in Ketapang, she looks very dirty and very tired from her ride with her motorcycle. After a day of rest and socialization with the sisters, she will return to Tanjung with many medicines in the bags of her motorcycle”, explains Sister Sesilia OSA, an elderly nun who has been chosen for years as a novice trainer.
Sister Elisa has been doing this routine for almost 8 years now. Alone with her motorcycle, she travels through muddy and slippery roads during the rainy season and very dusty roads during the hot season.
Answering the question of why she does not use a service to travel from Tanjung to Ketapang and vice versa, Sister Elisa Petra OSA firmly said a big No. “I don't want to burden anyone. I don't want to always depend on others. My parents taught me to be independent. As long as I can do it myself, then it's okay to ride a motorcycle." "Another fundamental reason - she adds - is to reduce travel expenses. Because making a return trip from Tanjung-Ketapang once every two weeks is very expensive. "
With the Covid-19 pandemic, does your health service need to be stopped?
"Oh no" she replies immediately. “Let's continue as usual. All we have to do is ensure that the health protocol is strictly enforced, "he adds.
As long as there are still pregnant women who need her help, her work as a midwife in the remote area of the diocese of Ketapang will continue to exist. Covid-19 creates more problems with childbirth, especially in the remote area such as the village of Tanjung.
The presence of Sr. Ellisa Petra OSA is therefore needed
Photo credit: Photo files by Sr. Elisa Petra OSA