Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Last week, the St Peter Canisius Minor in Mertoyudan, Magelang District (Central Java), celebrated its first centennial. Founded on 30 May 1912, the institution has trained thousands of priests and dozens of bishops, contributing to the development of the Catholic Church in Indonesia.
On Sunday, a Eucharistic co-celebration was held to mark the occasion. This was followed by a puppet show and a Sunday market. Hundreds of priests, dozens of bishops and at least 3,000 alumni of the school joined the celebrations along with ordinary citizens and faithful who wanted to pay tribute to one of the most significant places in Indonesian Christianity.
According to historian and Jesuit priest Fr Floribertus Hasto Rosariyanto, the creation of the first minor seminary in Indonesia was the work of a pioneering Dutch missionary, Fr van Lith (1863-1926), who planted the first seed of Catholicism in the province and focused on native Catholics for evangelisation. To improve knowledge of the Bible, he broke new ground by setting up a teachers' college in Muntilan (Central Java).
Two national heroes were among his first students, namely Mgr Albertus Soegijapranata SJ, the first native bishop, and IJ Kasimo, founder of a Catholic party and a member of the first government of Sukarno, founder of the Indonesian state and the first president of the new republic.
Fr Wernz, superior general of the Jesuits at the time, was also one of the sponsors and backers of the new minor seminary. Following in the footsteps of van Lith, he worked hard to establish a school to train future Indonesian priests.
On 13 January 1941, the seminary in Mertoyudan began regular classes, but was forced to shut down when the Second World War reached the archipelago. The seminary and all Church assets, especially those owned by the Jesuits, were seized. On 5 April 1942, Easter Sunday, Japanese authorities ordered the final closure of the seminary, which was turned into an agricultural school.
When the Japanese withdrew from Indonesia on 17 August 1945, the seminary was unable to find a stable place to train the clergy.
Only on 8 December 1952, did Mgr Albertus Soegijapranata, bishop of Semarang, consecrate and bless the newly restored facility. Since them, classes and lessons have been held on a regular basis.