Thursday, December 24, 2015

Please follow us!

Dear Friends,

I have not been blogging much on this site lately (though I do hope to return)... You can follow all the latest that's happening with me at a new website that we have launched for the Diocese of Mendi...  Please check it out here.

Thanks and know that you remain in my thoughts and prayers,
bishop don

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Priest for Mendi

On Saturday, 24 January 2015, Deacon Elias Zambra was ordained priest in a colourful and inspiring celebration at Mother of the Divine Shepherd Cathedral grounds in Mendi, Papua New Guinea.


Deacon Elias arrives to the Cathedral grounds before his ordination to the priesthood.  He is dressed in his traditional attire.  His family is from Madang, a costal city of PNG, however, he grew up in the Southern Highlands and now considers the Diocese of Mendi as his home.  Papua New Guinea is rich in the diversity of culture, languages and customs.  The Gospel speaks words of comfort and challenge to all of us.


Concelebrating priests and other ministers were led to the altar by a traditional Sing-Sing group from the Hela Province.  The Cathedral is in the background.  The Holy Mass was held outdoors to accommodate the thousands who came to participate in this festive liturgy.


Three young women of the Cathedral Youth Group led the Assembly in the Responsorial Psalm:  "The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want."














Traditional Drummers come forward for the Gospel Procession.  On the right you can see one of them unwrapping the Gospel.  The Word of God is seen as a precious gift and so the Gospel Book is un-wrapped to show it's importance.  The Deacon then took the Gospel Book to the Ambo where he proclaimed the Good News.




In the homily, which was taken from the Gospel of John 6:1-14, I suggested that the life of a priest must be Eucharistic: taken, blessed, broken and given ... like the life of Jesus.


After the homily, all kneel and Deacon Elias prostrates (on a traditional mat) in front of the altar, while 5 Sisters lead the Assembly in the Litany of Saints - a powerful expression of our belief in the Communion of Saints.... "Bless this chosen one and make him holy!"


In the ancient, silent gesture of the laying on of hands (and ensuing Prayer of Ordination), Deacon Elias becomes Father Elias - a servant of God's people after the example of Jesus.


After the Prayer of Ordination, the new priest dons the priestly vestments, the stole and the chasuble, symbols of priestly authority, but more importantly, selfless service.



Fr Elias' hands are then anointed with Sacred Chrism that was blessed by the bishop during the Chrism Mass held during Holy Week.  "... that you may sanctify the Christian people and offer sacrifice to God."



Bread and Wine, the offerings of God's People are then placed in the hands of Father Elias.  "Understand what you do, imitate what you celebrate, and conform your life to the mystery of the Lord's cross."


The assembled priests give their new brother the sign of peace, welcoming him to the brotherhood of priests in the Mendi Diocese.  Fraternity among priests is an important part of their vocation, helping them to be faithful ministers of Word and Sacrament among God's People.


The Presentation of Gifts is a colourful display of culture and faith from the various tribes making up the faithful people of the Diocese of Mendi.


Father Elias distributes Holy Communion to one of his family members (dressed in traditional attire) who participated in the Ordination Liturgy.  A priest is a sign of communion between God and people and an instrument of communion among people everywhere.


Having given the final blessing of the Ordination Mass, I kneel down and ask for the first blessing of the Fr Elias.  A priest is a blessing for the entire church and so we must always pray for an increase of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated religious life.  We should also pray that those who have been called to this ministry will remain faithful and holy servants of God and God's Holy People.


After the Holy Mass, the priests and other ministers pose with the new priest.  The Joy of the Gospel is everywhere evident today.


The ordination of a priest is one of the happiest days in the life of a bishop.  God bless the life and ministry of Father Elias.


Thank you for following along this story of the ordination of Father Elias.  And thanks to AK Gleske for taking such beautiful photos of the occasion.  See you soon!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Sweet 15!

On Holy Family Sunday I had the privilege of celebrating the fifteenth anniversary of Mary, Mother of God Parish in Komakul.


Fr Kris Sokol, MSF and I are walking to where the Holy Mass will be celebrated.

Father Kris Solok, MSF - a  Missionary of the Holy Family from Poland is the parish priest (pastor) of the parish.


Komakul is located in the Southern Highlands Province in the Eastern Deanery of the Diocese of Mendi.

Standing on the parish grounds, if you look one way you see Mount Gilluwe in the distance...


And if you look the other way, you see the much closer Mount Ialibu.  Thanks to our trusty local young people to make sure that we don't miss these natural wonders!  It can get rather chilly there, especially in the evenings and early mornings... But the Lord gave us a glorious day to celebrate with the good people of Mary, Mother of God Parish.


I was accompanied in the procession by two catechists, who came dressed in their traditional attire.  Meet Catechist Simon and Catechist Samuel.  Catechists are key people in the life of the church in Papua New Guinea.  In the Diocese of Mendi, there are 30 parishes or pastoral areas - and over 300 rural outstations.  There are less than 30 priests serving in the diocese.  Catechists and other lay ministers are indispensable in bringing the Good News of Jesus to the people in this remote mission diocese.

Women in traditional attire preparing for Holy Mass to begin.


 After the Mass, I had the joy of blessing an "Atrium" - that is used to present the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd to children.  The Missionaries of Charity (of Blessed Mother Theresa) are spearheading this effort.  We thank Pontifical Society of Missionary Childhood for their assistance in this project.

When it comes to weddings at least, the 15th anniversary is often called the Crystal Anniversary.  In any case, it was crystal clear that the people of Komakul are happy to be celebrating 15 years as a parish and will continue to be a community of love and faithful service under their patroness, Mary, the Mother of God.


Friday, December 19, 2014

Father Damian of Muli

Earlier in Advent I had the joy of visiting Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Muli, located in the Eastern Deanery of the Diocese.  I was invited to come and spend a few days of celebration ... to celebrate the parish anniversary, bless a multi-purpose building and celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation.


Meet the parish priest, Father Damian, MSF.  Fr Damian is a Holy Family Missionary and belongs to the Polish province.  He has been serving in the Diocese of Mendi for over seven years.


His tender pastoral heart is matched by his pastoral zeal and hard work in building up the Church in this remote area of the diocese.  Several parishioners cannot hold back their emotion to see that Father Damian came to the celebration dressed in the traditional attire of the local people.  (Just the face decoration takes four hours to apply.)  Cultural understanding, appreciation and sensitivity is a must for the ex-patriate missionaries who come to PNG to serve.  Still, all cultures need to be redeemed in the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.




Marching and chanting with traditional instruments of war is always part of these big cultural celebrations.  While tribal warfare is still present in PNG, the Catholic Church has been a stabilising force for peace and understanding among the many tribal communities of this Melanesian country.


Of course, I too get into the act... as I am met and welcomed to the parish.  It is an honour to participate in these meaningful celebrations.

Digging the mumu pit.

These big celebrations almost always include a traditional mumu, which you have already been to if you have read the blog previously... so I won't describe it in detail at this point.


Removing the hair from the slaughtered pig.  The pig is the main attraction at a mumu.
Women peeling kaukau (or sweet potatoes) - a staple food in the Highlands.  The kaukau also goes into the mumu pit!
Fr Damian in front of the pit where the stones are being heated.  The stones will do the cooking!
 
In four or five hours the food is ready.... cooked to perfection.

Here try some!


A very important part of the celebration is sharing the cooked pig.  It is cut up and shared with the various groups and people who have come to celebrate.  Here Father Damian is giving me the backbone of the pig - usually reserved for VIPs and special guests.  (The rain does not dampen anyone's spirits.)

Legion of Mary women discuss the day's events, among the banana trees!



Marching and eating aside, I was in Muli for other very important reasons, one of those was to bless a multipurpose centre that would be used as a kindergarden, and meeting rooms for the Legion of Mary and Rosary group...

Here, I am blessing a dormitory used by the Rosary Group for overnight meetings.


My stay in Muli concluded with a very beautiful celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation.  Here, at the Entrance Procession, young men with bows and arrows that were used in tribal fighting are symbols of banishing spiritual evil from the community.

Well-behaved children are rapt up in the beauty and meaning of it all.


The sanctuary of the church in Muli was designed by Father Damian and is based, in part on the Diary of Saint Faustina.

We pray that the gifts of the Holy Spirit poured out at Confirmation will built up the Church.

The happy and spirit-filled Confirmation class of Muli.

The Diocese of Mendi is blessed by the life and ministry of the Holy Family Missionaries of the Polish Province.  Pictured here is Father Damian, Father Eki (who is the Director of the Cathechist Training School in Mendi and Father Chris, who is the parish priest of Saint Mary Parish in Kamakul.  (Father Chris was the photographer for many of the photos in this instalment of the blog.)

See you next time!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

We Can't Wait For the Future ....


Recently I was invited by Fr Mathew, an Indian Priest from the Congregation of Saint Therese, to come to his parish for the blessing a new Youth Center which was built by the people themselves in the Porondaka outstation of the Margarima Parish.  (Unfortunately the pictures of the Youth Center itself - which was built of bush materials - didn't turn out... But, believe me, it was very impressive!  Basically, it is a large building with a thatched roof, with two large rooms to accommodate boys and girls who will gather their for regular meetings, retreats and religious formation.)

We drove as far as we could and then we began the walk through the characteristic beauty of the Papua New Guinea countryside.


Before we were even close, we were greeting with an enthusiastic group of young people who came to welcome us and "march" us to the place where the Holy Mass would be celebrated and the blessing would take place.  The joy you can see on the faces of the young folks was contagious!


I was not kidding when I said marching!  I joined the line of people in their traditional attire and to the sound of drums and traditional chants of the people we marched to the place where the people had gathered.  (We did take a break every once in a while to catch our breath!)


A bit closer to our destination, we were met with even more people who lined the route to the Porondaka outstation.  The young people had prepared a beautiful Song of Welcome and some flowered necklaces for us.  It is a big celebration when the bishop comes to visit.  I am humbled by the simple yet profound faith of the people.  In these occasions, I always remind myself that it is not about me, but about Jesus and His Church.


When we finally arrived we found hundreds of people who had gathered for the celebration... Some had walked as much as 14 hours to be there... It was a beautiful day, in the midst of a week of constant rain!  The people took their places on the green grass under blue skies and we prepared to start the Mass.


The people are very proud of their cultural heritage.  Some churches forbid their members from wearing their traditional attire and singing their traditional chants...  The Catholic Church sees in these forms opportunities to inculturate and incarnate the Gospel in a faithful and profound way.


Young and old find meaning and identity in these cultural expressions and are happy to bring them celebrate our one Catholic faith.  (Our young friend is not giving a muscle-man pose... He is actually dancing, (which is usually done in a straight line and in place.)



Saint Joseph's Parish, Margarima is in the Hela Province of PNG.  It is the largest parish in the diocese.  (Actually, it should probably be two parishes!) It has over twenty outstations.  There are two major cultural groups in the parish, the Huli and the Obene.  They have completely different languages and traditions.  The territory of the diocese is still plagued by tribal fighting.  Here, members of different tribes show the unity that is the prayer of Jesus Himself and the mission of the Church.

After the Mass, the procession was led once again by our youthful drummers to the nearby Youth Center, which we blessed and inaugurated.  Please pray for the young people of PNG.  They have  many challenges not faced by the youth of other places.  Still, they have the same hopes and dreams for themselves and their families.

In words directed to them I said something like this: "Many say that 'young people are the future' and that is true.  However, I would like to say that here in the Diocese of Mendi, we cannot wait for the future, we need you today!  We need your joy, your talents, your strength, your initiative, your light... and we need them now, today!  We need you today!