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!