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!

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