From India to Indonesia

Fr. Tom Cassidy came home from India with just barely enough time to do his laundry and repack before heading off to Indonesia. He will be spending the next several weeks with our Indonesian Province, an area for which he had responsibility during his first term on the General Council. He writes the following from Jakarta:

Altar servers in Jakarta

Altar servers in Jakarta

Last evening these four girls [pictured above] from St. Antonius grade school were the servers at the 5:30 p.m. Mass that I concelebrated along with Fr. Kusmartono, SCJ, my major guide and driver during my stay here in Jakarta. After Mass we went to the pastoran (rectory) to have dinner with Frs. Samiran, SCJ and Zeamrudi, SCJ, the two priests serving the parish. St. Antonius was the first parish the SCJs staffed in Jakarta and now they have three along with the schools.

The school was for many years a part of the parish but has now become a part of the Dehon Trust covering the several schools owned and operated by the SCJs on Java and Sumatra. While I don’t know if you would call St. Antonius an inner city parish it is beginning to feel the effects many city Catholic parishes in the States have gone through. As the population has become more affluent the trend is to move out of the city into the surrounding areas — I don’t think you can quite call them suburbs just yet. Consequently St. Antonius’ parishioners are growing older.

On the other hand, our other two parishes are on the periphery of the city and are still growing, especially St. Barnabas our newest parish. When I was here 18 years ago the parish was just getting started. Building churches is a complicated procedure in Indonesia given the minority status of Christianity. It took many years to get the necessary permits from the government to build but after patience, persistence and hard work the parish complex is complete.

I found the church design a bit unusual. The church itself is actually on the second floor while the ground floor is an open area that can be used for any number of things, including overflow crowds at important celebrations. There are four on the staff: SCJ Frs. Puryanto, Kurkowski, Wardjito, and Siswinarko.

If the name Kurkowski does not sound Indonesian it’s because he is Polish. There are four remaining Polish missionaries in Indonesia. Many years ago, I’m not sure just when this took place, the government declared no more missionaries could enter the country and those who were here were expected to become Indonesian citizens or leave. Some opted to leave while others stayed. Fr. Tom Fix, SCJ, who was an American missionary, is an example of someone who stayed.

I know both Frs. Puryanto and Wardjito. Puryanto spent a number of years in Canada. The Canadian and Indonesian SCJs have an understanding that in return for taking care of the Indonesian community in Toronto the Canadian SCJs will cover the cost of graduate studies. Over the years a number of Indonesian SCJs have benefited from this program usually staying in Canada for three to five years.

Wardjito was elected to the general council during Bishop Bressanelli’s second term and we worked together on his council from 1997 to 2003. He is now working on his doctoral degree.

Unfortunately I did not get to meet Fr. Siswinarko, SCJ, who began a two week vacation shortly before I arrived in Jakarta. The visit to St. Barnabas was the only item on today’s agenda. Kusmartono said we’d leave for the parish around 10:00 a.m. as he had some things to do at the office. That did not mean my day would begin late. I was informed morning prayer was at 5:00 a.m. followed by Mass. That’s a bit early even by tropical standards. I asked why so early and was told given the schedule of those in the house who have to be at their place of work by 6:30 a.m. this schedule works out best for them.

I dutifully set my alarm to get up at 4:30 a.m., but was wide awake just after 4:00 a.m. I’m still waiting to really catch up on my lost sleep from the long journey over here, but may have to resign myself that sleep is lost in the fog of time.

Kus was prompt so we were on the road just after 10:00 a.m. It took us an hour to get to the parish. It’s about 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) from Rumah SCJ (where I am staying). Part of the trip is on the freeway system and there traffic moves but once we got to some of the two lane side streets we often moved at a snail’s pace.

Besides touring the church and pastoran (rectory) we sat and chatted for about an hour talking about many people, places and things related to the congregation. When it came time to eat dinner I was surprised to see spaghetti and lasagna on the table in addition to traditional Indonesia dishes. Fr. Puryanto informed the family responsible for today’s meal that both Wardjito and I had spent time in Rome and liked Italian cooking.

When dessert time rolled around the fruit of the day was bananas. These are truly home grown right on the property by Fr. Puryanto. He told me they are currently growing five different types. The ones we had were about double the size of a typical banana we are served in the States. Sadly we don’t get the chance to try the many and varied varieties of bananas common to the tropics.

Following dinner it was time to pack up and head back to Rumah SCJ as this evening Kusmartono will be saying Mass for one of the Base Christian Communities. Today is the last day of October (Halloween back home) here they’re bringing the month of the rosary to a close as we get ready to celebrate All Saints Day.

evening Kusmartono will be saying Mass for one of the Base Christian Communities. Today is the last day of October (Halloween back home) here they’re bringing the month of the rosary to a close as we get ready to celebrate All Saints Day.

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