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Asia Pacific Augistinian Conference

Consolation Sisters’ first mission in Indonesia

On 15th February 2011 Sister Ma. Imelda A. Mora, OSA, Superior General of the Augustinian Sisters of Our Lady of Consolation (ASOLC) together with Sister Joan Tabian, OSA and Sister Flolyn Catungal, OSA went to the island of Flores, Indonesia to explore the possibility of opening a community for mission.
 
Fr Luigi Galvani, MI, a Camillian Missionary facilitated the meeting with Bishop Fransiskus Kopong Kung, who readily accepted the intention of ASOLC.
 
On 3rd July 2011 first group of ASOLC Sisters arrived in the Diocese of Larantuka - Sr Joan Tabian, OSA, and Sr Nena Guminiguin, OSA. The Vicar General of ASOLC, Sr Cecilia Ibana, OSA,  accompanied them for one month to assist the Sisters in getting adjusted to their new mission in Flores, Indonesia, as immediately they began Bahasa, the language of Indonesia.
 
The diocese of Larantuka is based in the eastern part of Flores Island. It covers two districts -- Flores Timur and Lembata -- which are scattered in the eastern part of Flores Island as well as Adonara, Lembata and Solor islands.
 
Flores "flowers" is part of an immense chain that comprises the archipelago of Indonesia. Lying close to the equator, Flores is a long, narrow and rugged island marked with beautiful mountain lakes and forests. It is strategically located between the bigger islands of Java and Timor. There were early records of trade with Chinese and other Asian races since the twelfth century AD. But the Portuguese re-discovered the island in 1515 and named it Flores in 1544.
 
The remainder of this article is taken from what Sr Nena Guminiguin, OSA has written about the first year of the mission.
 
On 29th June 2011, we, Sr Joan and Sr Nena were sent off to build a community in Larantuka, Indonesia. We felt like the two women who went to the tomb of Jesus and the angels told them: “Do not be afraid... Come and see then go quickly and tell his disciple...(Mt. 28: 5-7). We were indeed commissioned to be witnesses. In my (Nena) prayer as the community blessed us I uttered: “ Lord, you called me. To you I come, to you I live. Send me with your spirit to guide me.” This prayer personally made me strong as we left the Philippines in the early morning of 1st July 2011 to start a community in Larantuka, Indonesia. It took us two days of travel to reach our destination. 
 
Fr Luigi, a Camilian priest, met us in the airport and conducted us to the convent of the Sisters of Holy Angels. Sr Maribel Enhambre, FSHC also made their car available to fetch us in Maumere (a 3-hour ride from Larantuka) and brought us home to Larantuka. With all their efforts, we arrived safely to our destination at around  eleven o’clock in the evening on 2nd July 2011. We stayed there in the Franciscan Convent for two weeks before we transferred to our house at Tabali, Larantuka. 
 
Being new to the place, we introduced ourselves to the parish priest in the parish where we belong and to the bishop of the diocese. The bishop warmly welcomed us with a lunch in his residence. The first celebration we experienced was the silver jubilee in religious life of a sister. It was in this occasion where we first witnessed how the people here celebrate. It was really a fellowship! Everyone who attended stayed until the celebration was over. Even the bishop, priests and sisters gave their time to be with the people. After this first occasion, there were many more celebrations of life that followed where we learned more about the culture and traditions of the people in Indonesia. The bishop invited us many times to join him when he administered a sacrament in a certain place. This was also the chance for our congregation to be introduced to the people. For our two months stay in Larantuka, we were able to witness how they celebrate First Communion, Confirmation, Ordination to Priesthood, Profession of Sisters, Acceptance of Postulants to Novitiate, Silver Jubilees, Death and Burial, and recently the 125th anniversary of Catholicism in Lembata Island. 
 
Although we are not yet fluent in Bahasa Indonesia, we still involved ourselves in their activities.  Lack of fluency in language did not hinder us to involve ourselves in our neighbourhood and in other communities of sisters and brothers.  We are blessed indeed that in every occasion we attended, there was always someone who mediate us to the people, one who can speak and understand English and who can explain to us the rituals being done.
 
Every Christian event in the life of the Catholics in Larantuka is special. It calls for a community celebration thus a big preparation, especially of the food. Even if it is a simple celebration, invitation is always needed to make it formal. We experienced this when we had the blessing of our house. We thought it was only a simple blessing with the bishop and some neighbours so we just prepared for a simple fellowship. But we were tensed when the bishop came to visit us two days before the scheduled date of blessing and told about the people to be invited for the blessing. Well of course, the bishop had the good point: we were worried about how to prepare for so many people with our limitations of having few utensils to use. 
 
But BapakUskop (Bishop FransiskusKopong Kung, PR) facilitated everything. The parish priest prepared the liturgy of blessing and facilitated the parish monoblock chairs for the Mass. Our neighbors’ BEC group took the responsibility for the food preparation and utensils. The formands of the Franciscan Sisters of the Holy Cross together with their driver butchered and sliced the pig. They were also the choir in the Mass during the house blessing. The bishop’s secretary, Sr Anselma, prepared the invitations for the event. All of them are great blessings for us. Through them, everything was smoothly done. 
 
 
Larantuka is a little port nestled at the base of a tall hill of Flores where Solor, Adonara and Lembata islands (the small islands nearby) are visible. More than three-quarters of the population of Larantuka are Roman Catholic. The people are simple, friendly and kind to us. They are happy when sisters and priests visit them. We usually experience this as we go with the bishop in places where he administers Mass. Our latest experience was in Lewoleba, Lamalera and Mingar, parts of Lembata Island. Lembata particularly in Lamalera is known as the home of traditional whaling. According to them, whales have been hunted for centuries using their handmade equipment. The spears, rope and boats are all made in the village. 
 
Their boats do not have motors. Our experience in this place is unique because we had procession in the sea. We rode in small fishing boats. Because we cannot be accommodated in one boat, we were divided into two. One group was with the bishop and others were in the other boat. Other boats also accompanied us and as the sailors paddle their boats, they had their chanting song. The waves were a little bit strong and seemed to be singing with them. The boat where we rode was dancing with the waves and sometimes unbalanced as we sailed but I just entrust my life to Allah and to the people paddling the boat. People of this island are also rich in its cultural tradition. As we reached the shore where many people waited, they had their rituals of welcoming the bishop. Since we were followers, we were also warmly welcomed by the people with their costumes and dances.              
 
The place is such a beautiful island. The beaches are worth being visited. However, on that week of our visit, the air throughout the entire village was not good because they just caught a 20-meter whale. They had demonstrated to us how they are able to kill such a large marine animal. The boats of the fishermen have no motors, and the harpooner must jump from the boat to implant his harpoon into the whale. According to them, all parts of the whale are eaten, and the oil is also used for their lamps. Sometimes they trade the whale meat with other islanders for corn or other food. When we entered the village, every house had their share of whale meat hanging up for drying, which brought the bad smell to the entire village. In the house where we slept, we were offered the meat of the whale, and we tasted it.
 
More or less within the first three months of our stay in Larantuka, Flores, Indonesia we adjusted ourselves with the people, their food and culture. We are thankful that we are still in good health despite the hot season. We experienced headaches and sometimes skin allergies, but there are manageable. The climate of Larantuka changes every six months just like in the Philippines. However, they vary on the months. The dry season of Larantuka is from June to November while the rainy season starts December to May. At present the weather is very hot that causes headaches. As to our apostolate, we do not have yet a regular and specific one, but at present simply serve anywhere where we are being invited. Every Sunday, Fr Gabriel unto Da Silva, the Vicar General of the Diocese brings us along with him in his Masses to different parishes. We helped in giving communion and blessing of the children as well. This is also a chance for us to introduce our congregation. He gave the chance for us to speak about our congregation after communion at every Mass. Sr Joan is part-time teaching English to the little children in the Franciscan pre-school, and Sr Nena is still waiting approval to teach in SMA Darius.  In the meantime, my apostolate is home visitation and joining prayer services and novenas in the neighbourhood.  
 
With the full support from the bishop and priests, we strive to foster community of friends, mutual respect and trust to both of us in the community and to the people we live with - Catholics and Moslems alike. 
 
Thank you very much also for your prayer and endless support for us. Tuhan Memberkatih (God Bless)!
 
ID318

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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