ASIA/INDONESIA – Visiting Catholic families: bearing witness to the beauty of consecrated life

ASIA/INDONESIA – Visiting Catholic families: bearing witness to the beauty of consecrated life

Monday, 6 May 2024

Semarang (Agenzia Fides) – They want to proclaim the Gospel and bear witness to the beauty of a life entirely consecrated to the Lord: in this spirit, in some areas of Indonesia, members of the local clergy and religious men and women live a period of “live in “, i.e. they stay for a few days as guests at home in Catholic families and share a time there in which they show, especially to young people, the joy of their vocational choice of consecration.

Priests, religious and seminarians experience a more intense and profound dialogue with the laity, meet and make friends with local Catholics, says Francis Xavier Juli Pramana, a catechist and vocational school teacher in Solo, in the province of Central Java. The initiative aims to counteract the decline in vocations to the priesthood and religious life, which have traditionally flourished in Indonesia but have declined there in recent years. Sister Rustika of the Sisters of St. Francis says: “Our presence among local Catholics serves to introduce young people to consecrated life and to show them how consecrated people live their daily lives. The religious vocation is a special grace, that God grants, and this grace must be shared with children and young people and brought to them”. In Solo, the families with the children, adolescents and young people also visited the local religious’s residential homes as part of the initiative and thus also recognized their educational work in schools and orphanages. In anticipation of Pope Francis’ visit next September, the Church in Indonesia is also addressing developments in the area of vocations to the priesthood and religious life. In the St. Peter Canisius Mertoyudan Minor Seminary in Magelang, Central Java, there are currently a total of 194 seminarians, reports Dean Fr. Mark Yumartana (SJ). At St. Paul’s Major Seminary in Kentungan (Yogyakarta), the total number of candidates for priesthood is 68, explains dean Father Dwi Aryanto. Both seminaries belong to the Archdiocese of Semarang in Central Java and have always been a reference point in the country when it comes to understanding and evaluating trends in the field of priestly and religious vocations. Hundreds of Indonesian priests and dozens of Indonesian bishops are former students of these seminaries. Many will recall that even Pope Francis has acknowledged on several occasions that the Indonesian archipelago is a global source of religious vocations. In the last ten years, Indonesian orders and congregations have recorded a decline in vocations: compared to the 1980s, there are far fewer postulants and novices in the novitiates of women’s and men’s religious houses. The decline is worrying: “We have four novices, two postulants and two aspirants,” notes Sister Theresianne, superior of the Daughters of Jesus and Mary, who worked as a missionary in the Netherlands for almost 12 years, while the Ursuline Sisters have the most novices (currently 17), postulants and aspirants no longer come from Java, but from other islands, reports Sister Lita Hasanah, superior of the Indonesian Ursuline Order. An exception is the province of West Kalimantan in the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo: in 2021, at least 12 young women entered the congregation, says Sister Kresentia Yati of the Congregation of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Saint Anthony, while 10 girls became novices among the Korean Franciscan Sisterhood (KFS) in Pontianak, West Kalimantan, and 24 have joined the Order of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God (Sfic) in the same province.

The initiative of sharing and exchange between consecrated women and families is appreciated in various dioceses and could be extended and proposed again in other places so that, in a path of mutual rapprochement, Indonesia can confirm itself as a “land of religious vocations”. (PA/MH) (Agenzia Fides, 6/5/2024)


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