MINISTRIES AND INSTITUTIONS OF THE DIOCESE OF MENDI
After the Great Jubilee of 2000, the Catholic Church in Papua New Guinea embarked on a self-study in response to Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter, Novo Millennio Ineunte. In this document the Holy Father reminded the Church about the jubilee task to “examine how far she had renewed herself, in order to be able to take up her evangelising mission with fresh enthusiasm” (Novo Millennio Ineunte, n. 2). In PNG we called our self-reflection the General Assembly of the Catholic Church in Papua New Guinea and it lasted for eighteen months. The process reached its climax when all the bishops of our young nation gathered with representatives from all 19 dioceses, mostly lay faithful, at an assembly during which a vision, mission and pastoral priorities for the Church in this country were set. This same vision and mission as well as pastoral priorities were adopted by the Diocese of Mendi when it renewed its own diocesan pastoral plan in 2005.
Here are the vision, mission and pastoral priorities that guide the Catholic Church in PNG and the Diocese of Mendi.
We, the Catholic Church in Papua New Guinea, are alive in Christ, witnessing the love of God in the world.
Called by the Father, sent by Jesus and moved by the Holy Spirit, we strive to promote God’s Kingdom by witnessing the Good News, by fostering growth in holiness for all and by encouraging fuller participation in Church and society so as to transform the world through the love of Christ.
In order to fulfil our mission we have developed a pastoral plan at national and diocesan levels, which includes the following priorities:
· promotion of Christian marriage and family life,
· ministry with and for youth,
· evangelisation and catechesis fitting to local culture,
· training and formation at all levels
· promotion of justice, peace and integrity of creation,
· provision of traditional Catholic social services such as education and health care, with particular concern for those with HIV/AIDS.
Evangelisation and Pastoral Care of the Catholic Community
The first work of our local missionary church is evangelisation, sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with others by word and the example of good Christian living. As people come to believe in Jesus Christ and form Christian communities, the task of providing pastoral care for the believers begins. All the faithful are called to take part in pastoral ministries. The bishop with his brotherhood of priests have a special calling to evangelise and provide pastoral care for the faithful, but religious and laity alike also take part in an active way according to the gifts of their calling in life.
With 17 parishes and 15 pastoral areas in the Diocese of Mendi, each with multiple outstations or village churches to care for, a total of over 300 in the diocese, the work of evangelisation and pastoral ministry must be a cooperative effort. Parish priests with religious staff, catechists, along with other lay ministers and all the faithful, work together to form a church alive in Christ. We witness the words of St. Paul spoken to the church in Rome, “We have many parts in the one body, and all these parts have different functions. In the same way, though we are many, we are one body in union with Christ, and we are all joined to each other as different parts of one body. So we are to use our different gifts in accordance with the grace that God has given us” (Romans 12:4-6).
Diocesan Pastoral Centre
Built in the mid 1990s, Diocesan Pastoral Centre is located in the hills overlooking Mendi town. It is a place for retreats, short courses and conferences. The primary purpose of the facility, which can accommodate forty people, is the ongoing Catholic formation of lay people, many of whom serve the Church in various ministries as volunteer pastoral workers. The centre is also popular as a venue for use by government departments, such as health and education services, for meetings and programs.
Catechist Training School
In October of 2007, the Mendi Diocese Catechist Training Centre graduated its first class, forty-five catechists who completed a three year academic and formation program. During the earlier years of the Mendi Mission, 1970 to 1993, our catechist school, located in a remote parish, trained catechists for ministry in the parish centres and outstations of the diocese. Too difficult to supply, the school was closed as the diocese concentrated on preparing the laity for other ministries at Diocesan Pastoral Centre in Mendi.
Later, the need to train more new catechists and renew experienced ones became more and more apparent. The new Catechist Training School in Mendi was opened in 2004, having been built with help from MISSIO, an agency of the German Bishops Conference and other overseas donors. The school still relies on donations from benefactors to continue its ministry. With more than 300 village churches or outstations in the Mendi Diocese, each with its growing Catholic community, the importance of a trained resident catechist serving each Christian community is obvious. The parishes and pastoral areas are in reality groupings of 8 to 20 outstations with a priest, his religious staff and his team of evangelising catechists providing pastoral care.
Catechist Training Centre is under the patronage of Blessed Peter to Rot, a young catechist from Rabaul, East New Britain, one of the large island provinces of PNG. Blessed Peter was martyred during the Second World War because of his refusal to stop his church work after foreign missionaries were rounded up and put in prison camps. Blessed Peter to Rot’s life story remains a great inspiration for all catechists working in Papua New Guinea.
Fr. Dariusz Kaluza MSF is director of the Catechist Training School. His staff is made up of FMI Sisters (Daughters of Mary Immaculate) Sr. Rosmary Babate and Sr. Thecla Karo, Sr. Marie Lawlor OLM, and missionary sisters from Ireland with many years experience in PNG, and seminarian Harry Mawoi. Other sisters and priests help on a part time basis.
Parish Lay Ministry In-service Program
Mission Dioceses tend to have a shortage of priests. The Diocese of Mendi has 17 parishes and 15 pastoral areas but only 25 parish priests, six of whom are Papua New Guinean. Remembering that there are more than 300 outstations under their care, the priests have a very difficult job to do.
However, there are hundreds of lay people, catechists, Communion ministers, ministers to the sick, prayer leaders, ministers who lead Sunday Communion services when there is no priest available and others, who are co-workers of the parish priest and his religious staff. Each month these lay ministers, who form pastoral teams serving each Christian community, come to the parish centre for in-service training in their ministry.
Church Lay Groups
There are many church lay groups in the Diocese of Mendi. The Legion of Mary is very active in the diocese. Then also youth, men and women have organized themselves in many parishes and pastoral areas to support one another and carry out various kinds of religious and social programs. Pastoral teams, made up of lay ministers, meet regularly to plan pastoral activities in their outstations. A very active laity is alive in Christ at the grass roots level. This is clearly seen when the Diocesan Pastoral Council of the Diocese of Mendi meets annually with the bishop to discuss the state of the diocese, its problems and successes and plan pastoral initiatives for the future. The Council is made up of diocesan departmental secretaries, most of whom are lay men and women, lay representatives from the 32 parishes and pastoral areas, along with some priests and religious serving in the parishes or in special ministries.
Throughout history, education has been a most important social and religious ministry of the Catholic Church. The Diocese of Mendi runs 20 primary level Catholic schools with a total of about nine thousand kids in 8 grades. St. Joseph Secondary School at Tari has a student population of roughly 600 young men and women. Boys outnumber girls in all Southern Highlands schools but this disparity is slowly changing. The status of women is improving in many areas of life in PNG, with the Catholic Church and other denominations contributing greatly to this trend.
The churches work in partnership with government in both health care and education. Since government is often unable to provide adequate funding for maintenance and infrastructure development, it is left up to the local community with generous help from overseas benefactors to take up the slack. Classrooms and staff housing tend to be run down and some continue to be constructed from bush materials with grass roofing.
Callan Special Education Resource Centre
Diocese of Mendi Literacy Program
In addition to the many schools where English and a traditional curriculum are taught, the Diocese of Mendi runs an adult literacy program for people who did not have an opportunity for a formal education in their youth. Here adults, and the majority are women, learn to read and write in Tok Pisin (Pidgin English), which is widely spoken throughout Papua New Guinea.
Our literacy schools, there are about 110 of them at present, are run on a shoestring, money from interested benefactors. Typically, classes are held three times a week in churches, bush classrooms built for the purpose or other venues that are handy. The teachers are generally young men and women who have completed at least some years of high school, who want to help their community. They are volunteers who receive a little pocket money for their service. Some 2,000 adults participate in literacy programs during any given year. The Tok Pisin Bible has been in existence for many years as has a Tok Pisin Missal and Ritual for the Celebration of the Sacraments. Tok Pisin is the most common language used for liturgy in the country. Papua New Guinea also has a weekly Tok Pisin language newspaper as well as much other written material.
Mendi Diocese Scholarship Program
Generous benefactors contribute to a fund set up by the Diocese of Mendi to assist young men and women who earn a place in college or other tertiary level vocational/technical school. The vast majority of young people who do well in secondary school and are chosen for further studies cannot afford the higher fees at this level of education. Remember that most people in the Southern Highlands are subsistence farmers who live off the land and not from participation in a cash economy. So, many parents, with extended family members, struggle to put their children through school, especially those young men and women who get a chance for higher studies in colleges and universities. The Mendi Diocese Scholarship Program is able to give at least a little help to some of our poor but promising Catholic students.
Catholic Health Services
Diocesan HIV/AIDS Office
Community Health Workers Training Centre
The Community Health Workers Training Centre has been in operation for more than three decades. Begun as a program to train nurse aides, the school developed into a two-year program to train community health workers, mainly for rural health centres and aid posts. Our students come from the Southern Highlands and from neighbouring provinces. Most of the students are young Catholics but the school also admits candidates from other denomination. The entire teaching staff is Papua New Guinean. The training centre will soon expand its facilities and double its intake to a student population of 60 trainees.
Family Life Apostolate
Family life apostolate was identified as the most important ministry of the Church in Papua New Guinea during the General Assembly of the Catholic Church in PNG in 2004. The Diocese of Mendi gives priority to this apostolate. A laywoman, Mrs. Cathy Aroga, mother of six, runs our diocesan family life office and is very active in giving training in various aspects of marriage and Christian family life to many different groups throughout the diocese. She is assisted by a priest and religious sister, both missionaries with many years experience in PNG.
Caritas Mendi - Justice, Peace, Development & Environment
Grass Roots Vocational Schools
Diocesan Self-Help Sawmill Project