PASTORAL and RELIGIOUS SERVICES MINISTRY
By Fr. Timothy Elliot ofm
In the decades since the close of the Pacific War our pastoral
orientation has shifted from missionary priests and sisters to what we term in pisin as lokal sios. As missionaries we came to share Christ and His church with West Sepik people as they were being awakened to a wider world which threaten their survival. The majority have accepted our invitation; they now form our local church, with increasing participation in its prayer-life and ministry. Many of us stay on to walk with them, as our local priests, professed brothers and sisters, and lay ministers come
to assume our roles of pastoral care and administration.
As a church organization, the mainstream work of the Diocese over the years involved evangelizations and strengthening of the Christian faith of the people. In this respect the following pastoral and religious services have been provided and are currently maintained by the Diocese, including:
- the establishment and administration of 24 Parishes (Service Centres manned by Priests and other Lay Workers) providing multi-disciplinary services to the people of the Diocese who live in the rural areas;
- the establishment and administration of a Pastoral Workers Training Centre in Aitape providing training facilities for the formation of all pastoral workers;
- the continuation of sponsoring and formation of local people who would become priests, brothers, sisters catechists and lay workers with the long term commitment to localization of the church;
- the strengthening of the Christian faith of Catholics in the Aitape-Lumi and Nuku areas of Sandaun Province through the preaching of the gospel, administering of the Sacraments and teaching and sanctifying by the Bishop; and
- the Office of the Bishop providing the key leadership to unifying the resources of the Diocese for maximum effective services throughout the Diocese.
As part of pastoral and religious services, there are eleven Religious Congregations who have established in the Diocese and have provided priests, sisters and brothers for pastoral and religious and social services and administration work. Since the Diocese officially became a Diocese in 1966, 15 Religious Congregations were involved. The ones include the Franciscan Friars (1965), the Diocesan Priests, the Spiritan Priests (1981), the St. John of God Brothers (1988), the Patrician Brothers (1968), the Missionary Franciscan Sisters of Immaculate Conception, the Poor Clare Sisters (1970), the Presentation Sisters (1966), the Sisters of St. Therese (1980), the Marianitas Sisters (1996) and the Handmaids of the Lord Sisters (1976).
Apart from the many achievements stated above, the analysis carried out on this main program identified the following issues of concern to be taken into account in new plan:
- Many parishioners back-sliding to other smaller churches
- Members of church practicing cargo-cult movements (Womsis & Fatima)
- Acute shortage of funds and other resources available to the parishes
- Seim, Kafle and Warsai parishes involved in Quarterly planning
- Geographic isolation is a major hindrance to parish work
- Need to earn respect from other smaller churches to solicit support
- People's needs are different within and between parishes
- Need to maximize participatory approach to any parish programs
- Parish programs to emphasize changing attitudes of people
- Avoid and minimize confrontational approach to dealing with touchy issues
- Avoid preconceived ideas and listen to people
- Need for special awareness on sacraments and feast day celebrations
- Work through parish awareness groups to address touchy issues
- Give leadership duty to aggressive members, hence make them more responsible
- Large sub-parishes pressing to become parishes
- Parish programs to address specific situations in parishes and not to copy
- Appointment of parish caretakers should be short term.