Claretian Indonesia-Timor Leste

East timor (A New Missionary Frontier for the Claretians of ASCLA) – Sejarah misi Claretian Indonesia-Timor Leste

Area                            : 19,000

Inhabitants                : 710,000

Districts/Provinces   : 13

Climate                      : Tropical

Religion                     : Catholic – 70%, 30% Muslim, Buddhist, Animist

District Province of Cova Lima

Capital                       : Suai

Inhabitants                : 50,000

Area                            : 1,700 sq. km

New Mission of the Claretians in the Prov. of Cova Lima – Suai

Headquarters: Fohorem

Inhabitants: 20,000

Area: 1,000 sq. km (mountain area)

I. Historical Background

Upon the request of the Bishop of Darwin, in 1983, the Philipine Province opened a new foundation in Darwin to take the pastoral care of the refugees from Timor Island. From the very beginning, the Province planned out to give a missionary dimension to this new foundation, especially towards East Timor and Indonesia, but it was practically impossible to get direct information about the real situation of East Timor, much less to enter into this Island because the Indonesian army has practically sealed the place for almost eight (8) years.

During, 1987, we enter in contact with the Salesians, the only missionary group that since the early ‘80s was seriously engaged in rebuilding their missions in East Timor by placing a few young missionaries from Spain and the Philippines in this territory. The providential person was Fr. Jose Carbonell, Superior of the Salesians in East Timor, and a good friend of the Claretians while he was Provincial Superior of the Salesians in the Philippines during the late ‘70s. He was the first one who fraternally offered his services to get the Claretians into Timor. Through him, a letter sent to the Apostolic Administrator of Timor on September 1987, and on January 1988 the Apostolic Administrator, also through Fr. Carbonell, answered our letter inviting the Claretian Missionaries to share in the pastoral work of the local church of East Timor. The Provincial government of the Philippines, in dialogue with the whole Province, discussed and discerned about the invitation of Mons. Carlos Felipe Ximenez Belo, Apostolic Administrator of East Timor. It was unanimously decided to follow-up immediately the invitation.

The first step was to bring the matter to the Major Superiors of ASCLA and to request the cooperation of their respective major organisms, in personnel and financial matters. The Provincial Chapter of India, to which the Provincial Superior of the Philippines was invited to participate as Observer, welcomed enthusiastically the idea and offered generous missionary assistance with personnel for the new foundation. The East Delegation of Japan, thru Fr. Abella, also received with great joy the proposal and offered financial cooperation.

The Provincial of the Philippines, after visiting Timor from April 12-20, 1988, and discussing the mission possibilities for the Claretians with the Apostolic Administrator of Timor, who offered us the Province of Cova Lima with Suay as the main city, presented to the General Government the request to open this new mission under the direct responsibility of the Philippine Province and with the cooperation of the Province of India and of the East Asian Delegation. In July of the same year, the permission from the General Government arrived.

The Philippines assigned ti pioneer the new mission, Frs. Manuel Sunaz and Orly Cantillon; and the Province of India assigned Fr. James Nadakal. In September 1988, the three of them were already waiting in Manila for the permission to enter Timor. Unfortunately some tensions started cropping up between the Church of Timor and the Indonesian government and the permission to enter Timor was delayed and delayed. On the occasion of the visit of the Pope to Indonesia and East Timor, new hopes arrived middle of March 1990, when practically all our hopes were already lost, that we got a telephone call from Fr. Carbonell from Indonesia, telling us that the permission to enter Timor for our three (3) missionaries have been granted, without conditions. Immediately our three brothers presented themselves in the Embassy of Indonesia in Manila and were granted immediately the visa.

On May 5, as agreed with Fr. Carbonell and the Apostolic Administrator of Timor, we flew to Jakarta, and from there to Timor, and to mission territory in Suai, Cova Lima.

II. Arrival in Timor

Fr. Carbonell was at the airport of Jakarta waiting for us. It was a fraternal welcome. As he has a small house in Jakarta and crowded with nine (9) seminarians, only the Provincial was able to reside in his residence while the three other Claretians were accommodated in the building of the Association of Major Superiors of Indonesia.

On May 10, always accompanied by Fr. Carbonell, we flew to Dili, capital of East Timor. Mons. Carlos Felipe Ximenez Belo, together with some priests and Salesian Fathers, welcomed us. The following day, always accompanied by Bishop Belo and Fr. Carbonell, we were visiting Dili and making some formalities with the police, civil and military authorities to guarantee the residence of our missionaries. The Bishop explained to us about the mission territory he wanted to entrust to the Claretians. Actually, he had already discussed with the diocesan council about the division of the Parish of Suay, Province of Cova Lima, which has a territory of around 1,700 sq. km. and a population of around 50,000. The present parish, with the headquarters in Suai, will take pastoral care of the population in the plains along the seashore, which covers an extension of around 700 sq. km. with a population of around 30,000. He requested the Claretian Missionaries to help the pastor of Suai, a diocesan priest, in the pastoral care of the youth and in the formation of the catechists and Christian lay leaders. But the main assignment given to the Claretians was to develop a new parish in the mountain areas of the Province of Cova Lima that covers an extension of 1000 and a population of around 20,000. The headquarters of the new parish will be Fohoren at an altitude of 1,500 meters above sea level with some sub stations in Fato Mean (Red Rock) and Fato Lulik (Sacred Rock), places at much higher altitude. Fohorem is about 30 kms. from Suai. With this information we decided to visit the rea of our missionary assignment from May 12-15.

On May 12 in the morning, in the company of Fr. Francisco Tavores, parish priest of Suai, we left Dili in a convoy of three powerful Toyota jeeps, and we started climbing the mountains towards the southern part of East Timor. We passed thru the Province of Aileo, all the time thru mountains of over 2,000 meters above sea level. We stopped for a while in the parish of Maubisse, where we greeted a young diocesan priest, newly ordained, taking care of the pastoral work of this parish. From there we were able to see the high peaks of the Ramalaro, the highest mountain of the Island of Timor, with over 3,000 meters. A few hours later we also stopped in the Parish of Ainaro and we met Fr. Francisco, the parish priest, who is a native from Fohorem, where we are planning to set-up the new parish. At 4:00 p.m. we started going down the mountains and soon we arrived to the first river without bridge. Fortunately for several days there was no rain and the powerful Toyotas were able to pass through. From there, for almost two hours we were traversing new rivers, a total of twenty. At 6:00 p.m. it was already dark and still we have some more rivers to cross. Thanks to God, the drivers were really experts and we were able to push through. At 6:45 we traversed the last river on our way to Suay. We were surprised to find there all the civil and military authorities of Suai and over 100 horse riders dressed in their traditional cultural clothes waiting for us. We were welcomed by the:

  • Bupati (civil governor of Cova Lima), Mr. Ruy Emiliano Lopez, Catholic Timorese.
  • Ketua Deperde (defender of the people), Mr. Joao Pinto, Catholic Timorese.
  • Kodin (military commander and chief of Intelligence) a muslim from Java.
  • Kapolres (chief of police), a catholic Timorese.

They welcomed us at the light of the moon and the stars and the floodlights of the cars. But the most colorful part of this first of the welcome was given by the over 100 horse riders colorfully dressed in their traditional costume. Each one of the riders was representing the barrios of the Province of Cova Lima. Our Toyota was escorted by the horses, half of them ahead of us and the other half behind us. We were about 4 kilometers from Suai, but along the way a multitude of people was by the roadside waving their hands and giving signs of welcome.

On our arrival to the center of the poblacion of Suai, we were welcomed by the elders of the Province, also dressed in their native handwoven costumes, at the same time that young ladies, also dressed in their native colorful costumes imposed on our shoulders beautiful native handwoven clothes decorated with garlands of roses. The elders welcomed us in their Tetum language which fortunately the parish priest of Suai translated for us in Portuguese: “We are full of joy today and we give thanks to God because you are his messengers and you will bring always to us his Word, his love and his peace. Feel at home among us.”

From the plaza of Suai we proceeded in procession towards the Church where the whole population beautifully sang the “Te Deum” in a clear and impressive classic Latin pronunciation. Though we were tired, we were overwhelmed by the warm welcome and hospitality of these simple people of Suay.

After the Te Deum we were able to wash ourselves and get ready for a supper with the civil and military authorities and the horse riders who were representing all the villages of the Province. After sharing the delicious food, we were entertained with a two-hours program, during which, we were given a taste of the rich cultural folklore of the local people. The program finished at midnight. We were practically exhausted when we retired to rest in the convent of Fr. Francisco Tavores, the diocesan priest, Pastor of Suai.

The following day, May 13, was the fiesta of the parish, Our Lady of Fatima; also the Provincial was celebrating his 23rd anniversary of ordination. The first mass celebrated in lengua Tetum was attended by several thousands of people willing to see, greet and touch the new missionaries. At 8:30 there was another mass celebrated in Bahasa Indonesia, for those coming from other areas of Indonesia that are already established there.

After the masses, we were taken around the poblacion of Suai and to the seashore, with people greeting us enthusiastically everywhere. The sea looked beautiful, but rough and violent. According to the natives it is also full of sharks and crocodiles and this is the reason why there are practically no fisherman in the area. In the Tetum language this sea of Timor is called Tasi Mane (male sea) because of his violent and dangerous waters; whereas the sea of Dili is called Tasi Feto (female sea) because it is calm, gentle and full of all kinds of delicious fish and seafoods.

There are some beautiful beaches along the seashore of this area, but the people have to be constantly watchful of the crocodiles, and they cannot venture far away from the seashore due to the violence of the sea and the strong currents. BY the seashore during the past years, there has been made some prospections for oil and it was found in abundance, but it is still not yet commercialized. There are several wells and when the check valves are opened, gas oil and water come out naturally with such a pressure that reaches over 20 meters. The oil must be abundant and shallow in this area because even the drinking water of Suai has a strong taste of petrol. When they dig a well, after 3 or 4 meters, water and oil comes out. The ordinary people use this petrol for their lamps during the night.

During the afternoon of the 13th, we shared in the expressions of the popular religiosity of the people: the procession of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima lasted for three hours-and- a-half; passing through practically all the barrios of the city of Suai. Along the way we pray seven parts of the rosary. On the arrival to a new barrio, the image of Our Lady was welcomed by the elders of the area, while young ladies were throwing roses to the image. All of them dressed in their native cultural costumes. The procession culminated with a solemn concelebrated Mass in the open air that was graced with a gentle rain, but the people did not move.

May 14 was a day reserved to visit the area of Fohorem, where we have to develop a new parish. Unfortunately, the previous night was raining and continued until noontime of this day. The rivers were totally unpassable and the roads became so muddy and slippery that the jeeps could not move. We have just to look up the mountains assigned to us and go back to the convent where we discussed the situation of Fohorem, with some natives of the area, the Governor and the Parish Priest of Suai. After discussing with them the geographic and territorial situation, it was unanimously agreed that the proper way to do regarding the development of the new mission center in Fohorem was to gradually develop all the facilities of the mission in a land of two (2) hectares that the Governor will assign to the missionaries for this purpose. Little by little the missionaries, with the cooperation of the people of the area, will start developing their residence, a formation center, playground and the church.

The governor and his wife invited us to take supper this evening in their simple residence, and we accepted. It was a good occasion, at the same time that we experience their warm Christian hospitality, to finalize some details for the development of the new mission center in Fohorem. From the very beginning we count on the heartfelt cooperation of the Governor.

The following day, May 15, at 6:30 p.m. we started our way back to Dili, where we arrived at 5:00 p.m. The new missionaries had made already their simple plan for their first two months. From May 15 to 24 they will visit the missions of the Salesians in Baocao, Fatumaka, Los Palos, etc… after which they will go to Yogyakarta where they will have one month intensive course in Bahasa Indonesia, and they will residing with the Jesuits at:

Asram Realino

c/o Fr. H. Stole, S.J.

Jl Gejayan, Mrican

Teromol Pos 13

Yogyakarta – Indonesia

Tel (0274) 3081

At the end of June, they will spend one month in one of the missions of the Salesians learning Tetum language. And hopefully, at the end of July, they will go back to Suai and from there to Fohorem, to continue their missionary work among this wonderful people that God has entrusted to their pastoral care.

In August, the dry season starts and this will be a nice occasion to move around and to get a good knowledge and acquaintance of the area and of the people entrusted to them. The provincial government has decided that Fr. Monge will spend the month of August with them, to help them in the beginnings of developing the new mission center.

May God and the Spirit of Jesus the Evangelizer of the Kingdom be always with our brother missionaries, as we will continue walking with them in communion and solidarity with their new mission.

Fr. Domingo Moraleda, CMF

Provincial Superior

Missionarios Claretianos

Paroki Suai

Suai 89210 – Covalima

Timor Timur – Indonesia

(disalin oleh P. Kristian Paskalis Cangkung, CMF)