– AMDG –
Papua New Guinea, November 5, 2019
What can touch you visiting the bush?
This past week, I had the great grace to accompany Sr. Paradise, a Papuan sister, for about three days in the bush. She went to visit her family, especially her mother who is sick. The name of the place is Utai, and there are various small villages, each far from each other. Some are a few minutes away from each other and others are a few hours. Consequently, some of them are far from the “station” where the Church was set up the by missionaries. From this visit, I would like to share the different aspects that called my attention.
The first was to see the joy and “pride” of Sr. Paradise’s family and friends to have a religious from among their people. Some approached her saying: “You don’t know me, but I know you! I am the oldest sister of your mother, or I am your third cousin, or I am the brother of your grandfather…” She has a large and joyful family. It was very beautiful to see how they respected and admired her vocation. Although they don’t have much education about it, they recognize the beauty of the religious vocation. One of her uncles, who is about 65 years old, walked more than three hours up and down in the mountains just to see Sr. Paradise and shake her hand. He said: “I don’t have too much to say; I just wanted to come to see you!” While visiting the houses, we unfortunately heard some sad stories too, like that of the two-year-old girl that we met. She was seated on a bench, and we asked a boy (her relative) about her mom. His an answer: “she has been killed by the husband who is now in prison.” Let’s pray for this family!
The second aspect that called my attention was how easy it is to make these simple people happy. This is something beautiful that in general calls my attention here in Papua New Guinea. Sr. Paradise invited some girls and children, both relatives and friends, to be with us during our stay in the bush. One of them was previously with us in the Mercy Home, and it was nice to see that she is doing well. They were so happy to come to cook, play, and stay with us at the house of a congregation of sisters from the Philippines. These sisters did great work there for ten years but have now gone to another mission, so there are no more sisters there. Even though the house is old, the girls loved to be with us there. They provided the food for us, and we enjoyed fresh vegetables and fruits every day. Sometimes we found bags with food at our door that they left for us. Sharing is their priority and they are very generous! Even while we were walking around in the market to find a car to go back to town, some of them would come to us and give a donation of money.
With the girls, we prayed the rosary, had good night points for them, gave informal talks about Catechism and the life of Jesus and the saints during our meals, and of course we played a lot! On November 1st, All Saint’s Day, we prepared a Saint Night for them. Sr. Paradise put up leaves and flowers to decorate the chapel and arranged a table with treats, including papaya, fresh coconut, pineapple, and sugar cane from the garden. She told them to dress up with a bed sheet or any material and wait next to the door. Then she told them they were about to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. When she opened the door, we heard 15 voices saying at once, “Wow! It’s so nice!!!!” Their eyes were full of surprise with such little and simple things, which was very gratifying to see. We arranged our costumes as well, and as Saint Bahkita and Saint Maria Goretti, we told them a little about our life. The girls were so quiet and attentive. After that, we played more games.
The third aspect that called my attention was to confirm how important the work of a priest is in seeing how these girls were thirsting for knowledge of God. Our souls will always search for something to fill and satisfy it, and this can only be done by God! There is currently not a priest in their village, and they are around six hours away from the city. It is not easy to find a car to move around, and when you do, you have to pay a lot. This means no Mass and no Sacraments. We saw various children without Baptism, Confession, Holy Eucharist… They are without a Shepherd or any spiritual activity that can give relief to their soul. Let’s unite in prayer asking God for holy and committed priests for the salvation of souls, and may Our Lady keep their hearts thirsting for what can bring them to Heaven and not for what delights the body but “kills” the soul.
In Christ Jesus and in the Blessed Virgin Mary,
Sr. Sacrificio – Missionary in PNG