Canonical Visitation in Western Province, PNG

Hand-shakes[1]continue to be a popular manner of greeting people in Papua New Guinea.  Even breastfeeding infants are trained to stretch out their tiny hands to guests in a gesture of Melanesian hospitality.  But the Aekyom-speakers of the Awin areas of the Western Province serve to peculiarly extend the ‘finest’ customary hand-greetings ever with their distinctive exchanges of finger-shakes (‘pulim finga’) with peers or guests alike.  Coming back to his mission area as the Visitor of the Indonesian Province, Fr. Manuel Edi Prasetyo, CM was affectionately reminded of this unique Aekyomwelcome during his recent canonical visitation to his missionary-confreres in the Daru-Kiunga Diocese.  Since 1996, this Diocese has been the focus of missions ‘ad gentes’ for Vincentian missionaries from the Indonesian Province.  The visitation also served as a mission homecoming for Fr. Edi himself, who had served there as a parish priest, Diocesan Pastoral Director, Vicar General and as a promoter of the Diocesan program “Journey of Faith”.

Every stage of the weeklong visit (June 1-7) was marked by exchanges of finger-shakes, including the grateful Bishop Gilles Cote, SMM, jubilant preschoolers enrolled in the community kindergartens and the young children in the various Christian communities.   The round of visits (and finger-shakes) included the places where three confreres are currently ministering:  initial formation of diocesan candidates (Fr. Yulianus Gunawan at the St. John Mary Vianney Formation Center); parish ministry in mining communities (Fr. Edi Purwanto at St. John Parish in Matkomnai); parish ministry near the border (Fr. Agustinus Sukaryonoat St. Peter Parish in Bosset).  Thelatter was not visited due to distance, time and travel constraints.  The confreres make the most of those rare opportunities when they are able to come together (such as a canonical visitation) … they view such an event as an opportunity to deepen their Vincentian sense of community life and mission.  The recent canonical visitation also provided the confreres in the Daru-Kiunga community with qn opportunity to welcome their Provincial (and fellow-missionary) to the newly erected ‘domus’ (local community house) … certainly more reason for those meaningful finger-shakes. At that time, we also welcomed, Fr. Joel Bernardo YcoCM, from the Melanesian Institute.

[1]pasin bilong sekan’ in New Melanesian Pidgin

Fr.  Yulianus Gunawan, CM
St. John Marie Vianney Vocation Home,
Daru Kiunga Diocese PAPUA NEW GUINEA


Charles T. Plock, CM

Eastern Province, USA