In the middle of the 16th century, several kings and noblemen in South Celebes (Sulawesi) asked a Portuguese merchant to baptize them, but Christianity did not take root in South Sulawesi because of lack of priests. Following visits of Muslim merchants, the local people converted to Islam at the beginning of the 17th century. But Sultan Alaudin, the first Muslim king of Makassar, and his successors gave freedom to Catholics to build a church, convent and hospital on condition that they did not evangelize.
When Malacca in the Malay peninsula fell into the control of the Dutch East India Company, 3,000 Portuguese including Franciscans, Dominicans, Jesuits and diocesan priests came and stayed in Makassar. The Dutch, however, forced Sultan Hasanuddin to drive away the Portuguese in 1661. The last Jesuit left Makassar in 1669, when the Dutch occupied the city.
More than 200 years later, in 1892, another Jesuit came to stay in Makassar. In 1895 another priest arrived in Kendari, Southeast Sulawesi, but he stayed only two years.
The apostolic prefecture of Celebes was established in 1919. However, a Sacred Heart missioner was the lone priest in Makassar, beginning in 1922. In 1929, however, a mission station was built on Muna Island.
On April 13, 1937, the area comprising South Sulawesi, Southeast Sulawesi and West Sulawesi provinces was separated from the Celebes vicariate to form the apostolic prefecture of Makassar, which was entrusted to Immaculate Heart of Mary priests. Father Gerard Marten, CICM, was appointed apostolic prefect.
While CICM priests laid the foundation of evangelization by preparing teachers and building churches starting in 1939, Jesus, Mary and Joseph Sisters opened Stella Maris Hospital in Makassar in 1940 and later the Fatima hospitals — in Paku, Makele, in 1947, and in Pare-Pare in 1950.
During World War II, lay leaders led the Catholics as best they could until 1943, when two young priests from Minahasa, North Sulawesi, came to Makassar after being freed from internment. These missioners revived the local Church by opening new schools and training more teachers. But the rebel group Darul Islam, led by Kahar Muzakhar, and the Communist Party of Indonesia, caused problems for Church activities for years.
On May 13, 1948, the apostolic prefecture was raised to an apostolic vicariate, and Father Nikolaus M. Schneiders, CICM, was appointed apostolic vicar and a bishop. St. Peter Claver Minor Seminary was built in 1953, and the first local priest was ordained in 1962. In 1958, Bishop Schneider established the Kongregasi Frater Hamba-Hamba Kristus (HHK, congregation of brothers, servants of Christ) to run some schools. The Catholic University of Atma Jaya of Makassar was set up in 1965.
Bishop Schneiders became the first archbishop of Makassar when Pope John Paul XXIII established the Catholic hierarchy in Indonesia in January 1961. When he retired in August 1973, Archbishop Theodorus Lumanauw was appointed, his episcopal ordination taking place the following month on Sept. 22, 1973. Archbishop Lumanauw died on May 18, 1981, and Father Frans van Roessel, CICM, led the archdiocese as capitulary vicar and then apostolic administrator until Jan. 18, 1988, when he was appointed archbishop. His episcopal ordination followed on March 19 that year. Archbishop Roessel retired in May 1994, and Archbishop Liku Ada was appointed his successor six months later.
In 1966, the government changed the name of Makassar to Ujung Pandang. The name of the archdiocese was also changed to Ujung Pandang, but when the government changed the name back to Makassar in 2000, the name of the archdiocese also reverted.