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Age no barrier for Indonesian Jesuit charity runner

At 74, Father Ignatius Ismartono ranks as one of the most respected priests in the country after a lifetime of helping others

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Age no barrier for Indonesian Jesuit charity runner
Jesuit Father Ignatius Ismartono (center) jogs with lay Catholics during a charity run in Tangerang in Indonesia's Banten province on July 29. (Photo by Katharina R. Lestari/ucanews.com)
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Jesuit Father Ignatius Ismartono doesn't just run charity campaigns. At 74, he literally runs for charity to kindle his ministry and galvanize others to join fundraising efforts for church-sponsored projects based on their passions.

He began in earnest in 2013 in the Jakarta Marathon in Tangerang, a city in Banten province about 30km from the capital. Since then he has participated in similar events organized by Catholic organizations around the country.

"For that first charity run I jogged five kilometres to raise money to support youth formation," said Father Ismartono, who now serves as an adviser at the Jakarta-based Sahabat Insan, a charitable group dealing with issues faced by Indonesian migrant workers. He was ordained as a priest in 1976.

In May 2017 he took part in the 5km Joyful Run, also in Tangerang, to support the 7th Asian Youth Day that was celebrated from Aug. 2-6 in Yogyakarta. Over 2,000 Catholic youths from 21 Asian countries attended.

"That same month I also participate in a charity run in Semarang, in Central Java province, to help finance the construction of a Jesuit-run kindergarten and elementary school," he said.

At the end of 2015 he joined the Run4PIKA organized by Jesuit alumni to raise money for the society's Vocational School of Woodworking Technology, better known by its Indonesian acronym, PIKA.

"So far, the furthest distance I've run is 10 kilometers," the priest said, referring to the Borobudur Marathon in November 2016.

That event was organized to support the construction of the Jesuit-run Canisius Elementary School in Murukan village, Central Java province.

'The running priest' showcases the bevy of medals he has collected from his fundraising efforts since 2013. (Photo by Katharina R. Lestari/ucanews.com)  

His latest effort was another 5km run on July 29 put together by the Archdiocese of Jakarta in Tangerang on the outskirts of the capital.

Its goal was to support the construction of a Catholic church and pastoral buildings in various parts of the country.

"That was my 15th charity run since 2013," said Father Ismartono. He declined to divulge how much money he has raised from his charity runs.

Father Ismartono is well-known in Jakarta Archdiocese and among the Conference of Catholic Bishops for his humanitarian efforts and refusal to sit idly by when so many are in need of charity despite his advancing years.

He has held various positions, serving as a religious studies teacher at the University of Indonesia, a university chaplain, an adviser to young jobseekers, a former executive secretary of the Indonesian Bishops' Conference's Commission for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs (1995-2004), and head of the nation's Catholic Crisis Center.

In fact, his encounters with Catholic institutions and groups have made him one of the most respected priests in Indonesia, due in no small part to his honesty and altruism.

Father Ismartono said he started running for charity as a byproduct of his priestly vocation.

"My heart told me to do it," he said, adding that he refrains from participating in activities with a commercial agenda such as to promote a company or advertise products.

Father Ismartono, the elder brother of late Semarang Archbishop Johannes Maria Trilaksyanta Pujasumarta, said he hopes to inspire other Catholics.

Father Antonius Haryanto, executive secretary of the Bishops' Commission for Youth, who has also taken part in several charity marathons, said Father Ismartono was more than a role model.

"He is old but his spirit is incredible. He truly inspires me, as a younger priest, to follow in his footsteps," he said, winking at the inadvertent pun.

"He urged me to [continue his legacy]," Father Haryanto said.

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