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Indonesian bishop-elect stresses basic ecclesial communities

Father Fransiskus Tuaman Sasfo Sinaga is appointed bishop of Sibolga in North Sumatra province

Indonesian bishop-elect stresses basic ecclesial communities

Father Fransiskus Tuaman Sasfo Sinaga, bishop-elect of Sibolga. (Photo supplied)

The newly appointed bishop of Sibolga in Indonesia’s North Sumatra province has stressed the need to develop basic ecclesial communities — small groups that seek ways to apply scripture lessons in everyday life — to realize the diocese’s vision and mission.

Father Fransiskus Tuaman Sasfo Sinaga has been appointed by Pope Francis as bishop of Sibolga, a port city in the province. His appointment was announced simultaneously during evening Eucharistic adoration and prayers on March 6 by diocesan secretary Father Blasius Super Yesse at St. Therese of Lisieux Cathedral in Sibolga City and diocesan administrator Capuchin Father Charles Sebastian Sihombing at Our Lady of All Nations Church in Gunungsitoli City.

Bishop-elect Tuaman, who was born on Nov. 22, 1972, in Penggalangan village, about seven hours' drive northeast of Sibolga, said he will continue to focus on diocesan pastoral programs stressing basic ecclesial communities.

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“The previous bishop had highlighted basic ecclesial communities in the diocese’s synods for the last two periods: 2009-2014 and 2015-2020. What I need to do is to realize the diocese’s mission: to develop a Church which is self-reliant, in solidarity with others, and capable of freeing others from pressing problems,” he told UCA News.

He said the mission targeting basic ecclesial communities “is integral in nature” and “cannot be bargained with.”

“Being self-reliant means that Catholics can be reliant on their own powers and resources. And once they are self-reliant, they can be in solidarity with others — caring for others, helping others. Then they can help free others from pressing problems,” he said.

In the near future, he said, there will be a number of basic ecclesial communities in a mission station in the diocese.

“A basic ecclesial community is a communion of the faithful getting together to celebrate their faith. And a faith celebration creates a sense of caring,” he said, adding that the diocese has conducted skills training programs for basic ecclesial communities, including in the field of economics.

“With only a small number of Catholics in a basic ecclesial community, it will be easier to encourage them to take a more active part in church life. A smaller group means greater care,” he added.

Bishop-elect Tuaman attended Christus Sacerdos Minor Seminary in Pematangsiantar City before he was ordained a priest on Feb. 14, 2003, and then served as an assistant priest of Our Lady of All Nations Church in Gunungsitoli City.

He served as a formator at St. Peter Minor Seminary in Aek Tolang village of Central Tapanuli district from 2005 until 2007 and then went to the Pontifical Urban University in Rome to study moral theology.

After completing his studies, he served as a parish priest of Our Lady of All Nations Church in Gunungsitoli City for four years, from 2009 until 2013. The next year, he spent his sabbatical year at the Institute for Consecrated Life in Asia (ICLA) in Manila.

He has served as a rector of Dian Mandala Diocesan Institute of Pastoral Care in Gunungsitoli City since 2015. 

Bishop-elect Tuaman replaces Capuchin Bishop Ludovikus Simanullang, who died after a brief illness in September 2018. Archbishop Anicetus Bongsu Antonius Sinaga of Medan served as apostolic administrator of Sibolga following the bishop’s death.

After Archbishop Anicetus died in November last year due to coronavirus, the Indonesian Church appointed Father Charles as diocesan administrator.

Selfi Yanti Bali from Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Teluk Dalam of South Nias district expressed her gratitude for the appointment of the new bishop. 

“I hope he will be able to spend more time to visit remote parishes like mine. Such a pastoral visit is very important for us,” she said, adding that it could take more than 10 hours to get to her parish from the diocesan office. 

Bishop-elect Tuaman told UCA News he has not yet decided when his episcopal ordination will take place. “But it would be between late April and early May.”

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