Indonesian TV celebrity guided by Catholic values

Daniel Mananta helps to rebuild an island chapel after being impressed by the dedication of local Catholics
Indonesian TV celebrity guided by Catholic values

Daniel Mananta delivers a speech during the inauguration of Wae Mata chapel in 2015 in Ruteng Diocese on Flores Island. (Photo supplied by Daniel Mananta)

Popular Indonesian television presenter Daniel Mananta has put his Catholic faith into practice in a far-flung corner of the sprawling archipelago.

When Mananta attended a Sunday Mass four years ago in Wae Mata chapel on the predominantly Catholic island of Flores, he saw the damage caused by a leaking roof.

And the TV celebrity was impressed by the way local Catholics would walk many kilometers to attend services in the run-down chapel in Ruteng Diocese.

"I was touched by the experience and wanted to fix the church," said Mananta, 36, the first of two brothers from a family of retail merchants.

Upgrading the chapel was also an expression of thanks to God for his 2012 recovery from a six-month mystery illness that affected his vocal cords.

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Medicine and surgery had failed to remedy the ailment. "But with prayers and God's help I was cured," he said.

The chapel rebuilding project began in 2014 and was completed the following year.

"All I wanted was that local Catholics had a decent place to pray and celebrate Mass," said Mananta, who has been the recipient of various entertainment industry awards.

While Wae Mata chapel is the only church where he has had on-the-ground involvement, Mananta has helped fund dozens of other church building projects across Indonesia.

 

Find strength in Catholic values

In recent years, the nation has seen many drug and other scandals involving actors, actresses and singers, some featuring the circulation via social media of smartphone video recordings of illicit sex. But Mananta says he has been free from criticism of his personal life because he lives up to his Catholic faith.

"It helps me overcome many challenges," said Mananta, who spent seven years in Australia studying in Perth at Aquinas College and then Edith Cowan University.

In 2002, he returned to the place of his birth, Jakarta.

And the following year he won an MTV Indonesia contest for people aspiring to become a so-called video jockey or VJ music announcer.

From there, Mananta went on to star in soap operas and movies as well as fronting award and talent programs.

He gained a regional profile when hosting an Asian Idol series that was screened in Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam as well as Indonesia.

But the rising entertainment industry star did not let fame go to his head.

The key to a happy life, he said, was to always live by Catholic values such as showing love towards others.

Mananta described Pope Francis as his "idol" and a man of deep principle. "I have read his biography," he said. "He is hilarious and I love him."

Pope Francis' example had stirred him to visit and support the elderly, orphanages, cancer foundations, hospital patients and poor students.

The new chapel funded by Daniel Mananta in a mission station of Wae Mata on Flores Island. (Photo supplied by Daniel Mananta)

 

Message to youth

Mananta has put a high priority on helping youth, many of whom he believes harbor unrealistic expectations of instant success.

"In fact, it is a process," he said. "In order to reach the top, people must start from the bottom — from doing small things."

He had tried to instill among youths an understanding of the value of both hard work and faith.

Mananta tells people that as a student in Australia he worked as a restaurant dishwasher as well as in a shop.

Young people should not be ashamed of doing menial jobs, he said, because performing such tasks well could lead to wider accomplishments in life.

Maria Aurelia, 22, a Catholic, said Mananta had become a role model for her.

"He works not only for himself but also for the Catholic Church via his social service," she said. 


"I am proud of him because he has a strong faith and cares for humanity."

Delis Kartika, 27, a Muslim, said she knows Mananta mainly through television.

His being clean of drugs, unlike many other celebrities, appeals across religious boundaries, including to Muslim youths, Kartika said.

Father Agustinus Agung, parish priest of St. Therese of the Child Jesus in Rangga, Ruteng Diocese, said Mananta's help in rebuilding Wae Mata chapel in his parish set a good example for others.

"I hope that youths in the parish and elsewhere learn something from Daniel," he said.

Catholicism in Indonesia began with the arrival of Portuguese traders in the 16th century.

Flores is part of East Nusa Tenggara, the only province of overwhelmingly Muslim Indonesia where Christians form the majority.

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