Members of Monsignor Gabriel Manek’s Friends distribute aid to poor people in Timor-Leste. (Photo courtesy of Monsignor Gabriel Manek’s Friends)
Archbishop Emeritus Gabriel Wilhelmus Manek of Ende, a city on the Catholic-majority island of Flores, died nearly 32 years ago at the age of 76. But his spirit in serving those in need remains alive among Catholics in Indonesia.
Born in August 1913 and ordained a Divine Word priest in January 1941, he became a prelate 10 years later in March 1951.
Seven years later, on Aug. 15, 1958, he and a nun from the Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters founded a religious congregation called the Daughters of the Rosary Queen (PRR).
“We believe he did not found the congregation of his own will. Everything created by humans vanishes. But what he founded has continued to grow ever since. It was God’s will,” said Sister M. Leoni, the PRR provincial in the western region of Indonesia.
Since its establishment, PRR has had more than 400 nuns serving in many countries. “We are his daughters. Without him, we would not exist,” Sister Leoni said.
Bishop Manek was appointed archbishop of Ende in January 1961 and appointed titular archbishop of Bavagaliana in December 1968.
Eight years later, he resigned due to poor health and left for the US for medical treatment. There he served Japanese and African-American communities before dying in 1989 in Denver, Colorado. He was initially buried in Techny, Illinois, but his remains were returned to Indonesia in 2007.
“It was really sad we couldn’t attend his funeral. I was still a novice at the time. But we have always been close to him in prayers,” said Sister Leoni.
The archbishop emeritus had great compassion for poor and marginalized people and leprosy sufferers, she said. “As a bishop, he often visited people with leprosy living in a small island colony and donated clothes to them.”
Archbishop Emeritus Manek, whose episcopal motto was Maria Protegente (Under the protection of the Blessed Mother), had a great devotion to Mother Mary.
“He suffered a lot. He was heavily criticized while serving as archbishop of Ende, but he believed he could overcome it because God, through the intercession of Mother Mary, would help him,” Sister Leoni said.
Hope for beatification
The late prelate’s unwavering faith has encouraged PRR nuns to make sure Catholics in Indonesia and elsewhere remember him.
Sister Maria Gratiana, who heads the congregation, revealed in January that the nuns had decided to start the process to seek sainthood for the late archbishop.
“About two years ago, we sent a member of our congregation to study documents on the beatification and canonization process at the Vatican for one year. The first step is to get approval from a local bishop where a candidate lived for the last 10 years,” she said.
“Since the prelate’s body is placed at Monsignor Gabriel Manek Chapel in Larantuka, an approval should be given by the bishop of Larantuka. On Jan. 8, our representatives met with Bishop Fransiskus Kopong Kung of Larantuka, and he, with great heart and prayers, gave permission for all the processes.”
Archbishop Emeritus Manek’s body was exhumed in 2007 at the request of the congregation, 18 years after he was buried. Reports say his body remained intact. His body was then placed in the PRR chapel.
As part of the processes, PRR nuns and members of the Catholic lay group called Monsignor Gabriel Manek’s Friends recently initiated the Great Novena Prayer, which is held for nine consecutive days every month.
“We do not know when this prayer will stop. The process of beatification is a long path. It can take years or it never happen at all. We leave it in God’s hands,” Sister Gratiana said.
Bishop Kopong Kung believed that the late prelate was not a show-off, yet his spirituality of life set a good example.
“He had the courage to found PRR. It was a spiritual movement that led him to found the congregation, which now has members in different countries. This is not about PRR but the greatness of the Holy Spirit that guided the late prelate,” he said.
“The most important thing is his exemplary life — how his presence can be an example for the Church, not only PRR nuns.”
Referring to the intactness of the late prelate’s body, Bishop Kopong Kung said it should not be merely seen as a sign of holiness as many saints’ bodies were impaired.
“But such outward things can help PRR nuns to dig his holiness. PRR nuns can reflect on them and then pray. Spiritual experiences of laypeople who pray to God through the intercession of the late prelate can also be investigated,” he said.
One of the spiritual experiences involved a woman with a tumor in Timor-Leste. One day, on her way home from a hospital, she stopped by at a chapel where an image of Archbishop Emeritus Manek was placed. She lay down before the image. The tumor later disappeared.
Fransiskus Loeky Tjoa, who heads Monsignor Gabriel Manek’s Friends, agreed that the exemplary life of the second native Indonesian bishop — after Jesuit Father Albertus Soegijapranata — should be followed.
“That is why our group has regularly visited sick families since our group’s establishment in 2017. The late prelate’s spirit in serving those in need must be alive,” he said.