Polish missionary's fine academic legacy

Father Glinka pioneered study of human biology and behaviour in Indonesia and mentored others
Polish missionary's fine academic legacy

Divine Word Father Habil Josef Glinka, who dedicated most of his life for Indonesian people, passed away at the age of 86 on Aug. 30, in Surabaya, East Java. (Photo supplied by Father Fritz Meko)


Fifty years of academic achievement in Indonesia brought acclaim to Divine Word Father Habil Jozef Glinka from fellow Catholics as well as people of other religions.

The Polish missionary died of natural causes on Aug. 30, aged 86, at the Vincentius A. Paulo Catholic Hospital in Surabaya, East Java, four days after his biography was launched.

Divine Word Father Fritz Meko, who lived with him in Surabaya, related that Father Glinka predicted the timing of his death, but believed that he would live forever through his life's work.

And Father Meko noted that Father Glinka often said preachers needed to read widely in order to impart Christian understanding in an interesting way and answer challenges of the times.

Father Glinka, who was ordained in 1957, arrived in Indonesia in 1964 with 20 colleagues.

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He previously studied at the Adam Mickiewicz University, in Poznan, Poland, specializing in bioanthropology, centered on the biology and behaviour of humans.

In 1965, Father Glinka began teaching anthropology at Divine Word's St. Paul Major Seminary of Ledalero on the Catholic-majority island of Flores, in East Nusa Tenggara province, where he remained until 1985.

The Polish academic also taught anthropology at campuses such as the state-run University of Nusa Cendana in Kupang, the capital of East Nusa Tenggara, Atma Jaya Catholic University in Jakarta and the state Airlangga University in Surabaya, East Java.


Academic heritage

Father Glinka, renowned as a pioneer of bioanthropology in Indonesia, retired in 2010.

It was another pioneer of the discipline, the late Catholic scientist Adi Sukadana, who asked Father Glinka to join Airlangga University, where he carried out some of his most celebrated work.

In an interview published on the campus' website, Father Glinka said that he moved to the university after Sukadana wrote to his Divine Word superior in Rome explaining that his expertise was needed because bioanthropology was something new for Indonesia.

Some non-student Islamists accused him of trying to Christianize students at the mostly Muslim campus.

But students demonstrated when they heard he was going to be removed and successfully demanded that the rector retain him.

Father Glinka wrote eight books, 58 scientific articles and 35 articles on anthropology in various languages.

Bernada Triwara Rurit, who wrote his biography, said that as well as his own achievements in the field of bioanthropology, the Divine Word priest prepared various assistants to teach the subject at the university.

Father Glinka also donated thousands of his books to the campus library.


Respected even by non-Catholics

Father Glinka's confreres describe him as a role model for ordinary people as well as students and other academics.

Divine Word Superior General Paul Budi Kleden told ucanews.com that Father Glinka was a missionary who integrated intellectualism by bridging science, faith and reason with his priestly vocation.

"We have lost a great missionary and scientist," Father Kleden said.

Father Glinka's passing is being mourned across a broad spectrum of Indonesian society.

Public officials, including East Java governor Khofifah Indar Parawansa, paid tribute before he was buried on Sept. 1 in Surabaya.

"Thank you for your dedication to the improvement of Indonesian education," Parawansa wrote on her Facebook page.

Ignasius Jonan, the Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources and the only Catholic in the cabinet, praised Father Glinka's dedication.

"He gave us an example of how to totally devote one's life to many people," he said after attending a requiem Mass for a man who made his mark in a foreign land.

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