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Seminary That Produced Five Bishops And Hundreds Of Priests Turns 50

Updated: September 25, 2005 05:00 PM GMT
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Bishops from Bali and Papua joined counterparts on Flores and a couple hundred priests to celebrate the golden jubilee of their seminary alma mater on the predominantly Catholic island.

Besides five bishops and more than 300 diocesan priests, 50-year-old St. Peter´s Major Seminary in Ritapiret has produced 1,775 graduates, about half of whom have achieved distinction in economics, politics and other fields.

Ritapiret is 11 kilometers south of Maumere, the administrative center of Sikka district. The proximity is not accidental, since Maumere, 1,690 kilometers east of Jakarta, is known as the center of Catholicism in eastern Indonesia.

Meanwhile, Ritapiret, which means "dangerous tree" in the local dialect and was named after a holy and feared tree that long ago was a site for animistic rituals, has become known among Catholics for the abundant fruit of vocations it has produced.

The seminary´s 50th anniversary celebration attracted, in all, nine bishops, 500 priests and 5,000 other Catholics. Government officials and representatives of the Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Protestant communities also attended the Sept. 8 celebration, which culminated with the ordination of 17 new priests by Archbishop Abdon Longinus da Cunha of Ende, an alumnus.

The other four bishop alumni, all of whom were present for the occasion, are former Bishop Isak Doera of Sintang, West Kalimantan; Bishop Benyamin Yosef Bria of Denpasar, Bali; Bishop Datus Hilarion Lega of Manokwari-Sorong, Papua; and Bishop Franciscus Kopong Kung of Larantuka, Flores.

During his sermon, Archbishop da Cunha asked the newly ordained and all other diocesan priests who graduated from the seminary to continually increase the quality of their service to all, Catholics in particular.

Members of the archdiocese´s 86 parishes participated in the celebration not only by presenting traditional dances and singing in a joint choir, but also by hosting seminary alumni at their homes during the celebration.

According to the souvenir program, seminary alumni, whether bishops, laypeople or priests, have given valuable service to the development of Church and society in Indonesia, especially in the islands of Nusa Tenggara. The Nusa Tenggara, or Lesser Sundas, region comprises the major islands of Bali, Flores, Lombok, Sumba, Sumbawa and Timor.

Father Benediktus Daghi and Yosef M. Florisan, a layman, wrote the souvenir program, entitled "Sentuhan Kasih Tuhan" (God´s Loving Touch). It says the practical impetus to the dream of forming local diocesan priests goes back to 1938, when some Divine Word minor seminarians applied to become diocesan seminarians. Nothing much was done, as the only trained priests who could do the job were Divine Word priests already busy with the formation of seminarians in their minor and major seminaries on Flores.

In 1943, the Divine Word major seminary in Ledarero received one diocesan seminarian, but he went through the Divine Word formation program. From then on, more and more diocesan seminarians studied at the seminary. When Ende became an apostolic vicariate in 1951, the Nusa Tenggara region had to take on the responsibility of developing its own clergy, giving rise to the establishment of St. Peter´s Major Seminary in 1955.

In celebrating the jubilee of that historic event for the local Church, Father Daghi asks in the souvenir program: "Where do we go from here?"

An answer is offered by Divine Word Father Paul Budi Kleden, lecturer at the School of Theology and Philosophy in Ledarero, who points out that the anniversary brought together alumni who have been active in various apostolates and fields of life. This, he says, makes it the right moment to think about formation "to train diocesan seminarians to become competent in pastoral work in line with the demand of the times."


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