Salesians celebrate 40 years of PNG presence
- Fr Ambrose Pereira sdb and Rosemary Yambune
Araimiri, Gulf Province: The Salesian of Don Bosco celebrated four decades of Salesian presence in Papua New Guinea on 13thand 14thJune 2020 in Araimiri, Gulf Province. ‘Honouring the past, celebrating the present, envisioning the future’, was the theme for the 40th Anniversary celebration.
A Solemn Thanksgiving Eucharistic mass was presided over by Bp Peter Baquero sdb, the Bishop of Kerema while students of Don Bosco Araimiri Secondary School and parishioners led the melodious liturgy.
Araimiri remains the place where the first Salesian missionaries implanted the Salesian charism on Melanesian soil. In his homily Bp Baquero urged the congregation to recognize the presence of God in Araimiri and most importantly follow the footprints of Don Bosco in their life and all that they do.
Eight Salesian priests five of whom journeyed across the country to represent the entire province joined in the celebration also present during the occasion were Salesian brothers, Salesian sisters, Caritas sisters, Missionary sisters of the Immaculate, Canossian sisters, members of the Salesian family, past pupils, students and friends, all sat under the chapel , built by Fr Valeriano Barbero sdb, a pioneer of the mission.
The second part of the commemoration ceremony had lively entertainment items which had songs, dances and a skit that depicted the arrival of the first missionaries. Speeches from Salesians and pioneer students spoke of gratitude for gifts received while the report from the school principal highlighted the achievements of the students amidst the difficult situation of the institution. “It was a simple program to pay homage to God, and his instruments on earth, to make the four decades challenging and fruit-bearing,” said Fr Dominic Kachira sdb.
The atmosphere was filled with a spirt of joy and happiness exuding gratitude for dedication and commitment of the past four decades. “The COVID-19 pandemic restricted preparations, limited the number attending the festivities and kept the celebrations to ourselves,” said Fr Pankaj Xalxo sdb, Rector as he addressed the gathering and thanked the Lord for the 40 years of presence in Araimiri. “The celebrations have spurred my missionary zeal,” said a joyful Sr Carmencita Rodriguez fma, who rode an open truck for 7 hours to be at the celebration.
This historic landmark celebration recalled the establishment of the first Salesian presence in Papua New Guinea. Guided by the Holy Spirit Abp Virgil Copas invited Fr Jose Carbonell sdb, Provincial of the North Philippines province, to establish a missionary presence at Araimiri. Together with Fr Provincial, pioneer Salesians missionaries, Fr Valeriano Barbero, Father Rolando Fernandez and Salesian coadjutor Joseph Kramar set foot on Araimiri on 14thJune 1980. Being traditionally welcomed by the people the Salesian Mission work for the poor and the marginalized commenced in Papua New Guinea.
In a recorded voice message Fr Valeriano Barbero reflected with gratitude on the 40 years, since their arrival on the 14thJune 1980. He thanked God and our Blessed Mother for dreams and miracles and the rising of Don Bosco’s family in Papua New Guinea. Recalling a personal sharing he reminded each Salesian not to be foreigners, but one with the people. Fr Valeriano concluded asking for prayers for his speedy return to Papua New Guinea.
On behalf of the Governor Hon. Chris Haiveta, Mr Emmanuel Xavier, Provincial Administrator handed over to Fr Pankaj Xalxo, Rector a contribution for the running of the school.
The next day, 14thJune 2020, at the Holy Spirit Cathedral, Kerema, Bp Pedro Baquero sdb offered his Eucharist as thanksgiving for the presence of Don Bosco in the Diocese of Kerema.
Comments from different people:
“Don Bosco taught us carpentry and metal work and we helped built the classrooms, chapel and dormitory. We learnt different skills and we became better persons”, said Dominic Evere, who graduated in 1981.
“It has been a difficult mission here in Araimiri. Yet with Gods protection we are still here. This is what our mission is all about. It is simple and gives us a sense of fulfilment.” said Fr Gilbert Pano sdb, of his experience in Araimiri.
“Thank you to the Salesians for bringing education in the province. I am still proud of the person I have become after attending Don Bosco Araimiri as a pioneer student.” - Martin Makeu, Parishioner Holy Spirit Parish, Kerema.
“I am not catholic, but after being selected into Don Bosco Araimiri, I was exposed to many teachings I find practical, one in particular is the prayer of Don Bosco, reciting it inspires me every day. Also, Don Bosco Araimiri is a top school in our province. I am so lucky.” - Sharon Vailala, Grade 9 student Araimiri.
“I grew up amongst boys, my nature was aggressive and much of a tomboy, to this date, I am thankful I attended Don Bosco where I have priests as mentors who disciplined me to be ladylike,” said Helen Evere Kora, support staff of Don Bosco Araimiri.
“Thank you, Salesians, for the 40 years in Araimiri and let us continue to build better Bosconians and aim for the next forty years.” – Sam Earo, Catholic Education Secretary.