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  • Nigel Akuani 

Experience of Jesus essential to Evangelization

Port Moresby: “Jesus is the answer! If we can help our people encounter the person of Jesus and live out the challenging consequences of this encounter then they will not so easily fall victim to the persistent problems of violence, lawlessness & corruption that we see spreading in the wider society. Helping people to encounter the living and loving person of Jesus is at the heart of the Church’s mission of evangelization,” said Bishop of the Diocese of Mendi (SHP-Hela), Donald Francis Lippert OFM Cap.

In a brief chat on Tuesday 29th June 2021, at the Catholic Bishops Conference PNGSI, Bp Don expressed his concern about serious social matters currently upsetting peace, law and order in Southern Highlands Province, Hela Province and the wider society.

According to the bishop, the key to resolving many of these challenges in the diocese is a concerted and sustained campaign to reprioritize and redirect its focus and efforts toward what was needed the most. “We need to reprioritize what is most essential to the people of the diocese, only then will it help to address all other issues that arise. It all goes back to what you can call evangelisation, where we go forward in promoting and encountering the Person of Jesus,” he said.

Retracing how tribal and sanguma violence plagued the livelihood and wellbeing of many people in the area, he stressed the need for all in the Church, priests, religious and laity, to go out and evangelize. “Problems are always going to be there but inviting people to a real relationship with Jesus sets the context, direction and hope that there is a way out, a way forward. There is no one excluded from taking part in this mission. The gifts, imagination and strength of all are needed,” he stated.

He added, “In PNG, many lay people have been very much involved in the Church from the beginning because of necessity and they are more and more seeing themselves as the Church together with priests and religious. The laity are not just the future of the church and society but a very necessary and important part the present. When people realise this and when people experience Jesus in a very personal way then they will see what an atrocity violence in all its forms really is and the need to support the Church and its mission of real human development”.

He reassured that a rigorous Evangelization program has already been planned with Fr Robert Ablewicz, MSF at the helm, and would commence soon in an effort to start a School of Evangelization for the diocese. Similar initiatives are happening in other dioceses too under the leadership of Fr Victor Roche, SVD.

When asked about the role of young people in addressing challenges facing evangelization Bp Don stated they were indispensable in the Church’s mission and that Jesus himself had a special purpose reserved for each. “A lot of people say that young people are the future and that they are the leaders of tomorrow, but they are also the present and we don’t need them tomorrow, we need them now and they also need us. Jesus has something to offer to our young people, fulfillment, peace, and a direction and meaning in their lives,” he said.

Despite the many distractions that have the potential to lead young people astray, Bp Don remained keen and committed to helping youths no matter the circumstances. “So many things are pulling on them from every single direction and I’d like to find ways of pulling them in. Two traditional ways of gathering young people are sports and music, but it has to go much deeper than that,” he affirmed. “Young people are searching for truth and meaning in their lives and Jesus is the source of both of these longings of the human heart.”

He said currently in the diocese there was a Youth Evangelization movement organised by Indian lay missionaries from Jesus Youth Australia that encourages the youth and young families to live a meaningful, creative and fulfilling life. Jesus Youth is an international Catholic movement approved by the Holy See.

He extended his gratitude to current Family Life Secretary of Mendi, Mr Junior Tawia, who continues to show exceptional dedication in travelling the diocese and speaking on the importance of family values. “He is very alive in his approach and his lived witness as the father of six young children is very effective in showing people how rich and meaningful Catholic family life can be,” Bp Don concluded.

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