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  • Bishop Gilles Côté

Growing together in Holiness

A brief history of the growth of the church in the Diocese of Daru Kiunga

The Montfort Missionaries from Canada were given the mandate to establish the Catholic Church in this Province in 1958. At one stage there were 50 Montfort Missionaries, priests, sisters and brothers. Bp Gilles Côtè is the last Canadian missionary to serve the people in this Diocese.

The Diocese of Daru-Kiunga covers the whole Western Province which is an area of 99.600 square kilometers. The first Montfort Missionaries from Canada arrived in Kiunga on the 20th of June 1959. It was the first contact of the people with the Good News of Jesus Christ. Everything done in the Diocese takes time, requires a lot of effort and also a lot of money. Only very dedicated persons remain here for many years and they build up the Kingdom of God with the people. The Daughters of Wisdom were present from the beginning and later the Brothers of St. Gabriel arrived. Many other Congregations joined the diocese over the years together with many valiant lay missionaries from different countries.

In line with the teachings of St. Paul and the Second Vatican Council, the model of the Church for the diocese was: a people growing together in holiness as they share their faith and their gifts for the common good. A Christian Community becomes alive when its members make good use of their God-given gifts and constantly let themselves be moved from within by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is always present to help and guide the people. He helps them to be strong in their faith and gives them the courage to act out of love for the good of the community members.

I firmly believe that the Holy Spirit is behind all that we do in the Diocese. I am always amazed when I make the link between what Pope Francis teaches and what we are trying to achieve in the Diocese. The Church that we are building is a Church that lives unity in diversity, which is the work of the Holy Spirit among the missionaries and the people, a Church that reaches out to the people at the periphery and for us these are the many poor people living in very remote villages where there are no services because of the lack of roads, a Church in which all that we do needs to carry a Gospel message, a Church that invites all the people into a process of thinking together, deciding together and working together.

A synodal Church is the Church that we wish to build in our Diocese even though we haven’t used that word yet. It is surely not perfect, but since the beginning of the renewal process in the early eighties we have tried our best to listen to the people engrained in their culture, as also to the Holy Spirit, God speaking to us. We wanted to know what kind of Church God wanted us to build in our Diocese.

What we desired was to build a Church of the Second Vatican Council, calling all the people to participate, take ownership of the Church and share their gifts with one another. The spirituality of communion, the spirituality of the Church and the Second Vatican Council is our spirituality and the soul of all that we do.

The goal of our Diocesan Pastoral Plan (Our Journey of Faith as One People with One Vision), is: To make the Kingdom of God visible in our diocese by living among ourselves relationships of love like those that unite in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, so that all may grow in holiness.

There are now 13 Parishes divided in four Regions, North Fly, Kiunga, Middle Fly and South Fly. The catholic population is approximately 52,000 persons. One of the strengths of the Diocese is the selfless service of so many collaborators, especially in all the villages. They keep the faith alive and the community united in faith. I also admire the zeal of so many valiant priests who are alone in remote parishes to serve the people and bring Jesus to them. Each year training is offered to many of the collaborators. We run schools and health facilities like in all the dioceses.

The Diocesan Curia is made up of twenty Diocesan Services. Each year all the Parishes and the Diocesan Services, including the Bishop’s Office, evaluate the planned activities of the previous year in order to live and promote the chosen value for the year, and then plan and program their activities for the coming year, starting by writing their Annual Target.

Bishop Gilles Côté returns to his homeland in November 2021.

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