“When we arrived, we were welcomed by Bishop Stephen Reichert, some villagers and 800 children from the cathedral school who escorted us to the bishop’s residence.” Pilot photo/Cardinal’s office
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World Youth Day
The whole week was an unmitigated success for the Holy Father, following so close upon his magnificent visit to the United States. Australia is a difficult, very secularized country, where the Church faces many challenges and the Holy Father was able to make himself present to the people and, I think, inspired the Australians. Also, the presence of the throngs of young Catholics was a very powerful witness to the Catholics of Australia.
It was a great success and a great blessing for the Church in Australia and for all the young people who participated and certainly will take back to their own communities the sense of joy and solidarity that they experienced here in Sydney.
Papua New Guinea
On Monday, my secretary, Father Jonathan Gaspar, and I flew to Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea, to visit the Capuchin mission there. First, we went to the Capuchin seminary. It was a blistering hot day. The coast of Papua New Guinea is very, very tropical. We celebrated Mass with Father Dom, the superior there and all the brothers. The next day we flew to Mendi in the Southern Highlands, which is one mile above sea level and around a one hour and a half flight from Port Moresby.
The Capuchins have been entrusted with the care of the diocese of Mendi. We have other houses outside of the diocese but the principal ministry of the Capuchins of my province--the St. Augustine Province--has been in the diocese of Mendi.We flew there in the morning.
When we arrived, we were welcomed by Bishop Stephen Reichert, some villagers and 800 children from the cathedral school who escorted us to the bishop’s residence.
Papua New Guinea is a country where the people have been very isolated from the world and that isolation has kept them from developing the types of infrastructures, language, government, and so forth that are in place in the rest of the world around them.
When I was in the seminary, this was a very new mission for us. Our father provincial, seeing that we were blessed with many vocations and our mission in Puerto Rico was flourishing, wrote to Rome asking for the Holy Father to give us another mission, and he asked him to “make it the most difficult mission in the world.” The Vatican immediately gave us this mission in Papua New Guinea!
The superior of the Capuchin College was sent as the vicar apostolic and eventually the bishop. Some brothers followed and the conditions were extremely primitive when they arrived--as they still are. In the nearly 60 years we have been there we have now a diocese of almost 100,000 Catholics, many vocations, schools, clinics.
When I was in the seminary, my great heroes were these missionaries who went to Papua New Guinea. In those days, they would come home every five years to visit--now they come every three years--and they would always share with us what was happening in the mission and fill us with great love for the Mission ad Gentes, or as we used to say, the foreign missions. Their spirit of sacrifice and devotion to the people of Papua New Guinea was very inspiring and caused us to be blessed with many vocations and a wonderful church.
It was a wonderful week, particularly to be able to be with the friars, to pray with them and experience their life there and to see firsthand the outstanding work that has been done and have a greater understanding of the challenges that face the Church in a developing nation such as Papua New Guinea.