The chaplaincy relationship between the Divine Word Missionaries and Melbourne’s Indonesian Catholic community recently notched up its 25th anniversary, with the links between the two having grown strongly over the decades.
Fr Frank Gerry SVD was the first Divine Word Missionary assigned as chaplain to the Indonesian community in Melbourne during his time as Rector of Dorish Maru College from 1993-1999.
“The Indonesian community held its Masses in the chapel at the Franciscan community, close by to Dorish Maru College, so it was only natural that we would be involved, and we were happy to be involved,” Fr Frank recalls.
“We were also just beginning the introduction of Indonesian students at Yarra Theological Union and this attracted the attention of the Indonesian Catholic community.”
Fr Frank, whose previous missionary experience had largely been in the Philippines says he began a language course in Bahasa Indonesian at Box Hill and did celebrate Mass in Indonesian on a number of occasions while he was chaplain.
“Being able to say Mass in Filipino made it easy for me to say it in Indonesian,” he says.
He says it was a warm relationship between the two communities right from the start.
“I appreciated the keenness of the leaders to be useful, to get it right, and to be of service. They welcomed our interest and they were happy to support the few Indonesian students at DMC.”
For the past five years, Fr Boni Buahendri SVD, who comes from Indonesia, has been chaplain to the Indonesian Catholic community in Melbourne and says the relationship has continued to grow and “has been good for both sides”.
“Chaplaincy with multicultural communities is a very important part of our SVD charism or spirituality,” he says.
“One of the main focuses of the recent SVD Chapter was chaplaincy with migrants.
“And, because we, as SVDs, are from many nations and we live a multicultural life, we have the people, the missionaries, to walk with them. We have five Indonesian confreres here in the AUS Province.
“So, chaplaincy is a place for us to implement our spirituality, our charism, our vision, and our mission priorities, as well as our Four Characteristic Dimensions of Bible, Communications, Mission, and Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation.”
Apart from providing pastoral care as needed to members of the Indonesian community, the chaplaincy relationship also includes getting together regularly for Bible Sharing and mission awareness activities, such as annual Mission Days.
And the support is mutual, Fr Boni says.
“The Indonesian Catholic Family are very active mission partners for the SVD,” he says. “They support us on all our big occasions, such as renewal of vows, ordinations, Mission Sunday or symposiums, by providing food, a choir, liturgical dancing and in lots of other ways they help our ministry here.”
Fr Boni says the SVD chaplaincy helps the Indonesian Catholic community to be a part of the local Church in Australia.
“The Church in Australia is a multicultural Church and it is enriched by the people from so many different cultures.
“As chaplains it our job to walk with them on their faith journey here in Australia. And with the SVD, they get a chaplain who has been in Australia now for many years and knows the culture and can truly minister to them as Indonesian Australians.
“The Indonesian Catholic community are our partners in mission and in turn, we make them feel really well looked after and taken care of.”
Later this year, Fr Boni will re-assigned to Brisbane, but the SVD link will continue, with Fr Blasius Trinold Asa taking over the role as chaplain to the Indonesian Catholic community in Melbourne.
TOP RIGHT: Fr Boni with members of Melbourne's Indonesian Catholic Community
MIDDLE LEFT: Fr Boni baptises a member of the Indonesian community
BOTTOM RIGHT: A big celebration was held to mark the 25th anniversary of the SVD chaplaincy with the Indonesian Catholic Community in Melbourne.