Silver lining to cloud-blocked PNG highland visit
After clouds blocked his planned visit to missionary stations in the mountains of Kerema diocese in Papua New Guinea, Melbourne Auxiliary Bishop Christopher Prowse was forced to limit his pastoral visit to a lower altitude parish where he found much to impress him in the evangelising work of the Melbourne Overseas Mission.
Writing in the Melbourne diocesan publication Kairos, Bishop Prowse says that he had planned to visit Mgr John Flynn from Melbourne who "has served faithfully in the mountainous missionary stations of the Kerema Diocese in Papua New Guinea for many years, presently as the much loved parish priest of Kanabea".
According to Bishop Prowse, "Fr John", as he is known locally, is continuing a tradition of Melbourne Overseas Mission (MOM) contribution to Kanabea pastoral life that started in the late 1960s under former Melbourne Archbishop Cardinal James Knox.
"I was also keen to observe first hand the commitment of MOM to these regions," Bishop Prowse writes.
"But the mission station had been covered in thick cloud for several months, and no aircraft was able to land at the station's airstrip," he added.
Unable to visit Kanabea, Bishop Prowse was nevertheless able to speak to Fr John by radio. "Via others, I sent him some small gifts that included a letter from Archbishop Denis Hart, the Archbishop of Melbourne".
Meanwhile, Bishop Prowse spent time at the parish of Bema lower down the mountain range.
"Bema also has strong links with the Archdiocese of Melbourne," Bishop Prowse says.
A Melbourne priest Fr Patrick Harvey was parish priest for several years. Another Melbourne priest, Fr Peter Cullen died in an aircraft crash in the area in 1976, he writes.
"Bema has been the grateful recipient of generosity from Melbourne via MOM - many of the facilities that I inspected - schools, parish buildings, hydro-electrical equipment, tractor, and so forth - are all gifts from the organisation," Bishop Prowse says.
"Wherever we went, the simplicity of lifestyle, the friendliness of the shy parishioners, and the educational opportunities offered to an isolated culture were omnipresent, and so was the practical help of MOM!"
However, Bishop Prowse also noted the uncertain future that Papua New Guinea seems to face.
"Political inaction, corruption, and violence continue there unabated. I found this most evident in Port Moresby. The chilling advice of one local was that at night if one hears the sound of dogs barking and cars arriving at your residence, then you must remain in bed.
"Under no circumstances ought one turn on lights or open doors. 'Raskols' roam certain streets with evil intent. Also, malaria and HIV-AIDS are national problems of the highest level," he writes.
"Yet, the work of evangelisation continues. How happy I was to experience first-hand the Melbourne Archdiocese's small but significant contribution in the Gulf Province of PNG and beyond!" Bishop Prowse concludes.
Photo: Fr. John Flynn with Hauabango villagers (Kamea, 1977-79) (Alastair McIntosh)
Visiting our MOM (Kairos, 1 October 2006)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne: Bishop Christopher Prowse
The Catholic Church of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands
Caritas Australia in PNG
Alastair McIntosh, Photos Gulf Province, Papua New Guinea, 1977-79
AIDS is PNG's top problem, students tell Bishop (CathNews, 25/9/06)
28 Sep 2006