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Grateful Celebration: 50 Years Polish Missionaries in Indonesia

It was a privilege for Roe, small and remote village in West Flores, to hold an international celebration on Saturday, October 17, 2015 commemorating 50 years of 20 SVD Polish Missionaries’ presence in Indonesia. The celebration was divided into two sections: Grateful Mass Celebration and agape (getting together) with all attendants. It was attended by Fr. Andrzej Danilewicz, SVD (Polish Mission Secretary), Fr. Arlindo Pereira Dias, SVD and Bro. Guy Mazola Mido, SVD (General visitators for IDE), Fr. Tadeusz Gruca, Fr. Czeslaw Osiecki, Fr. Stanislaw Pikor and Fr. Stefan Wrosz (representatives of the 20 missionaries), Fr. Syrilus Lena (the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Ende), Poland Vice Ambassador and his wife, representatives of NTT Governor and Nagekeo Regency, a number of priests including SVDs, SVD brothers and religious sisters, and many faithful of Roe station.

The 50 years of presence of these 20 Polish SVD Missionaries was celebrated in a special way because of the unique political situation they faced in the past. By that time Poland was under the domination of Russia and was well known as Communist country. Communist government didn’t allow all missionaries to go abroad. At the beginning of September 1964, Fr. Yosef Diaz Viera, SVD, an Indonesian SVD priest arrived in Poland wanting to get some Polish SVD Missionaries for Indonesia.

It was the right time. Indonesia’s Ambassador for Poland and his secretary were Catholics. Fr. Diaz, who went also to Pieniezno to meet and talk to Fr. Koziel, the Provincial in order to get 20 missionaries as volunteers. At the time there was an annual retreat, so many young confreres gathered together. In few minutes a list of 20 missionaries was completed. With this list, Diaz, then went back to Warsawa asking Indonesian Ambassador to arrange a meeting with the Head of the Department of Employees of Poland. The staff of the department was surprised when Fr. Diaz asked permission for 20 polish priests to be sent to Indonesia as volunteer, He stated, “We can give you engineers, doctors but where the government would take these priests”. Fr. Diaz answered, I already have the list of the volunteers, and therefore you do not have to look for. This should be decided by the high authority. By the help and great effort of Fr. Diaz, the permission was granted in April 1965. By June 1965 all official affairs were completed and finished and in August 27, 1965, the group of the 20 arrived in Jakarta.

Fr. Leo Kleden, SVD, Provincial of IDE in his homily and speech said that this particular celebration is important because by the sending of the first 20 SVD missionaries from Poland to Indonesia, the possibility was open for all other congregations in Poland to send also their missionaries abroad. It is a kind of a new exodus in mission sending. Leo, then thanked the government of Poland and of Indonesia and local Church in Indonesia for good cooperation. The event has opened the perception and horizons of Polish people that Catholic Church is for all people from all generations and nations. Polish Catholic Church is part of the universal Catholic Church. It was expressed and stressed by Fr. Danilewicz in his speech.

Fr. Stanis Pikor, on behalf of 20 first Polish Missionaries thanked the Government of Poland for allowing them going abroad and thanking the Government of Indonesia for allowing them staying and working as Missionaries in Indonesia. He then ended his speech by saying: “If you want to ask us whether we want to go back to Poland? Our answer is ‘NO WAY’. Because we love Indonesia as we love our homeland.

(Translator from Indonesian: Gabriel Wangak, svd)