Jakarta (AsiaNews) - "I hope with all my heart that you, our new priests, know to extend your service to others in deeds rather than words." This was the appeal launched by Mgr. Suharyo Ignatius Pr, Archbishop of Jakarta, to the nine priests ordained on August 22 in the parish of Saint Arnold in Bekasi, East Jakarta. The ordination was held in a church on the outskirts of the capital with the aim of encouraging vocations among young people following the example of the new priests. "This is a crucial task - the prelate added - because [they] are called to imitate Christ, the the greatest priest of history."
Catholics have been celebrating the ordination of new priests, diocesan and one eight of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (CICM), who will contribute to pastoral work in the Indonesian capital. They are: Fr. Antonius Yakin Ciptamulya, Fr. Reynaldo Antonius Haryanto, Fr. Yohanes Angga Sri Prasetyo, Fr. Rafael Kristianto, Fr. Antonius Baur Asmoro, Fr. Antonius Pramono Wahyu Nugroho, Fr. Dwi Hadrianto Paulus, Fr. Albertus Yogo Prasetianto and Fr. Lamma Sihombing (CICM).
With declining birth rates, a phenomenon that is also affecting Indonesia, although to a lesser degree than Europe, the number of families with children who choose consecrated life is also decreasing. In the past, especially in the '70s, it was customary that every home - particularly in Java - had as many as 10 or more children. However, in the recent past there has been a sharp turnaround, with at most two or three children per household.
Among the reasons that explain the phenomenon, the increase in the cost of living and the social and financial obstacles, which end up hitting larger families. Above all school fees and the cost of books and related materials end up stretching the family budget, so much so that many are forced to sell off assets, house, properties or land in order to give an education to offspring.
In this difficult context the work of the minor Wacana Bhakti seminary, owned by the Archdiocese of Jakarta, is a model for change. Active for over 25 years thanks to the efforts of Jesuits and diocesan priests of the capital, it provides opportunities for study and formation to the underprivileged, as well as the nearby Gonzaga College Senior High School, which is also run by Catholics. Many Catholic families in Jakarta rely on these two institutions to educate their children, with regular classes in the morning according to the curriculum provided by the Ministry of Education. In the afternoon, however, there are courses in Latin, English, Sacred Scripture, Church History, and other subjects related to Christian tradition.
Indonesia is the most populous Muslim nation in the world. Catholics are a small minority of about seven million people, or 3 per cent of the population. In the Archdiocese of Jakarta, the faithful reach 3.6 per cent of the population. Although the constitution recognises religious freedom, Catholics have been the victims of violence and abuse, especially in areas where extremist visions of Islam are entrenched, like Aceh. Still, Catholics are an active component in society and contribute to the nation's development as well as to emergency operations when they arise, as was the case in last January's devastating floods.