The Pontifical Mission Societies include the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, the Holy Childhood Association, the Society of St. Peter Apostle, and the Missionary Union of Priests and Religious. These Societies promote a prayerful missionary spirit among baptized Catholics and to gather a fund of support for the evangelizing and pastoral programs of more than 1,150 local churches of the Developing World.
Friday, September 19, 2008
A Return Visit
It brought to mind Hiroshima after the atomic bomb.
That was my first impression of Banda Aceh, Indonesia, when I visited there within months of the earthquake and tsunami of December 2004. Everything, everything had been destroyed, leveled. There was an occasional palm tree or a part of a shell of a building -- but little else.
Some 300,000 people perished in more than 10 countries from that tragic natural disaster; tens of thousands from Banda Aceh alone fled to Medan, some 600 kilometers away. In the three months preceding my March 2005 visit, there had been a lot of rubble and debris removed, but there was so much more yet to be taken away -- including a 150-foot long ship that was carried in by the tsunami waters and which literally pulverized homes in the area.
On that visit three years ago, I spent time with the local missionary priest, pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus, the only Catholic parish in Banda Aceh; the church and school buildings suffered heavy structural damages. Before the tsunami, there were 400 parishioners; when I was there just after that, there were but 50.
Providing for the future -- especially for the Church's service in this area -- clearly became a top priority. That parish, Sacred Heart, is the only Catholic Church presence in Banda Aceh. It became critically important that that presence be maintained.
The Pontifical Mission Societies established a Solidarity Fund for the Church in Southeast Asia, which included the Church in this part of Indonesia, immediately after the tsunami for long-term assistance. It is, in part, to review the good work accomplished by that Fund that I journey tomorrow to Indonesia. I make this return visit also to witness the good that contributions to the Pontifical Mission Societies accomplish in this part of the Developing World.
Stay tuned in the coming weeks for reports from Indonesia during this mission visit.