A part of the planet that had its first contact with the outside world only in 1948 celebrated fifty years of Augustinian presence on 19th March 2006. This is the district of Ayawasi in West Papua, Indonesia. The Augustinians who settled there on 19 March 1956 appropriately chose Saint Joseph as the patron saint of the area.
The area lay uncontacted by the outside world until 1948 because of its isolation. It is located centrally in the vogelkop ("bird’s head") of Papua, and is surrounded by at least 150 kilometres of tropical jungle in all directions.
Photos (at right): Picture 1: Pastoran (parish house) of the Augustinian parish of Ayawasi in the jungle of central Papua. Picture 2: Mission Aviation aircraft at takeoff in front of the Pastoran at Ayawasi. Picture 3: Ayawasi woman in traditional costume.
In the relatively brief history of the Order of Saint Augustine in Papua, its members from the Netherlands served continuously in Ayawasi for most of these fifty years. Only in recent times has the parish priest been an Augustinian who was born in Papua.
In 1956 the first Augustinians reached Ayawasi on foot. All materials were carried in by human porters until eventually an airstrip was built. Today the Parish of Ayawasi may be unique in the world for having as many as eight grass airstrips.
The first road reached Ayawasi only in 2002. Because of flooding and erosion, it is unable to be used during times of heavy rain, which is frequent in the local rainforest that is less than one degree of longitude below the Equator.
Ayawasi in the Diocese of Manokwari-Sorong is one of the three isolated jungle parishes that the Order of Saint Augustine staffs in Papua Barat. The parish conducts the local primary school, and the government the only middle (lower secondary) school in the area.
The Augustinian parish priest is responsible not only for Ayawasi but for nearby smaller villages. Some of these villages have a chapel (cappella), and one also has a small Catholic school.
A previous Augustinian parish priest was a bridge builder literally as well as metaphorically. He constructed a cable suspension bridge seven metres above the surface of the Netain River at the eastern end of Ayawasi. The bridge is sixty metres in length, and is strong enough to be crossed by motor cycles.
The parish has active groups involved in catechetics, sacramental preparation and liturgy, and the development of traditional craft skills. The Order has received vocations from the parish. For example, one former Ayawasi citizen joined the Augustinian Order; he administered a parish in Sorong, the cathedral city of the diocese, and in more recent times died while middle aged.
Photos (at left): Picture 1: In the Augustinian parish of Ayawasi in the jungles of central Papua. Picture 2: Franciscan Sister at the health clinic of the Parish of Ayawasi, Papua. Picture 3: Parish women with hand crafts they produce, Ayawasi.
Augustinian ministry in Papua Barat, Indonesia. With photographs. Written in Dutch. As to the list of Augustinian houses/foundations, thee more have commenced since the list in that website was compiled. http://www.augustijnen.nl/C27-Papoea-Barat.html Video (above): You Tube: Mother & Childcare Program Senopi, 2008-2010. Senopi is a village similar to Ayawasi, and Augustinians serve there as well. In this video clip, one Augustinian priest appears briefly. Although there have been many changes in the area since 2010, the video nevertheless provides an impressive coverage of the people and scenery of Senopi.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wiM8fsJPuVE
Photo GalleryFor the Augnet gallery on the Augustinian history of West Papua, Indonesia, click here.Archival Photo GalleryAnother West Papua photo gallery is available, and it includes some pictures of Ayawasi. Now over ten years old, it has archival interest more than news interest; much has changed since it was produced, and a number of the people shown have died since then. The text is written in both the English and Indonesian languages. http://www.augnet.org/p/Page1/index.htmlAN4220