The Catholic Church in Indonesia is both old and young. In the seventh century there were already Catholic communities of the Chaldean Rite in North Sumatra. There was a flourishing Portuguese mission in Eastern Indonesia in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
In the year 1900 the number of Catholics in Indonesia was about 50,000. In the course of that century, there came to be thirty-three Catholic dioceses and over three million Catholics. Almost half of these Catholics live on the island of Flores, where the Portuguese mission continued unhindered until the area was taken over by the Dutch in 1859.
Map (below): In the map below, territory coloured brown is today the nation of Indonesia, but in previous centuries was the possession of local sultans, tribal rulers and of European imperialistic nations. In the paragraphs below the map, places marked in brown appear on the map.
The first members of the Order of Saint Augustine to reach or to minister in any part of the territory that now comprises the nation of Indonesia happened over 450 years ago. In 1542 there were four Augustinians aboard the ships of the Spanish nautical expedition from Mexico to the Spice Islands (now part of Indonesia). The expedition was led by Ruy Lopez de Villalobos, and the four Augustinians were Jeronimo de Santisteban O.S.A. (an advisor to Villalobos), Nicolas de Perea O.S.A., Sebastian Reina (or de Trasierra) O.S.A. and Alonso de Alvarado O.S.A.They were present when the Spanish ships had to surrender to the superior Portuguese forces in the Moluccas (Spice Islands) on 4th November 1545. These four Augustinians also assisted St Francis Xavier is his work at the Portuguese-Spanish army camp at Nusaniwi. Jeronimo de Santisteban O.S.A. seems to have been the first Augustinian to reach West Papua (and one of the first priests to sail around the world). In May 1545 he was aboard a Spanish warship, San Juan, commanded by the Spaniard, Ynigo Ortiz de Retes, when it sailed along its northern coast. Commissioned to explore by King Phillip II of Spain, Ortiz de Retes was the one who gave the land the name of Nueva Guinea ("New Guinea")
Another three Papua photo galleries called Papua: Ayawasi, Papua:Senopi and Papua:Sorong are available by clicking on http://www.augnet.org/default.asp?ipageid=6
As indicated above, Spanish naval exploration of the Pacific from Latin America – with Augustinans aboard - led to a clash with the Portuguese in the Spice Islands in 1545. One of these Augustinians was also aboard when a Spanish ship sailed along the northern coast of what today is West Papua, Indonesia in that year. The Augustinians requested permission to work on the islands of the Moro (now on the island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines) and Kalimantan (the province of Indonesia located on the same island as Borneo), but their requests were denied. The only recorded evidence of their presence in the Moluccas in the fifteenth century was the baptism of one local person and a child.
Another Augustinian priest is known to have visited Aceh (north Sumatra) in 1600. He was sent by the Portuguese commandant at Malacca (Spice Islands) to assist as an envoy to Aladdin Riajat, the Sultan of Aceh. This Augustinian, named Amaro, knew the Aceh language. Records indicate that he was still there on 24th August 1601, and it is unknown how much longer he stayed there. In 1606 three Spanish Augustinians accompanied Spanish invasion ships from Manila to the island fortress at Ternate in the Spice Islands (Manuku Islands), where they built the Monastery of St Augustine. Spanish forces captured the former Portuguese fort which had begun in 1522, and deported the Ternate Sultan and his entourage to Manila. The Spanish forces remained in Ternate until 1663, but the Augustinians withdrew in 1625.
The first Prior (local superior) was Fr Roque Barrionuevo O.S.A., who in 1608 was replaced by Fr Juan da Tapia O.S.A. It is said that Brother Antonius Flores O.S.A., for many years a soldier before joining the Augustinians, stayed in the monastery. He took active part in the defence of Ternate, and died in one of the assaults upon it in 1622. The Augustinians left Ternate in 1625. In all, nine Augustinians had served there between 1606 and 1625, each being appointed there for one year. Their ministry was limited to tending the spiritual needs of Spaniards in the North Moluccas. An unnamed Augustinian baptised about fifty people in Betawi (now Jakarta) in 1664.
Three years later, a Portuguese ship brought another Augustinian priest. He stayed there for three months, living aboard the ship until its departure for Macao. Other than for these unconnected series of involvements, Augustinian ministry in eastern Asia thus came to be established not in Indonesia, but in the Philippines. The section of the Catholic Church in Indonesia that today is partially staffed by Augustinians is located in what was formerly the north western part colony of Dutch New Guinea - a part called the vogelkop ("head of a bird") because of its shape. Dutch Catholic missionaries first entered the Manokwari area only in 1936, because the area had been occupied exclusively by Protestant missionaries since 1855. While the area was still a Dutch colony the Order of Saint Augustine in 1956 accepted pastoral responsibility for the specific area that later became the Diocese of Manokwari. The area of Manokwari (later a Catholic diocese) is a territory of 63,700 square kilometres.
Ten Dutch Augustinian priests and a lay brother were serving there by 1960. At the time of transition of Irian Jaya from Dutch to Indonesian control, three Spanish Augustinians from the Philippines Province came to assist: Fr Gabino Peral Torre O.S.A. (1962-1965), Fr Andres G. Niño O.S.A. (1962-1967) and Fr Codesal Calvo O.S.A. (1964-1968). The chosen method of evangelisation consisted of opening village schools, which gave instruction in elementary subjects and in Christian doctrine. The villages were regularly visited by the Augustinian priests, who were aided by a network of trained native catechists.
The initial leader of the Augustinians in Papua in 1953, Pieter van Diepen O.S.A. was subsequently appointed as the first Bishop of Manokwari in 1966. He served until his retirement in ill health in 1988, after thirty-five years of ministry in Papua. His task was made more difficult by population changes that created the advantage of moving the seat of his diocese from Manokwari to Sorong. He accepted the reality and moved in 1975, building a new cathedral in Sorong. He died in Holland in April 2005.
In 1970 the Diocese of Manokwari had 9,000 Catholics; today, largely because of government-facilitated transmigration from elsewhere within Indonesia, it now has over 55,000 Catholics. The diocese has twenty-five priests, who mainly are clergy of the diocese (many of them incardinated after coming from other parts of Indonesia) or diocesan priests on loan from elsewhere in Indonesia. The working relationship between the Order and the Diocese of Manokwari-Sorong is a flexible one in which the good of the church is paramount. In this arrangement, there are no formal or quasi-permanent "Order parishes", but instead, after consultation between the bishop and the Augustinian regional superior, Augustinians are sent to parishes as is most suitable for the overall needs of the diocese. Even so, the Order has maintained a "mix" of "remote parishes" and "city parishes", and has also made its men available for other ministries and offices needed in the diocese. Most priests have two major roles assigned them. The diocese does not provide the Order with a religious stipend for each Augustinian working in the diocese, but only the equivalent of petty cash for incidental expenses.
Since the Order’s arrival in Papua in 1953 twenty-two Dutch, one Filipino and three Spanish Augustinians have served in Papua at some time during that period.
Photo Gallery For the Augnet gallery about the work of the Augustinians in West Papua (Indonesia), click here.
Archival Photo GalleryAnother West Papua photo gallery is available. 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.htmlAN4839