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In 2010, Indonesia has more than 1700 diocesan priests including 15 bishops who are originally a diocesan priest.

In 2005, in Indonesia there were 1407 diocesan priests from the 37 dioceses with almost 7 million Catholic population among 230 million of Indonesians.  The number of diocesan priests in Indonesia is increasing with 50-70 new ordination each year. In 1993,  there were only 663 diocesan priests. The number were 793 diocesan priests in 1995, 1135 diocesan priests in 2000, and 1293 diocesan priests in 2003. In 2008 there are around 1500 diocesan priests in Indonesia. What is the history of diocesan priests and of association of diocesan priests in Indonesia ? How is the growth and challenges of Indonesian diocesan priests ?


The Beginning of Diocesan Priests in Indonesia

On 25 April 1935, the first Indonesian diocesan priest, Fr. Johannes Boen Thiam Kiat, ordained in Pangkalpinang by Apostolic Vicar of  Padang Bishop Brans OFMCap. Fr.  Boen was born in the village of Ju Hin, 17 km south of Pangkalpinang. He finished his major seminary in Penang, Malaysia, and in Hongkong. In Japanesse occupation, he was the only priest in Apostolic Prefectur of Bangka and Belitung.  Fr. Boen was a very simple diocesan priests paid special attention to poor people. He passed away in 31 Mei 1982 in Pangkalpinang.

In 1936, St.Paul Major Seminary in Yogyakarta, Central Java, the first major seminary in Indonesia was established in 1936 by Archbishop Petrus Willekens SJ, Apostolic Vicar of Jakarta.  On 26 July 1942, the first four diocesan priests graduated from this major seminary ordained by Archbishop A. Soegijopranata SJ. They were Fr. Aloysius Purwadiharja (Semarang), Fr. H.Voogdt (Padang),  Fr. Simon Lengkong (Manado), and Fr. Wenceslaus Lengkong (Manado).


The Beginning of Association of Diocesan Priests

In 1950, Fr. Padmoseputra from Semarang published BERITA as the first buletin for diocesan priests In Indonesia. In the same year diocesan priests started to have meetings. And then in Mertoyudan, there were an idea to have an assosiation of diocesan priests. To this idea, Archbishop Soegijopranata SJ jokingly asked whether diocesan priests wanted to have a union of workers like the union of factory workers.

By 15 July 1955, Unio of Archdiocese of Semarang was formed as the first association of diocesan priests in Indonesia. The first president was Fr. Danuwinoto who was then replaced by Fr. Yustinus Darmoyuwono who later became the first Indonesian cardinal.

At 28-29 June 1977 in Salam, Central Java, the Unio of Archdiocese of Semarang invited priests from Bogor, Bandung, Purwokerto, Bali, Manado, Atambua, and Merauke to discuss the Statutes of Unio. Most of the priests in this meeting were graduates of the Major Seminary in Yogyakarta.

At 14-17 June 1983, the first national assembly of Unio Indonesia was held in Jakarta. There were representatives from 19 dioceses.  Then at the second national assembly held in Malang in 1986, Unio Indonesia decided to join the Aspotolic Union of the Clergy. The second assembly also finalized the Statutes of Unio Indonesia which was by substance the translation of the Statutes of the AUC received from Mgr. Juan Esquarda Bifet in Italian and French. The translator was Fr. Johanes Pujasumarta while he studied in Rome. Unio Indonesia was officially accepted as a member of the AUC on 21 October 1986. The Statutes of Unio Indonesia was then approved by the Indonesian Bishops Conference on 13 November 1986.

The Third National Assembly of Unio Indonesia was held in Yogyakarta in 1989, the fourth in Salam-Central Java in 1992, the fifth in Bandung in 1995, the sixth in Jakarta in 1999, the seventh in Surabaya in 2002, and the eighth in Palasari-Bali in 2005.In most of the national assemblies usually all dioceses were represented. The 9th  National Assembly will be in Makassar and Toraja on 4-10 August 2008.

The international president of the AUC were present in Bandung in 1995 (Fr. Giuseppe Magrin) and in Palasari-Bali in 2005 (Mgr. Julio Daniel Botia Aponte). In Bandung in 1995, Mgr. Bernard Prince, Secretary General of the Pontifical Mission Societies from the Cogregation of the Propagation of Faith from Rome, was also present. In Palasari-Bali, Mgr. Novatus Rugambwa, the first secretary of the Apostolic Nuntiature to Indonesia, opened the assembly. Also present as special guests were 2 diocesan priests from Kualalumpur and 4 diocesan priests from the Philippines (two from Davao and two from San Carlos). Unio Indosia has sent invitation to attend this eighth national assembly to most of South East Asian dioceses but only three dioceses were represented.


The Growth and Challenges of Unio Indonesia

Unio in a diocese as an association of diocesan priests was established because there were some diocesan priests eager and willing to communicate and cooperate with diocesan priests from the same diocese. Unio Indonesia was formed because they wanted to have network with other dioceses.

In practice the real community life among diocesan priests is in their own dioceses. It is in their own dioceses, diocesan priests practice their brotherhood by facilitating meetings, recollections, retreats, and othe programs including holiday programs.  In some dioceses they also have a Unio house where they can meet or stay.

At the national level, the national assembly was held once every three years. The national council was also responsible fro a house bulit in Jakarta in 1984 as a transit or guest house for diocesan priests who visit Jakarta for different purposes, such as for medical reason, to attend a meeting, to take courses, or on holiday, etc. By the end of 2006 the Unio house in Jakarta was completely renovated after more than 20 years of being used as a support for priests when they visit Jakarta.

In number, the growth of diocesan priests in Indonesia is quite significant. There are around 50-70 newely ordained diocesan priests each year. In Indonesia the number of religious priests are more than 2000 priests. With 1700 diocesan priests, Indonesia has more than 4000 priests to serve more than 7 million Indonesian Catholics.

In service, Indonesian diocesan priests are working at all kind of services. There are now 15 diocesan bishops. More than 50 diocesan priests working in other dioceses including at the Indonesian Bishops’ Conference. Besided from parishes, many also working at major and minor seminaries. Indonesia has not sent any diocesan priest abroad as a missionary. At the same time religious orders have sent many priests, nuns, and brothers abroad. The SVD for example has sent more than 300 SVD priests all opver the world.

In quality, more and more diocesan priests are sent to study abroad all over the world. But in general, the majority of diocesan priests do not have the chance to have better ongoing formation programs. The Indonesian Bishops’ Conference with the Association of Major Religious Superiors has formed a Working Committee of Ongoing Formation of Indonesian Priests. This committee has organized training for trainers programs to facilitate ongoing formation programs in all dioceses and religious orders. But it is still not enough. Unio Indonesia has started its own ongoing formation programs. At the 9th National Assembly, Unio Indonesia will try to propose more ongoing formation programs for its members. And hopefully this is a way how Unio Indonesia contribute for the development of Indonesian diocesan priests in serving the Church and the people.

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