*Source : MENDIDIOCESE.COM
The people of Saint John the Apostle Parish in Hedmari, Hela Province of PNG recently hosted a joyful and reverent celebration for the blessing of their new one-of-a-kind church building.
The old church building was falling into serious disrepair and the community was quickly outgrowing it. The community together with the parish priest, Fr Joice Packel, CST considered all the options. At first they were considering the possibility of attaching a wing onto the old church, but soon abandoned the idea as impractical. The real dream of the people (and Fr Joice) was to build a new church, but how? Hedemari is a rural village. The people do not have a lot of money, but they have a lot of faith and determination and with that they started the project. They received a lot of assistance in terms of construction materials for the project from Mathias Manga, a well-known long-time parishioner of St John's Church. They also received some assistance from two MPs, Philip Undialu and Francis Potape ... and others. More than anything, what made the project possible was the hardwork and determination of everyone in the community. Young and old, men and women, all put their hearts together to make a dream come true. The carpenters were not professional carpenters, nor did they demand big salaries. For all intents and purposes, they donated their services. Fr Joice worked right beside them sharing his knowlege and skills with them every step of the way.
The day of the blessing finally arrived and the people prepared in the customary way. Scores of pigs were brought for the mumu. Dozens of people came in traditional Huli attire, including many young people. The traditional Mali drummers added an extra layer of solemnity to the celebration. Many priests and Sisters came from every corner of the Diocese of Mendi (which comprises the Southern Highlands as well as the Hela Province of Papua New Guinea).... and of course, the bishop was there to officiate at the historic blessing. When the first missionaries came to this area in the mid-1950's Hedemari was one of the first places that they came. Father Berard Tomasetti, OFM Cap., and Br Mark Bollinger, OFM Cap. were the first Capuchin-Franciscan missionaries to come. From Hedemari, they went to Koroba and to Pureni.
In his homily, based on the Scripture readings, Bishop Donald spoke to the assembly of how the new church building was a proof of God's closeness to the people. He also reminded the people, as Saint Paul had done to the Corinthians, how they themselves are, through the Sacrament of Baptism, called to be a holy dwelling of the Holy Spirit. And how rivers of grace, mercy and blessing will flow from the holy altar in the sanctuary, which was also blessed in the solemn celebration.
As mentioned above, Fr Joice Packel, CST is the Priest of Saint John Church, Hedemari. He is a member of the Congregation of St Thérèse (of the Little Flower) which is headquartered in Kerala, India. He is the first resident priest in Hedemari. A present, Hedemari is a Pastoral Area, not yet a full parish. After the Mass, the leaders of the community requested that soon the Pastoral Area would be raised to the level of parish. If the community continues to grow in faith, hope and love, it won't be long before another dream of the people comes true.