125th Anniversary of the Arrival of Daughters of OLSH Sisters on Yule Island PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE – with Mary at the Cross Road:
How else could we introduce this great day of celebration of the 125th Anniversary of the arrival of the first Daughters of OLSH to Yule Island on 1st August 1887? With St Paul we can say in assurance to each other that “I never stop thanking God for all the graces you have received through Jesus Christ. I thank God that each of you have been enriched in so many ways,” especially over the last 125 years since your first arrival and continual presence and dedication till today, and still here and going strong. We’ll never stop thanking God for the beautiful gift of Mary, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and her Daughters for their missionary witness among us in PNG which began 125 years ago.
To highlight the 125th anniversary celebration of the first arrival of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart to PNG, a Sisters’ delegation, who were mainly participants at the Australia Pacific Asia Conference for OLSH Leaders and Formators accompanied with some former PNG Missionaries from overseas including local visitors took a day trip on a pilgrimage to Yule Island on July 18, 2012. The pilgrimage was in fact an action of grace, an expression of solidarity and deep appreciation for the first arrival of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred to Yule Island and to PNG since August 1, 1887.
After a 2 hours long drive from Port Moresby along the Hiritano highway, they were especially welcome by the children and community near the beach at Poukama before crossing on the decorated dinghies to Yule Island. Although it was a beautiful day, the sea was not too rough but enough to give rise to one’s heart and mind filled with reflections traveling down the memory lane evoking a deep sense of appreciation for the rough and tough years that unfolded the work, dedication and commitment of the Sisters over the 125 years laboring in the Lord’s vineyard in PNG.
On arrival at St Patrick’s Beach in front of the OLSH Novitiate, there was another welcome parade with more dancing and singing by the children, parents and religious on the island. After a quick reception and refreshment at the Villa Verius, the Delegation was back again on the water to sail around the island. Even though some of the delegates looked a bit frail and vulnerable; they dared not missed this life-time opportunity to circumnavigate the island. It was also a memorable occasion for taking digital pictures to show-off to those absent from the occasion. As one would imagine, the rough seas provided fright for both the nerves and the fragile yet it was part of the day’s adventure and challenge to getting in touch with history as reflections bundled and rolled over the water with the dancing patterns of the waves.
After the excitement, much laughter and delightful cruising not too far off the coastline, the convoy approached Port Leon, which provided the landing location for the first Missionaries led by Bishop Henry Verius on 1 July 1885 then followed again by the first Daughters of our Lady of the Sacred Heart in 1887. The approach and landing provided the perfect occasion for the keen novices to present the re-enactment of the first arrival of the Sisters, dressed in their original colours and religious outfit to the welcome and reception by Fr Dominique Pradiers MSC with his brothers capturing once more that moment of history when finally the Sisters set foot for the first time on PNG soil since 125 years ago.
To more excitement and the joyous reception from the crowds and congregation, this jetty had over the years provided the landing-spot for the arrivals and the departures of the human resources as missionary personnel including construction material as well as food supplies that sustained the work of evangelisation and the development and wellbeing of the people of the Southern Region. This jetty was the only port for entry and exit by sea transport for a long time before the Hiritano highway was opened in the late 1970s.
After the welcome ceremony down the jetty, the rejoicing delegation and crowds walked uphill in procession in memory of that first entry by the Sisters to Yule Island Mission Station. At the front of the Parish Church they re-organized in preparation for another procession to the Precious Blood Memorial Hill where Henry Verius celebrated the first Mass on July 4, 1885. It certainly was an emotional and spiritual journey, a prayerful procession, as always, such slow flowing of people, evokes the memories of ascent by Jesus onto the ancient hill of Calvary in the Bible.
In his welcome address to the congregation Bishop Rochus J Tatamai MSC of Bereina said,
“In the first instance I would like to extend our warmest greetings and open welcome to you all our friends and visitors, the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, especially the participants of the Australia Pacific Asia Conference for Leaders and Formators . I extend this greetings and welcome on behalf of the clergy, Religious men and women, children, youth and Parents and all the faithful representing all the tribes comprising our diocese: those of the Roros, Mekeos, Gabadis and Naras down the coastline, the Kuni tribe that bridges the coast and the mountains, and off course our shouts of jubilation from the mountain-tops and down the deep valleys and across the rugged plains of the Fuyughes and Chirimes, criss-crossing over to the Tauades and Kunipas, claiming this voice in the name of all our past generations since the dawn of evangelisation until the present moment as we gather at this altar on the Precious Blood Memorial Hill here at Yule Island. “
He continued, “As we welcome you all, please feel at home on this our sacramental Calvary, take and feel your proper place beside Our Lady of Sacred Heart as we are truly present at this representation hill of the crucifixion and piercing of the Sacred Heart; for on this very hill was spilt by an accident, or rather poured out sacramentally the precious blood, on the occasion of the first Mass celebrated by Henry Verius MSC on the 4th of July 1885… 127 years ago. We invite you to share that experience, where your feet are standing; you are truly on “holy ground” as Moses before the Burning Bush. At this meeting point is where WE RECALL THE PAST, WE CELEBRATE THE PRESENT and WE WELCOME THE FUTURE that invites us all to move on. Here on this hill we stand together with Mary, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart as on that historical Calvary under the cross-road where heaven meets earth on the vertical and horizontal axis, there hangs the torn and wounded pierced heart, flowing with divine love for all humanity.”
Bishop Tatamai also commended the Sisters,
“Dear present day Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, on this occasion of the 125th Anniversary of the arrival of the first Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart here at Yule Island on August 1, 1887, our fondest memories go to Sisters Liguori, Clare, Madeline and Martha, courageous heroines, brave women, daring girls, faithful Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart who left the comfort and securities of their homes and families in Europe and followed the call of the Lord, echoing in the bright twilight of the Southern Cross calling them to “Rise up from your slumber and Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men and women, teachers and formators of the little and simple ones, healers of the wounded and the weak, inspiration and motivation for the youth, women and girls, evangelisers of all generations in all ages.”
In the homily he reminded the congregation that “The commissioning of the disciples by Jesus was oriented towards an opened-broad-ended and far reaching mission field that evokes a deep sense and reference to missionary activity that is here in Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia of Oceania, over there in Europe, Africa, America, Australia, Pacific, Asia, everywhere, anytime, in every age. Such open ended, far reaching and inclusive mission approach highlights the New Evangelisation with the missionary impetus as understood by the Venerable Father Founder, Fr Jules Chevalier MSC who best sums it up with our beautiful motto “May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be loved everywhere – forever,” a mission which is inclusive, meaning; reaching back into the past with the source and Origin in Jesus Christ and his missionary command, being relevant and grounded in the present daily realities through us the modern day disciples and open and forward-looking into the future as regards the transmission of this faith and missionary vision – as it was in the beginning, now and for eternity!”
During the presentation of the Gospel the school children rowed in a symbolic canoe carrying the Book of Gospels while chanting a Roro tune to recall the first arrival of the missionaries and the work of the evangelisation by the Sisters through Education, Health and Pastoral Care.
After the celebration of the Eucharist, the delegation was accompanied by the congregation for the last procession to the Mission Cemetery. Here in the cemetery lie the graves of three of the first Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. The nicely arranged flower hedges and graves, some looking really worn and torn due to the weather, did not distract from the appeals of the personal histories of each of the missionaries who rest here in peace represents the lives of generosity, self-sacrifice, commitment, and being faithful to the Lord laboring in his vineyard until the end.
The delegation and the congregation prayerfully roamed the cemetery, recognizing graves and recalling lives and histories of these heroes and heroines of the Kingdom of God. “May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be loved, everywhere, now and forever!”