19/11/2012 14:11

CTI Graduation Speech by Bp. Rochus Tatamai, msc.

Archbishop John Ribat MSC – Archbishop of Port Moresby and President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of  PNG SI

Fr. David Willis – President of CTI

Fr Zenon SVD– Dean of Studies

Rectors of Colleges – Members of the Faculty – staff and Students of CTI

Parents, Religious men and women, youth and children, friends, benefactors of CTI and especially you the graduands of 2012//

In September and October this year I received two important email messages:  With the invitation from the Dean of Studies, Fr. Zenon the instruction was: The talk is about 20-25 minutes. It aims at some aspect of spiritual and intellectual formation of the future priests and religious. We would be delighted if you could come...

From Fr. David Willies, the President of CTI the email reference I received was: Fr Zenon has just informed me that you are able to be our Graduation Speaker this year. Thank you for taking on this extra work. It is indeed fitting that an MSC delivers the Graduation Address in the anniversary year of DBC’s beginning. I don’t know if it is possible, but a focus in your address on the link between HSS and DBC might be especially fitting this anniversary year. Thanks again for agreeing to take up CTI’s offer.

Well thank you very much for your invitation and I do not know if there is anything, anymore  special to add to what already is a very colourful year… Certainly, De Boismenu College celebrates its golden Jubilee, 50 years of service and commitment to the Church in PNG and Oceania in and through the training and formation of MSC priests and religious as well as the laity, so congratulations to the MSC and to all the members of the Chevalier family… not forgetting the many generous benefactors and collaborators, families and communities who support, promote and encourage vocations to the priesthood and religious life,  we remember and thank God for some of us “Vatican II Children” born in 1962, Thanks to Pope Benedict XVI for the Year of Faith to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th anniversary of the promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church …Both of these events (Second Vatican Council and the Catechism of the Catholic Church) are significant moments in the faith life of Catholics throughout the world as well as for our dioceses, parishes, institutions, families and Christian Communities. Likewise, the opening of the Year of Faith coincided with the recent General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, held last October, in Rome, with the theme of The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith…congratulations to all of us members of the Catholic Church in PNG on our 130th Anniversary of evangelisation marking the arrival and continuing presence of the MSC since 1882 on matupit Island in Rabaul and followed in 1885 at Yule Island. We also acknowledge the earliest attempts by the Marists and the PIMEs whose sacrifices and generosity were crowned by the blood of Martyrs St. Peter Chanel and Bl. John Mazzuconi with our fellow Melanesian and lay associate of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, Blessed Peter ToRot – catechist and martyr.  

The initial link between HSS and DBC up to the present existence of CTI with its various colleges is an integral link yet an ongoing engagement and a continuation of that link and relationship between the initial evangelisation by the expatriate missionaries and the continuing work of evangelisation by the Melanesians, Micronesians and Polynesians today in our modern context. The initial link between HSS and DBC represents the missionary dimension and nature of Church as well as towards the process of localization and indigenization of the Christian Faith in the hearts of our people and their cultures.

Recently during the mission month of October, a team of us from PNG were in Germany to participate in the Missio Aachen and Mission Munchen (munich) Mission promotion with the focus country of PNG. The two Teams - one in Aachen and the other in Munich, we never met in Germany except for some of us who met at Singapore on our return. Our mission program and campaign was very hectic and busy with visits to schools in the morning and evening parish masses and gathering with the parishioners later in the parish halls for further presentation of PNG and its specific issues. One favorite description is “PNG is a paradise island of gold, floating on a sea of oil and powered by natural gas.”  There were so many press conferences, diocesan conferences and gatherings that we were invited to participate in and always to present the Church in PNG and the faith life and daily experiences of our people. Such encounters were actions of grace and moments where the Holy Spirit was extra active as on the day of Pentecost to make sense and meaning of our human languages so that the heart to heart dialogue was possible. These occasions were faith enriching apart from being challenging because we depended a lot of our German Translators who were our guardian Angels.

For my team, we were five members, 2 Bishops, I priest and two women, - Bishop Bernard Unabali of Bougainville focused largely on the civil war on the island of Bougainville and the role of the Church, before during and after the crisis with the emphasis on “Yumi yet i Sios”we are church and the current Balance life formation happening in the diocese. Alina Longa focused on the important foundation, aspects and role of Christian Family Life apostolate with counseling and rehabilitation towards wholeness of life. Fr Andrew Moses, Vicar General of Daru-Kiunga Diocese primary focus on Basic Christian Communities with its rich potentials, possibilities and challenges, Priscilla Winfrey in-charge of Publications at the Melanesian Institute concentrated on Ecumenical Cooperation and the various publications of the MI researches, to making these findings accessible in simple everyday language – highlighting the complexities of cultural issues, like land compensation, sorcery, payback killing and revenge, youth and women, election related issues, to name some examples and especially with its pastoral relevance and challenges for the pastoral workers.

I focused a lot on the present Challenges and ongoing search today on how “do we continue on with what the missionaries began since the dawn of evangelisation, what exactly are these challenges and what exactly do we do, the practical responses we initiate or propose in order to address these challenges thus creating opportunities to be relevant, timely, appropriate and proper while being truthful and genuine to our Melanesian cultural heritage as well as the Christian Tradition. How do we engage in this ongoing search, discernment and dialogue between the Melanesian or PNG cultures and Jesus Christ who is the way the truth and the life, he who is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets, the fulfillment of our rituals and initiations, the joy of our singsings, jubilation of dances and celebrations thus giving the fullness expression of our stability, security, harmony, balance and equilibrium.

The students at the schools or congregations at parishes and cathedrals were quiet stunt to learn that I could walk 14 hours minimum and maximum 3 – 4 days walking to do pastoral visits. No one could imagine living without regular electricity and clean water with good and proper sanitation. Having at one’s finger tips, an Ipod or IPad with fast internet and fairly reliable high tech social networking as the order of the day, with efficient transport systems and supermarkets with wide range choices, what else should people need, when everything is alright and all highly coordinated.


One common observation people shared with us and with a certain degree of embarrassment is that the Church has become too institutionalized, too far removed and away from the everyday experiences of ordinary people. The Bishops and Priests are busy that people have to make advance appointments in months to see them only if they’ll have time. Even some of us were not able to meet any of them because they were just too busy.

  1. During the ceremony of Ordination the Diocesan or Religious Priest vowed and promised obedience to the present bishop and his successors in terms of collaboration and cooperation for the well-being of the diocese and faith community concerned.
  2. No priest is ordained for their own sakes or their own wishes or designs as a personal property for personal ownership, prestige and status. Rather when one is ordained it is in the first place comes as a calling to service in the pattern and model of Jesus Christ the Suffering Servant, the Good Shepherd and to be reaching out as Fishermen open to all in all circumstances. Thus, the pastoral ministry and parish responsibility commitments and engagements become paramount and the matter of priority of priorities. Every priestly and pastoral activity are fulfilled in light of that calling within the Church to service and in being self-less giving of one-self in the model of Jesus Christ the high Priest who came to serve and NOT to be served.

The two National Retreats so far (2010 during the year of Priests & 2012) had in fact brought light to the significant contribution and validity of the link and relationship between DBC and HSS. Priests who did their formation in Holy Spirit Regional Seminary Bomana – had an natural and beautiful bonding because of the years together here, in studies, work, recreation, liturgies which in fact promoted a national identity. For me as MSC at DBC in HSS from 1983 – 1989 meant I was able to encounter 6 years of senior seminarians and another 6 years of junior seminarians which gave me the opportunity to have an integration of 14 years of bonding and promotion of the national and indigenous priestly identity of Jesus Christ.

As John the Baptist's full identity unfolds only in relation to the person of Jesus Christ thus John himself announces that he awaits "... the one who is coming after me."  He was not the light, but came to testify to the light.

The answer that the ordained priest [and those who have received the grace to prepare for ordination] gives to the question remains of enormous importance for the Church. What are you then? When asked of a priest, the question finds its answer only in divine revelation. In other words, God himself reveals the identity of the priest.

No sociologist can tell you what a priest is. Sociology would only conclude that the priest provides spiritual services to those who appreciate the place that religion holds in social life.

No psychologist can tell you what a priest is. Psychology would only conclude that the priest offers religious counseling to those who may prefer his availability to that of a secular therapist.

No politician can tell you what a priest is. Politics would only assume that the priest ensures a stability for the secular regime that the public authorities may have difficulty realizing.

None of these human enterprises can reveal the essence of the priesthood. Only Christian faith discloses who a priest is. Like John the Baptist, the Christian priest learns his identity from his specific, God-given mission. The key words remain "I am ...." For John the Baptist, I am the voice. For the priest, I am a fisherman; I am a shepherd who lays down my life for my flock according to the mind, heart and life of Jesus Christ himself the Real fisherman and the Good Shepherd.