Reaching the Most Remote Areas in Kalimantan
Continuing our missionary journey, we go to one of the most remote, exotic and beautiful areas on the planet: Indonesia. There we find the young SSpS Province of Kalimantan.
In this article you will learn about the history, geography, missionary services and challenges the sisters encounter to be of service especially to the people living in the most distant places and facing the greatest difficulties.
A Brief History of SSpS Kalimantan
In 1984 Mgr. Prajasuta, MSF, bishop of the diocese of Banjarmasin, invited the SSpS sisters to work in Palangka Raya which at that time was the mission area of the diocese of Banjarmasin. On July 25, 1985 the first three sisters were sent from the Flores Province* to Kalimantan. They are Srs. Andrea, M. Margaretha Wulu, Elisabeth Pamul, and Patrisia, Maria Ursula.
In 1999 the Flores Province was divided into three parts: East Flores province centered in Kewapante – Maumere, West Flores province centered in Leda Ruteng – Manggarai and Kalimantan region centered in Palangka Raya.
On October 2, 2000, Kalimantan officially became a Region with the patron of “MARY, Queen of the Apostles” but administratively still under East Flores Province. After 25 years of presence and mission in Borneo, the Kalimantan Region was upgraded and officially became a Province on March 25, 2010.
SSpS Kalimantan Province has twelve communities, including one community for the elderly and one a formation house for the pre-noviciate. These 12 communities work in four dioceses. First: Diocese of Palangka Raya-Central Kalimantan, there are five apostolic communities, the community of the elderly and the pre-noviciate community. Second: Diocese of Banjarmasin-South Kalimantan, there is one community. Third: Archdiocese of Samarinda – East Kalimantan, there are three apostolic communities. And fourth: Diocese of Tanjung Selor-North Kalimantan, there is one community.
The total members of Kalimantan Province are 77 sisters consisting of 51 sisters in perpetual vows, 26 junior sisters and 11 missionaries sent to mission abroad.
One of the biggest challenges for the sisters in Kalimantan is the distance between the Provincial House and the communities. Most of them are more than 10 hours away by bus. Some of them are in areas so far away that they need a plane, boat and bus to get there. Even by plane, the trip can take a whole day because of the stops.
Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world, with 17,000 islands. Kalimantan is one of the largest, with an area of 736,000 km2. Western literature usually calls Kalimantan by the name of Borneo, which comes from the word Brunai, meaning in the local language many rivers (Kali means river and Mantan means many). That is why Kalimantan is known as the “island of a thousand rivers”.
In general, Kalimantan has a tropical climate with relatively constant temperatures throughout the year and with a minimum rainfall of 60 mm. The largest and most extensive natural potential on the island of Borneo is mining products such as coal, petroleum, gold, and iron.
The forest products are also highly profitable such as timber and rattan forests, rubber and oil palms. Commodities, mostly agricultural and fishery products, are brought to market via the river using motorboats/longboats (in the local language called klotok). People living in remote areas still depend on natural resources (forest products) to fulfill their economic needs.
Religion and Beliefs
Most Dayak (native people who have inhabited the island of Borneo/Kalimantan since long ago) still adhere to the original belief, Kaharingan. Dignity of life according to Kaharingan beliefs can be achieved by practicing and obeying all customary laws that contain norms and codes of ethics for human relations. Religious ceremonies are an expression of belief; their attitudes and behaviors are motivated by beliefs, both of which are called customary law.
The Catholic Church came to Kalimantan around 1907 while the Protestant religion had entered earlier, around the 19th century. There are quite a number of Dayak people who have converted to Catholicism, but in living their faith, they are still not strong. One factor is that the pastoral staff who serve and foster them are unevenly distributed and lacking in numbers.
In addition, cultural issues also have an influence. Being Catholic means giving oneself completely to Christ and following the teachings of the Catholic faith, which is a bit difficult for them. Although they have embraced Catholicism, they still believe in mysticism, amulets, sacred objects, etc.
Through catechesis, the teaching of the Catholic faith has a positive influence on the development of faith, thinking and appreciation of Christian values in all aspects of life, including the appreciation of the meaning of the sacrament of marriage. Thus, traditional marriage is no longer placed as number one.
Education for the nation’s next generation is the government’s main concern. Educational facilities reach into the interior, although sometimes less well maintained. In the poorest, remote, underdeveloped settlements, it has not yet received full attention.
Thus, what is a prerequisite for the success of education has not been achieved, such as equity, efficiency, relevance and quality. The government continues to strive to improve the quality of education in Indonesia in general and Kalimantan specifically, so as to give birth to the next generation with a good character.
SSpS Apostolic Ministry
In 1984 SSpS started with pastoral ministry. The sisters ministered from one place to another through river routes using motorboats or Klotok because road access was still difficult.
After many years of pastoral work the sisters responded to the needs of the community in other areas such as education, health, social charity and JPIC.
In 2008, SSpS Kalimantan began its ministry in the field of education by opening a play group, whose patroness was Blessed Maria Helena, in the community of Nanga Bulik. Since then, the development of services in the field of education continues to grow. To strengthen the presence of our schools, the Kalimantan SSpS Foundation was established in 2012 with the name “Menteng Mampaharing“, meaning a place that brings life.
With the growing number of students, the support of parents and the local government, schools were developed in the Nanga Bulik community, starting with building a kindergarten, then elementary school and junior high school.
The SSpS Kalimantan sisters also opened a kindergarten and elementary school in the Nehas Liah Bing Community in East Kalimantan. These schools are under the Menteng Mampaharing Foundation. In the process of assisting the development of talents and interests of students in our schools, the Foundation established an art studio in 2019 and in the Beata Yosefa PIR community in Village V, a reading garden is provided for children.
Besides the pastoral and educational field, the sisters also serve in health ministry. SSpS Kalimantan opened a clinic in the community of Beata Helena Telok to serve the poor. However, with the presence of government programs such as BPJS and health centers in all remote villages, the services at our clinic did not develop. In addition, there are also sisters who work in the Diocesan Hospital. The service of the sick is not only in clinics and hospitals, the sisters also provide treatment for the sick in the villages during visits for communion services.
There are JPIC mission and social charitable services that aim to proclaim the values of justice, peace, the integrity of creation, and environmental care and skills development for women and children regardless of ethnicity, race or class. These activities are carried out with the intention of restoring and uplifting degraded human dignity, increasing respect for the human rights of those who are excluded, poor and helpless. These mission services continue to be carried out, especially services to scavenger children from kindergarten to junior high school level who cannot read and write. The type of activity is learning to read and write. Apart from children, there are also activities with the families of scavengers.
Current Joys and Struggles
It has been 38 years since the SSpS began working in Borneo. The presence of the SSpS is still well accepted and longed for. The people have a good impression of the SSpS presence that gives a totality of service, dares to reach the remote areas and withstands the storms in order to serve the people. There are so many blessings and challenges received both as individuals, communities and as a Province in aspects of life such as:
Aspects of Spirituality
The Sisters joyfully live the spirituality and charism of the Congregation. Always rooted in the spirit of the founding generation and spiritual heritage, growing in faith in God’s help and trusting God who is our Provider. In the face of many challenges, we are more and more firm in our faith in God’s presence in mission. There is always a desire to live in God’s presence, to love our vocation and mission more and more, to be open and responsive to the situation. We experience the love of God that always accompanies, strengthens and guides us. The power of the Holy Spirit encourages us to continually renew our lives.
Challenged in the spiritual aspect, we strive to be more disciplined in all aspects of life, more diligent and faithful in cultivating emotional, social and spiritual intelligence.
Living the Vows
The sisters strive to live the vows through love and joyful surrender. Trusting and surrendering their whole life to God’s providence. Living their vocation as missionary sisters with joy.
Challenges in living our vows: striving to always bring the joy and mercy of God to everyone in the community and in every place of service. We continue to learn to humbly accept criticism, rebuke, and any input that helps us to continue to grow in the process of self-transformation.
Being rooted in the spirituality and charism of the Congregation helps us to live in the bond of sisterly love, praying for each other, supporting, cooperating, listening, forgiving, respecting and honoring each other, accepting the bright and dark sides of others.
Challenge: We strive to live for intercultural and intergenerational community in our common journey towards self-transformation.
The missionary charism encourages us as women disciples sent to the land of Borneo to realize the new Kalimantan through apostolic service in the fields of Pastoral Ministry, Education, Health, JPIC – social charity. We remain faithful, joyful and endure any situation for the sake of shared missionary service. We dared to begin the field of Education to respond to the needs of the society. Technological advances encourage us to be more creative in our ministry. We also dare to minister to scavengers, “Cafe” women and students with special needs.
The challenges we face in our ministry include: in the pastoral ministry, the spirit of sacrifice to visit people in remote places, being wiser in the use of communication media for the faith formation of the people; in education ministry, the demands of government regulations and improving the quality of education; in health ministry, government programs for equitable distribution of free health services. In Social Charity and JPIC ministry, we dare to voice the right to life of people who are treated unjustly.
Future Vision and Possibilities for Crossing Further Borders.
Based on the direction of the 15th General Chapter, we as Kalimantan SSpS Province are committed to look for the possibility of crossing further boundaries in spreading the good news of God to all people, especially those who do not know Christ.
Moved by the Life-Giving Spirit, we strengthen our passion for God’s mission, we strive to cross barriers to meet people where they are, especially those who are excluded or excluded from this world. (XVth General Chapter Direction)
= We commit ourselves to make the Holy Spirit the breath of life that gives us the courage to sacrificially share our lives, in order to fight for and protect the weak, the marginalized, the innumerable and the excluded.
Being awakened to the cry of the Triune God through the pain and suffering of Mother Earth and our marginalized sisters and brothers, ecological conversion and sustainable living become ethical and moral imperatives. (Direction of the XVth General Chapter)
= We believe in God’s help, guidance and providence that enables us to give respect and honor to human dignity and to take concrete action to plant, care for and nurture the life of Mother Earth.
We recognize that we are part of the dark side of the Church and society. In awareness and helplessness, we stand in hope and unity with a wounded and divided world. We commit ourselves to radically live consecrated religious life in a multi-cultural, international and inter-generational community. (Direction of the XVth General Chapter).
= We strive to live always in the presence of God and experience His love as the source of life, to have a deep relationship with the Triune God as the source of our vocation life, community and mission and to make the community HOME.
In a world of constant change, rapid technological advancement and a decline in the appreciation of missionary religious values, we are required to discern the spirit continually and continuously. In the process of holistic formation, we take full responsibility for our personal integrity and personal and community transformation. (XVth General Chapter Direction).
=We are committed to make discernment a way of life, continuous life processing and the formation of evangelical values to become integrated persons, open and willing to learn new ways in apostolic ministry, holistic pastoral care.
Encouraged by the Church’s call to pilgrimage in the spirit of sodality, we organize and expand our collaboration, networking and interconnectedness. We listen to the unique voice and movement of the laity who want to live the spirituality and charism of SSpS as partners in mission. (Direction of the XVth General Chapter).
= We seek to live the Trinitarian Perichoresis (the great dance: the communication relationship) between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Living the spirituality and charism of the Congregation, and networking in response to the needs of the Mission.
Open to the new ways the Spirit moves us in mission today, we review and reimagine life and mission at all levels, while honoring our Congregational heritage. We are open to the natural process of growth and willing to let go so that something new can emerge. (XVth General Chapter Direction).
= We are committed to making effective use of existing spiritual means and are open to learning new ways of apostolic service.
“We, the SSpS of the Province of Mary, Queen of Apostles, Kalimantan, are committed to being immersed in the Trinitarian dance/dynamics, to undertake a journey of prophetic transformation to become a means of carrying the melody of compassionate love in the world.”
By: Sr. Imakulata Weka, SSpS, Sr. Imelda Irna, SSpS – (Team Communication) and the Provincial Leadership Team (Sr. Albina Ifi, SSpS-Provincial, Sr. Hermine Tuli Beding, SSpS-Councilor and Sr. Agnes Maria Beto, SSpS-Councilor).