Monday, December 23, 2013

'The Walking Apostle': a documentary film to restart the mission among Indonesian Catholics

In order to pay tribute to Austrian-born Fr Y B Prenthaler, a Jesuit missionary who contributed to the spread of Catholicism in central Java in the early 1900s, the Diocesan Commission for Social Communications of the Archdiocese of Semarang produced a 110 minutes documentary film titled Pedibus Apostolorum (The Walking Apostle). 

Centred on a man who was a living witness to the Gospel, which he brought to local communities by walking for miles in the mountainous areas of Bukit Menoreh, the docu-film was shot in Indonesian with English subtitles, and has already caught the attention of many Catholics. 

As part of its pre-Christmas schedule, MetroTV will broadcast the documentary next weekend nation-wide.

Together with Fr van Lith, a Dutch Jesuit who played a leading role in the mission of evangelisation in Sendangsono (Java) in the early 1900s, Fr Prenthaler bore witness to the Gospel for 26 years, contributing to the spread of Christianity in the mountainous areas of Central Java. 

He carried out his first mission in Boro and then Sendangsono, five km away, replacing Fr Van Lith when the latter was called to lead a Catholic school in Muntilan. 

For many Indonesians, Boro and Sendangsono are the cradle of Christianity, spreading from here to the rest of Central Java province. Indeed, to this day, most priests, nuns and religious who bear witnesses to the Gospel across the Indonesian archipelago come from here.

Already well appreciated by Indonesian Catholics, the docu-film on Fr Prenthaler is the brainchild of Fr Noegroho Agoeng PR, head of the Diocesan Commission for Social Communications in Semarang, who edited and produced it. 

For the clergyman, the whole process was "an experience of faith" made ​​possible thanks to funding from Catholics in Boron and Sendangsono. "We handled all the material used in the making of the film," he explained, "including the historical research, documentary photos, production and editing."

"My goal was to boost enthusiasm among Catholics in the Archdiocese of Semarang," the priest added, "so that they could nurture the spirit of the apostolate through modern media."

Choosing Fr Prenthaler, he noted, was a good idea because he "was a prominent figure in Boro Parish" where he performed ​​"an outstanding service for 26 years, which many of us today might forget."

The docu-film was made possible by the cooperation of 133 faithful and a 70-member crew, "who all worked with joy and serenity."

Fr Prenthaler was a great example of Christian witness among the natives, a role model who was able to pass on "material and spiritual prosperity to the people."

The Austrian missionary managed to organise a famous place of pilgrimage in Sendagsono, where a small Marian grotto was built in 1904, and replica of the more famous one in Lourdes. He died in 1946 and was buried at Boro.

Indonesia is the most populous Muslim nation in the world. Catholics are a small minority of about seven million, or 3 per cent of the population. In the Archdiocese of Jakarta, the faithful represent 3.6 per cent of the population.

Although the country's constitution recognises religious freedom, Catholics have been the victims of violence and abuse, especially in areas where extremist visions of Islam are entrenched, like Aceh. 

Still, Catholics are an active component in society and have contributed to the nation's development as well as to emergency operations when they arise, as was the case in last January's devastating flood.

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