Focus 2004

Papua N.Guinea - FIN15-09-2004

Project: The Salesian Works in Papua New Guinea
Date of foundation: 1980
Place: Papua New Guinea
Province: FIN - Delegation of Papua New Guinea

On June 14, 1980 when the first group of Salesians stepped into St. Peter’s Vocational School in Araimiri, the one and sole objective in the mid of the two priests and two lay brothers was to assist the young of the poorest section of Papua New Guinea. They arrived from the yet undivided Philippine province of Manila.

Nestled in the forested swamps of the Gulf region of PNG, Don Bosco Araimiri faced all odds in order to give a proper education to boys and girls who were mainly rejects of the academic system. The government simply could not accept them as it had only a limited subsidy for a mere fraction of those eligible. For sixteen school years the Salesian institution welcomed hundreds of boys and girls and opened up for them possibilities for better living.

The going was not easy. The school suffered many setbacks - like lack of teachers and the difficulty to obtain necessary supplies. But the blow that was hardest to bear was when the sea began to eat into the property. At one point the waves cleared off the staff houses in one sweep. Gradually, a decision was taken to phase out the school and in 1997 the centre was converted into a meeting place for pastoral programmes of the Diocese.

Despite these hurdles, the work continued. Fourteen years later Papua New Guinea was raised to the status of a delegation. The expansion was quick and geographically strategic. The Salesian extended their services to all of the 19 zones of the country.

Confreres and works:
Today, 35 Salesians run 7 educational institutions with the help of lay mission partners and lay volunteers. Many of today’s teachers had once been students of Salesian schools. Today they work alongside their one-time educators and guides.

The thrust in most of the works is technical education. The salesians have 5 Technical Schools and Training Centres and one Technical College (DBTI). The number of students benefiting from Technical education are about 800 students who come from all parts of the country.

Looking ahead:
On the threshold of silver jubilee of their presence, the Salesians of PNG are moving towards the next phase. From the pioneering stage of the first 25 years they wish to consolidate their works. In spite of the scarcity of confreres there is plenty of work and new development in each presence continues to grow. The confreres are hard at it and busy through the seven days of each week. There is a remarkable fraternal spirit in the communities. Sharing and cheerfully putting up with the privations and inconveniences of everyday challenges is part of the adventure of this post-pioneering phase.

As the Salesians commemorate the Silver Jubilee of their Salesian presence in PNG, the story of how four simple Salesians disembarked on the shores of Araimiri with just their staunch faith and great love for the young, will be a story to celebrate and thank God for.