Port Moresby (Agenzia Fides) – The Missionaries of Immaculate Mary have been on the small islands of Kiriwina, part of Papua New Guinea, for over 20 years now, working among the local indigenous peoples.
The missionary sisters, who are part of the religious family of PIME, have embraced the local culture of what are among Papua's most populated islands (with over 20,000 inhabitants), seeking to bring it the Gospel.
The Kiriwina Islands (also known as the Trobriand Islands) are very different from the other islands of Papua. This is the result of a cultural factor; while the majority of Guineans are Melanesians, the inhabitants of Kiriwina are of Polynesian origin. They are people who are very tied to their culture and their own traditions. Although many, especially the youth, leave the islands to go and live in the city, they remain very united to their own identity and when they return to their villages, they live out their traditions. “Of course, this culture needs to be purified and enriched with the Gospel,” the missionaries say. They arrived for the first time in 1986 and have been stably present since 1988.
The sisters are part of an international community that is dedicated to pastoral work: visiting families and organizing activities for children, teenagers, and adults. “The people actively participate in the liturgy, especially in songs during the Mass,” they say.
Considering the ability of the people to carve wood, the sisters organized a professional training course called “A Project for Developing Abilities” that helps youth to learn an artisan trade and begin making a small income.
Today, the missionaries are a point of reference for the population and for the entire local Church. Papua New Guinea has a population of nearly 6 million inhabitants living on its various islands. The people live a simple life, often without electricity and water. Evangelization of the islands began in 1845 with the Marists and continued with the PIME missionaries.
Today, there are 19 dioceses on the island. The Church in Papua works for communion and unity, respecting the various ethnic groups present, also working in the area of ecumenism, along with the other Christian denominations present. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 28/7/2009)