ASIA/INDONESIA - Missionary biker, last foreign bishop, says goodbye to Kalimantan

Tuesday, 21 February 2023 evangelization   missionaries   mission   indigenous  

Sanggau (Agenzia Fides) - At the wheel of his "two-wheeler" he covered miles and miles on the rough roads of West Kalimantan. He visited villages, celebrated the Eucharist and gave the sacraments, catechized children, young people and adults, brought the proclamation of the Gospel to indigenous groups who had never heard of Christ Jesus led caravans with humanitarian aid, or simply made long journeys to spend a few days with communities in remote places that very rarely saw a priest. This is why Monsignor Giulio Mencuccini, religious of the Congregation of the Passion (the so-called "Passionists"), is nicknamed and known to all as the "motorcycle missionary", the means of transport that has accompanied his 48 years of missionary work in the forests of Borneo in Indonesia.
During the summer of 2022, the Bishop handed over, with joy in his heart, the leadership of the Diocese of Sanggau, in the province of West Kalimantan, to his Indonesian confrere, Valentinus Saeng, also a Passionist. Msgr. Mencuccini ended his missionary and pastoral service in Indonesia with emotion and gratitude, a nation to which he dedicated 48 years of his life, including 32 as bishop, until Bishop Saeng, appointed by Pope Francis, was ordained Bishop in Sanggau in November 2022.
"I say goodbye to you with joy in my heart, I leave you in good hands", he said to the faithful. "I am happy because the Pope has chosen my successor, the second Bishop of the diocese of Sanggau". Msgr. Mencuccini sees the presence of a new indigenous Bishop (Valentinus Saeng is a Dayak indigenous) and also young (54 years old) "a great blessing for our diocese of Sanggau", appreciating in particular the "strong passion of his confrere for the new methods of evangelization". With Msgr. Saeng's appointment, all dioceses in Indonesia are now led by Indonesian bishops, with Mencuccini having been the last foreign bishop (and missionary) in the country.
The bishop remembers with enthusiasm the time of his mission in Borneo, which he accomplished with a particular dynamism, always moving a lot: "I often wanted to make several visits to all the villages of the diocese and participate fully in the cultural and traditional festivities of the different places, so that I can really be with the faithful. Their faces, their simplicity, their faith, all these beautiful memories will always remain in my heart. I told the faithful that I consider them and will always consider them as brothers and sisters in the same faith".
"When I was chosen as bishop of the diocese of Sanggau, he continues, I chose 'Ministerium meum in ministrando' as my pastoral motto. In such a vast and densely forested territory, there were great difficulties in reaching remote areas. Over time, I realized that my pastoral service could even be "fun", always surprising, never static, made many motorcycle trips, in the company of many young people"
During the 32 years of his mission, the Catholic population of the two civil districts of Sanggau and Sekadau, which are part of the diocese, grew to about 340,000 faithful out of a total population of 700,000. The bishop said to the faithful: "Now it's your turn: I hope you will be the salt, the light and the leaven in this diocese, walking together for the spiritual enrichment and human prosperity of all. I will always be close to you with my prayers".
The people of the Sanggau and Sekadau districts sent many messages of deep gratitude to the Bishop-motorcyclist. Local civil authorities also thanked him and recognized his meritorious work for the development of local communities, recalling the many churches, schools, kindergartens, social centers and structures for young people that he built, that he organized and which operate today for the benefit of society.
Born in 1946 in Fossacesia (Chieti), he made his solemn profession in the Congregation of the Passionists in 1964. Ten years later, Mencuccini left for Indonesia and was ordained bishop in Sanggau on June 3, 1990.
During his 48 years as a missionary in Indonesia, he never stopped cultivating his passion as a missionary-cyclist during his short stays in Italy. He led hundreds of motorcyclists on the annual solidarity motorcycle ride from Fossacesia to Rosello, in his native region of Abruzzo. He also organized and led biker rallies to the sanctuary of San Gabriele dell'Addolorata (Teramo), also in Abruzzo, raising awareness among young bikers of solidarity and concrete help in the missions. The mission, he concludes, is to go, to move, to go towards one's neighbour, towards those who await a word of love, a message of hope for their lives, with the joy of the Gospel of Christ". (PA/MH) (Agenzia Fides, 21/2/2023)