ASIA/INDONESIA - Sacred Heart Church in Ganjuran: pilgrimages and popular devotion in Javanese style

Thursday, 6 June 2024 popular worship   faith   inculturation  

Yogyakarta (Agenzia Fides) - For a hundred years, the Sacred Heart Church in Ganjuran, south of Yogyakarta on the Indonesian island of Java, has been one of the most visited. On the feast day, June 7, this place, with its unique cultural background and history, is preparing to receive thousands of pilgrims who come not only from the island of Java but also from other Indonesian islands. Muslim believers also visit the sanctuary. Father Fransiskus Purwanto, of the Sanata Dharma University in Yogyakarta, recalls that the devotion to the Sacred Heart was introduced by missionaries and spread rapidly, welcomed by the local Javanese community and also by the Muslim believers. Devotion to the Sacred Heart is essentially spiritual, but it is also expressed through social commitment by helping the most needy and poorest in society, he notes.
The Ganjuran Sanctuary, begun in 1924 and consecrated in 1930 by Gerard Marie Franciscus van Velsen, then Archbishop of Jakarta, features the typical Javanese style in its architectural, structural, artistic and cultural design, in a combination of "Mataram" style and "Majapahit" structures. Father Soegijopranata, a local parish priest who later became the first native bishop of Indonesia in 1941, introduced the custom of procession with the Blessed Sacrament as a sign of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Ganjuran is a place where believers come to seek healing from illnesses, and there are many testimonies from pilgrims who report being healed after bathing in the waters of the spring that rises beneath the temple. The Rosary is also prayed in the sanctuary with its Marian Grotto, built next to the church on February 11, 1929, the date and month of the apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes. Here, the devotion to Mary is intertwined with the devotion to the Sacred Heart, and people follow the Javanese custom of climbing the stairs barefoot when offering incense and flowers to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The church in Ganjuran was built in 1924 on the initiative of the Dutch Catholic sugar plantation owner Dr. Julius Schmutzer. The man and his family actively sought to create a fruitful connection between Christianity and native cultures: "Catholicism can and must absorb any culture it comes into contact with, purify it and imbue it with divine life," they stressed. It was with this cultural and artistic concept in mind that the church was built. The pillars and ceiling reflect Javanese colors, while the angels on the side of the altar are designed in the wayang style, a local term for Javanese puppet theater design.
The images and statues of Jesus Christ and Mary are also depicted with Javanese royal images, while the bas-reliefs of the Stations of the Cross in the church depict Jesus, the Roman soldiers and Pontius Pilate all wearing traditional Javanese clothing and accessories. For the parish and the town's citizens, the church is an integral part of their religious and cultural identity. After the severe damage caused by the 2006 earthquake, the church was restored to its original style. In recent times, Father Gregorius Utomo (1929-2020), who worked for years in Ganjuran, promoted the practice of pilgrimages by introducing a series of cultural and social activities. Father Utomo organized social development projects to help the poor and introduced the celebration of "World Food Day" in the Indonesian Church, which began in October 1990, when the parish church in Ganjuran hosted a seminar for farmers from all over Asia on the occasion of this day. At this seminar, the "Ganjuran Declaration" was also developed, which encourages farmers to practice sustainable, ecological, economically fair and balanced, culturally appropriate and socially just agriculture. A pioneer in the protection of the "common home", the priest urged and helped farmers to grow local organic rice using compost instead of chemical fertilizers. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 6/6/2024)