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Wednesday, 26 August 2015 00:29

Lake Kopiago - Part 5 - Tearful Farewell

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Overwhelmed by emotion, many parishioners tried to hold on to Fr Jerome Overwhelmed by emotion, many parishioners tried to hold on to Fr Jerome

After days filled with celebrations and blessings, the time had finally come to say goodbye to Kopiago (and for the people to say goodbye to their beloved parish priest, Father Jerome, who had served them for the past ten years.)

 

At the end of one of the Holy Masses, the people presented Father Jerome and the mission team with traditional gifts.  Later, they summoned Father and the team to present them with pig meat - a very valuable and symbolic gift in the cultures of the people of the Highlands region of PNG.

In the morning of our last day, hundreds of people came to the fill up the newly blessed church.  The bishop spoke of how the early disciples and Apostles were sent to all corners of the known world.  Had they stayed in Jerusalem, the Catholic Faith would be unknown anywhere but there.  So too with missionaries like Father Jerome.  He had served the people of Lake Kopiago for over ten years, now the Holy Spirit had called him to another mission.

Before the final blessing, Father Jerome addressed the people one last time inside their newly blessed church.  He thanked them for their love and support and encouraged them to continue to go forward as the vibrant Christian community that they are.  After his words and extending after the Holy Mass, many people (men, women and children) were moved to tears.

After the Holy Mass, we went to the Priest House to prepare things for travel.  Not long after, we heard the plane circling overhead.  As we exited the priest house, many people rushed Father Jerome and clung to him.  They didn't want him to leave them.  As we finally began the walk to the airstrip, hundreds of parishioners accompanied us - some still overcome by emotion.

There were even more people waiting at the airstrip.  There were many handshakes and hugs and tears.  Father Jerome, who is known for his sense of humour, tried to make the people laugh.  He addressed the people one last time, thanking them once again for their love and support.  His last words to them were words of blessing.

A priest is a very important person in the life of a Catholic community, especially in a community as remote and forgotten as Lake Kopiago.  He became a true father for them.  It was moving and inspiring to see the outpouring of love, gratitude and affection for this man of God.  It reminded me of Paul's tearful farewell in Ephesus related in Acts 20:36.

Father Jerome is taking up a new missionary assignment in the Archdiocese of Madang.  Unfortunately, there is not another available priest to replace him at Lake Kopiago.  Please pray for vocations!

Read 2707 times Last modified on Tuesday, 01 September 2015 11:59

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