Skip to main content

Carmel in Papua New Guinea Gateway to Oceania

Fr. Christian B. Buenafe, O.Carm.

Oceania is the region in between the continents of Asia and Australia, it consists of big and small island countries that stretch and spread out in the vast Pacific Ocean. These are the countries of Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Fiji and Samoan Islands,

Cook Island and the Marianas group of islands, among others. The Order is present in the Asian and Australian continents, thus, our PNG foundation is our gateway to Oceania.

Celebrating the golden harvest of the O.Carm. mission in the Philippines (1958 - 2008), on its 50th year of faithful presence and dedicated service in the Church of the Philippines, after thorough deliberation and process of discernment, the General Commissariat of Carmel Philippines during its 2nd General Commissariat Chapter held on February 14-18, 2008 in Agusan Carmel in northern Mindanao, approved and adopted that mission ad gentes is the commissariat’s priority project and will be Carmel’s concrete gift to the Church and to the world on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Order’s foundation, presence and mission in the Philippines.

At the closing of the Chapter, the Commissary General, Fr. Artemio D. Jusayan, O.Carm., joyfully announced that the commissariat had accepted the invitation of the Bishop of the Diocese of Bereina in Papua New Guinea. Within the closing mass, after due consultation with the concerned friars, the three (3) pioneering friars were named and appointed to compose the founding community in our PNG mission; namely, Fr. Perfecto Adeva, Jr., O.Carm. (Prior), Fr. Reynold Jose Severin Caigoy, O.Carm. and Fr. Edwin Magbago, O.Carm. The friars underwent a series of preparations before they embarked on their new assignments. They underwent mission orientation, team building, spiritual reparation and retreat, family integration and vacation, medical check-ups and preparations and the like until they left for PNG on October 15, 2008. They were warmly received by Bereina Bishop Rochus Tatamai, MSC, the clergy and the Kuni people in Kubuna Parish (some 250 kms. away from the capital, Port of Moresby) on October 19, 2008 in a commissioning mass and grand welcome. They were appointed and installed as: Fr. Adeva- Formator of Diocesan seminarians, Fr. Caigoy- Pastoral Center Director, and Fr. Magbago- Parish Priest of Kuni Parish. Kuni Parish comprises all the areas (mountains, hills, plains, rivers, settlements, and the like) belonging to the Kuni people. The Diocese of Bereina entrusted to the Carmelite community the pastoral care of the Kuni people’s mission stations in Kubuna, Bakuiodo, and Ineka, the Alan Boismenu Diocesan Pastoral Center and the Formation House which are located in Kubuna. At the start, the community lived in Kubuna mission station together with diocesan seminarians, also administering St. Michael Church, the Formation House and the Pastoral Center. The government’s primary school nearby is also under the responsibility of the pastor as he is the Chair of the School Board.

The community lived a very simple life. The mission stations have no electricity and the villages are far distant from the mission stations, but the friars continued living their community dynamics with the same vigor and enthusiasm as when they were still in the Philippines. The following year, Fr. Reynold Caigoy, O.Carm. was asked to help in the installation and programming of the diocesan radio station Radio Torot (in honor of Blessed Peter Torot, the first martyr of the PNG) and was appointed Diocesan Youth Chaplain. The community immersed themselves in the life-situation of the Papua New Guineans as they studied and learned the Papua New Guinean and the Melanesian cultures.

It may be recalled that the birthing of the PNG mission was initially prepared by Fr. Anthony Scerri, O.Carm. who was the General Councilor for Asia-Australia-Africa in 2006, and with the assistance of Fr. Paul Sireh, O.Carm. of the Australian-Timor Leste Province. An initial study of a possibility to start the mission had been approved in 2007. Fr. Artemio Jusayan, O.Carm. and the late Fr. Christopher Exala, O.Carm., then Head of the Task Force Mission Ad Gentes and member of the Order’s International Commission for Evangelization visited the proposed mission site, held meetings with the Bishop, and explored some possible ministries if the Order were to go and start a mission in PNG. This dream and plan was finally realized in 2008 upon the arrival of the three (3) friars and they became a mission community of the Philippine General Commissariat and named St. Albert Friary of PNG Carmel.

In 2009, the Commissary General together with Frs. Peter Kramer and Anton Hoogland visited our PNG mission and spent some good time with our brothers in the mission areas. In 2010, two (2) student friars joined the community for ten (10) months as part of their integration year program, Brothers Pablo Ramirez and Marlon Beredo, O.Carm.

There are also young men who expressed their intention of joining the Order. The friars initially set up the aspirancy program, while some requirements are still to be completed, especially the academic, personality, and motivational aspects of the applicants. Brother Paul Kaptain Pakao, our first Papua New Guinean applicant who joined us in 2010 is now a novice in Manila.

In May 2011, Fr. Gerald Flor Gutierrez Gutierrez, O.Carm. joined the community and was appointed Formator for Diocesan Seminarians and Pastoral Vicar in Kuni Parish based in Kubona. In July of the same year, Fr. Christian Buenafe, O.Carm., the Commissary General made his canonical visitation, together with Fr. Harry Bloem, O.Carm. During his visit, the Commissary General and the PNG Carmelite friars held a meeting with Archbishop John Ribat, MSC of Port of Moresby who had formally invited and requested the Order to establish a community in the archdiocese and had initially offered a parish and a convent where we can stay. In October, the Order accepted the administration of Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in 6mile district in Port of Moresby. The parish and the convent is in the city and around 5 km. away from the country’s main airport. This development is very positive as we have our presence in the capital as there are more available, feasible and possible ministries and programs for the Order’s presence and missionary service. The parish is also big for it has 3 other mission stations outside the downtown city.

From January 11 to 23, 2013, Fr. Albertus Herwanta, O.Carm. made his canonical visitation in PNG, then met the brothers and visited our mission stations and areas. It was also a time for discernment and celebration of our fraternity as we face the challenges ahead.

In November 18, 2012, Br. Pablo Ramirez, O.Carm. returned to PNG for his pastoral year and returned to the Philippines in February 2013 to prepare for his priestly ordination. In April 2013, he was ordained to the priesthood and eventually was assigned to our community in PNG and arrived in the mission in June 2014. In August 2014, Fr. Ramirez was appointed Diocesan Youth Coordinator and Diocesan BEC (Basic Ecclesial Community) Coordinator. He is in charge of organizing the youth in the diocesan level and helping the parishes and mission stations in building basic Christian communities.

Also, Fr. Caigoy relinquished his other tasks and now serves as the Diocesan Pastoral Coordinator and helps all the parishes in their pastoral direction setting and skilling of priests and lay leaders’ pastoral management. From time to time, he also gives lectures and facilitates trainings in pastoral management, lay formation, catechesis and organizational development.

In April 2015, Fr. Salvic Pajarillo, O.Carm. joined our PNG community and was assigned in our parish in 6mile district in Port of Moresby as Parochial Vicar.

All in all, we have six (6) friars in this beautiful country of Papua New Guinea. The friars live in two separate community houses -- one in Kubuna and the other in Port of Moresby. They hold and conduct regular meetings, recollections, retreats, lectio divina, community prayers and Eucharist in their respective realities. They come together very regularly especially when they are all in the capital of Port of Moresby.

Sometimes, our friars give classes and courses in some Catholic schools. Also they give conferences and facilitate retreats to other religious congregations and religious groups in PNG. The Order through our missionaries is very much appreciated by the Bishops, the clergy, the religious and lay communities in the two dioceses where we are present.

Very recently, another milestone is the canonical visitation was conducted by Fr. Fernando Millan Romeral, O.Carm., Prior General, Fr. Benny Phang Kong Wing, O.Carm., Councilor General for Asia, Australia and Oceania, Fr. Christian Buenafe, O.Carm., Prior Provincial and Fr. Marlon Lacal, O.Carm., Provincial Councilor in early August this year. The visit was fruitful and hopeful for everyone as we had good moments of sharing and listening as Carmelite brothers, praying and breaking bread with the Kuni people, meeting with our lay leaders in our mission stations, tribal chiefs and the Kuni people, meeting with the Bishops, and visiting our OCD nuns, among others. The visit was a concrete sign of our joyful consecrated life, our faithful following of Jesus as we pledge our allegiance to Him, and celebrating our Carmelite fraternity in hope and love.

God is really the God of surprises. To date, God still surprises our brothers in the missions for every day God’s surprises unfold. Our brothers continue to discover new insights and learn new lessons in their missionary life every day. They had embarked a paradigm of pastoral ministry in a new culture and new reality of the Church. In our 7th year of Carmelite presence in PNG, God has given us many blessings. Our brothers are committed to the building of Basic Ecclesial Communities as a pastoral strategy in building the Church of the Poor in PNG. They are also working for the formation of lay leaders, empowering communities and organizing the youth. They have also taken tasks in the diocesan level as they are into parish ministry, youth ministry, lay formation program, formation of diocesan seminarians and social communication, among others.

The Order in the Philippines was founded by the Dutch Carmelites in 1958 and since then has established six canonically erected houses/communities with its mission stations located in eight dioceses in the Philippines, and our St. Albert mission community in PNG.

Let us take and continue the mission of Christ as He has sent us to proclaim the good news to all nations. We request and ask our Carmelite brothers and sisters to pray for our PNG Carmel mission that it may grow and flourish and we invite everyone to come to Carmel PNG-- our gateway to Oceania, the home of the Melanesian race.

May Mary, our Inahan sa Carmen sa Escalante keep our PNG mission in her loving maternal care, and Blessed Titus Brandsma, the patron of the Philippine Province lead us to Jesus our Lord and Brother. God bless PNG Carmel!

As Carmelites We live our life of allegiance to Jesus Christ and to serve Him faithfully with a pure heart and a clear conscience through a commitment to seek the face of the living God (the contemplative dimension of life), through prayer, through fraternity, and through service (diakonia). These three fundamental elements of the charism are not distinct and unrelated values, but closely interwoven. 

All of these we live under the protection, inspiration and guidance of Mary, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, whom we honor as "our Mother and sister."