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Beginning of the Year of Mercy


This post is about a pilgrimage that Annie, Tabitha, and I did last December (2015) at the opening of the Mercy Door at the local Divine Mercy Shrine in Jiwaka Province.  For my non-Catholic readers, Pope Francis declared that the 2016 liturgical year (Dec 2015-Nov 2016) is a Year of Mercy, in which pilgrimage sites were designated at significant churches throughout the world.

Before beginning my post, I ask for mercy and forgiveness for all those that I have unintentionally offended during my stay in Papua New Guinea.  Being in another culture can be difficult, and I know that I have not always navigated the challenges well.  In particular, I ask forgiveness for comments I made regarding the Good Shepherd staff and students when my students boycotted my class in July 2015.  I regret some of the things I wrote and I should not have written so publicly about the incident.  I have deleted some of what I wrote.  At Good Shepherd itself we had a reconciliation mass that ended the affair; I ask for a similar reconciliation for anyone that I have offended though my inappropriate words.

Annie, Tabby, and I woke up before dawn, picked up some local seminarians and working staff from the seminary, and then drove to an outstation called Aviamp along the highway.  We located our previously arranged guide and started off over the foothills for the Divine Mercy Shrine.


Our guide was very happy to share his sweet bananas with us. We walked by his house and garden.

Our guide, whose name I have sadly forgot, was very happy to tell us stories of the old colonial times.  He said that his clan used to quarry stone from the hills, sharpen them into axe heads, and then trade them for food and women to tribes throughout the Highlands.  Also, the main valley of the Waghi was originally a swamp, so the old Australian patrol road went through the hills we walked.


There is now a cell tower on top of the ridgeline. Our guide also pointed out where a tree used to stand that the Australian patrol office had shot in order to demonstrate the power of his gun.



Here is our pilgrimage party. The man to the left of Annie is my student, Daniel. The man crouching is our handy man, Michael. My friend James is holding Tabby. The man with the green hat on the right is Andrew, who was in the BA program last year.  Some of the other young me were postulants in the Brothers of Charity.  Some people from Michael and James’s villages also came along.



The first of many gates indicating the way to the Shrine.


“Mt Anglimp City” is an exaggeration . This place used to be called Kantaimin = Kar turn’em; i.e. the place where the road ended and so cars turned around.

The walk was not as strenuous as I thought it would be.  We arrived near the Shrine well before the service was to begin, so we went to see a local Catholic high school.


The symbol on the bottom left is the traditional Jiwaka headdress.



The school was quite small, but had a very scenic setting.



Maybe Tabitha should be the school mascot?



We decided to be adventurous and walk through a stream bed to get to the shrine.



You get a good sense of how remote the shrine is from this picture.



The last gate



The girl on the right was named after the Archbishop of Mt. Hagen. Her name is “Douglas Young”!



A mix of western and PNG aesthetics. It’s the most beautiful church I’ve been in in the Highlands.

We loitered around for a few hours, I made my confession, and then we eventually made our way back to the local village for the official procession to the Shrine, which was led by the Archbishop.



As always, my children drew their own crowd.



The Procession begins!



Here’s a gate we missed during our stream walk.



The line for the Mercy Door



The door, after the mass


It was a well-organized mass, with lots of good singing and music.  The Archbishop explained well the nature of indulgences and merit in tok pisin.  After a hearty meal, the Archbishop then gave us a ride to our car.  We actually got a flat tire on the way home, but my car full of young gentlemen fixed it for me and the road-side vegetable venders gave us free cucumbers to tide us over.

All in all a good trip, though I want more mountains to cross on my next pilgrimage.


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