Indonesia/ News Measurements Network
Several years ago, life wasn’t easy for Matius Samijan. Being visually impaired, the only thing he could do was become a massage therapist who looked for customers from door to door.“It was hard. I couldn’t get many clients,” he says. But he didn’t give up. The parishioner of St. Arnold Janssen Church in Bekasi, near Jakarta, did what had to be done to meet the daily needs of his blind wife and only son. Until one day in 2008, he discovered a Bible broadcast managed by Jakarta Archdiocese’s Commission for Social Communications being aired on a radio station, then called Cakrawala. Since then, he has listened to the broadcasts every morning, from 5.30 a.m. until 6.30 a.m. “[The broadcasts] strengthened me in getting through hard times,” he says. “It helps me grow in faith too."Now, in his 50s, the Catholic layman who was baptized in 1986 after converting from Islam is trying his luck with a Javanese traditional music group as a singer. Unlike Samijan, Cecilia Kelen from Holy Family Parish in South Jakarta prefers watching the one-hour Bible program through a streaming video on the commission’s YouTube channel.
The 40-year-old single woman spends at least 15 minutes starting at 5 a.m. each day watching the program on her mobile phone. “I can’t watch it all as I must attend daily Mass. But I still learn from its reflections. Sometimes they describe the situation I face, giving me the strength to face problems,” she says. Samijan and Kelen are among at least 30,000 local Catholics who regularly tune in to the Bible broadcast called Oase Rohani Katolik or ORK, begun by Salesian Father Peter Pehan Tukan. They are among more than 500,000 Catholics served by the archdiocese, according to the Directory of the Catholic Church in Indonesia.
The first program in Indonesia.
It all began in 2007 when Father Tukan, who was then a formator of Salesian seminarians, became concerned about the lack of a spiritual formation program among local Catholics.“It wasn’t enough teaching about the Bible on campuses and in schools or homilies because these reached out to only small communities. Many others needed to know about what biblical passages were all about,” he says. A year later, he launched the program after receiving approval from then archbishop of Jakarta, Jesuit Cardinal Julius Riyadi Darmaatmadja, as well as support from his friend at the radio station, which has since been renamed the Mandarin Station.“The mission is to disseminate God’s words to local Catholics and to refresh their souls with daily biblical readings and their reflections,” he says.
Currently, 12 female broadcasters and more than 30 priests serving in the archdiocese work on the program, which also has a question-and-answer session. It is broadcast on the radio once each morning. It’s also transmitted through a streaming video on the commission’s YouTube channel each morning and rerun five times during the rest of the day. Jesuit Father Ignatius Ismartono, former executive secretary of the Indonesian Bishops’ Conference’s Commission for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, is one of the priests who deliver biblical reflections for the program.“The readings are based on the Catholic liturgical calendar. When I deliver biblical reflections for the program, I focus on how they can help Catholics grow in faith, love God’s Word and then feel the joy,” he says.
The program is unique in the country.“In Indonesia, there’s no other program containing daily biblical readings and their reflections involving so many priests. Not yet,” according to commission chairman Father Matius Harry Sulistyo.“It is a first,” Father Tukan concurs. “There are religious broadcasts in other dioceses. But ORK is the only one which concentrates on daily biblical readings and their reflections by priests.”
The parable of the sower
Recently, the commission celebrated the program’s 12th anniversary with a concelebrated Mass in the hall of Our Lady of the Assumption Cathedral Church in Central Jakarta. In his homily, the archdiocese’s episcopal vicar, Jesuit Father Alexius Andang Listya Binawan, read out the parable of the sower taken from the Gospel of Matthew.“For me, it’s very inspiring in this context: how our faith must be grown in our hearts and how our hearts must be well prepared. One way is to listen to, and to open our hearts to, the program so that what we get from it can become our spiritual wealth,” he said.“This is how we serve as signs that the Kingdom of God does exist within our hearts and in society as well.” A similar outlook came from Bernadette Marita, a 52-year-old broadcaster from North Jakarta who also contributes to the program.