The pilgrimage begins this month and will end in October. The pilgrimage offers a spiritual deepening and renewal of the Catholic faith which began at Yule Island in 1885. It is there that Bishop Henry Verjus and other Sacred Heart missionary priests, catechists and volunteers planted and nourished the seed of the Catholic faith.
Today, it has grown into a very big, strong, and fruitful tree giving rise to many local priestly and religious vocations, numerous and outstanding catechists, model families, committed Christians in their respective fields in public institutions, non-government organizations and private sectors. Also, Yule Island, the cradle of Catholic faith that has given birth to three dioceses: The Diocese of Bereina, The Diocese of Kerema, and the Archdiocese of Port Moresby.
The pilgrims from Mary Help of Christians, Sabama commenced their journey on July 13, 2016. Fifty members consisting of mothers, fathers and young people including their parish priest, Fr. Sonny Fajardo, SDB, arrived at the island in the evening and were welcomed by Fr. Dominic, MSC the outgoing parish priest and Fr. Sebastian, MSC the new parish priest. Group leader, Louisa Wambon then led the pilgrims in a prayerful Stations of the Cross towards the memorial hill.
On July 14, prayed the Glorious Mysteries. At the memorial hill, the parish priest celebrated mass and offered this as a thanksgiving to God for the gift of faith brought by the missionaries, praying for all the missionaries who have come to the island, both the living and the death.
He uged the group to imitate the missionaries who were passionate about their faith and courageously lived their life to a heroic degree. The afternoon gave the participants the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the past; visiting the structures and buildings of the Sacred Heart Sisters Community, the abandoned Church and Convent of the Carmelites Sisters, the Novitiate of the Sacred Heart Sisters, the St. Patrick Primary School, and the Health Centre where most of the villages around the island go for their medical needs. At three o’clock, the group offered the Divine Mercy Chaplet praying for all the missionaries buried in the cemetery, where Bishops Navarre and Sorin lie peacefully.
The third day, July 15, 2016 was spent in prayer, meeting, entertaining, and feasting with the people of Tsiria village. From the camp, the group walked 30 minutes to the entrance of the village, as they recited the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary. Mass was then celebrated for the intention of the villagers. In his homily, Fr. Sonny reminded the congregation not to forget “gift” God gave to the people of Yule Island – the gift of Faith as lived and witnessed by the missionaries, and the invitation to continue as missionaries in their own respective situations. Three items were performed by the youths of MHC Sabama for the villagers, who appreciated the same. Refreshments which turned out to be a feast of tapioca, bread fruit, banana, greens, and abundant fish were prepared by the villagers and shared by all.
In the morning of July 16, 2016, Fr. Dominic, MSC and Fr. Sebastian, MSC joined at the Eucharistic concelebration. The group gave thanks to God for His care and guidance, for the experience of “owning” the gift of faith which was shared by the missionaries, and the challenge to be “conquered” by the witness of the missionaries. Before lunch, the group crossed over to Poukama village to wait for their transport en route to Port Moresby.
For many, the pilgrimage was an experience of going back to the “roots”, of recognizing the passion, the sacrifices, the offering of so many generous souls for Christ. It was also a time of healing, renewing one’s faith and the challenge to bear witness to the Christ at all times. A second pilgrimage is also planned in the weeks ahead.