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AN EXPERIENCE OF SELF-RELIANCY – INDONESIAN STYLE
GOTAUS
(In Indonesian: Gerakan Orangtua Asuh untuk Seminaris)
Adoptive Parents for Seminarians, Indonesia

The background

It was 1996 when the Rector of St. Peter Canisius Minor Seminary (Mertoyudan, Archdiocese of Semarang), asked for an extra fund to repair the roofs of the chapel. This was the reply he got: “try to solve it yourself; the Archdiocese is 'dried up' and has no more funds”. The poor rector was surprised and declared: “It's me who should take care of the seminarians' integral formation, food, books and boarding. Should I also be thinking of raising funds?”

A small group of lay people from Jakarta was touched by this situation. They tried to do something to help this poor rector. And they soon realized the alarming situation: “This is just one seminary, what about the other 28 minor seminaries around the archipelago?” These lay people decided to do something in order to offer a small help. Unfortunately, the financial crisis that hit Asia and Indonesia in 1997 caused a great difficulty on them. They faced problems from people who “put a question mark about their motivation”. So, for a while, the seed was under the ground.

Some years passed. But the spirit was still there and meetings, sharings and new awareness kept it alive. The seed slowly grew up. Some priests from the Seminary Commission of the Bishops' conference joined and shared in the concern of this group of lay people. The concern, just like the seed, grew deeper and wider, even stronger. They all realized that they indeed should participate more in the formation of their own priests. They had to take care not only of the buildings and classrooms, but also of the daily needs of the seminarians like food and books, especially in seminaries located in poor dioceses. They felt sure that a participation of the lay people was unavoidable. Hence, they came to a consensus: we need a lay movement to sponsor and support the seminaries, especially those in need. Thus a movement of lay people was born – GOTAUS. Monthly or yearly these lay people meet and offer a sum of money for the seminarians who are in need and for the different necessities of the minor seminaries.

Here, Msgr. José A. Galvez (Secretary General of P.O.S.P.A) discusses
GOTAUS' provisions with its officers,
Fr. Sridanto Aribowo on the left and Mr. H. Susmanto on the right.

Initial Responses and Support

The Indonesian Bishops' Conference gives support to this movement and at present GOTAUS is linked to the Episcopal Commission on Seminaries. Mgr. Blasius Pudjaraharja, the Bishop in charge of seminaries in Indonesia, together with his executive secretary, Rev. Sridanto Aribowo, are members of the executive board. The Pontifical Mission Societies of Indonesia, especially the Pontifical Society of St. Peter the Apostle, did take part in the growth of this seed. The Indonesian National Director joined in some meetings and shared the life and vision of Jeanne Bigard. In the very first months of its growth, the P.M.S. national office hosted the secretariat of this movement in its office. In its publication and animation, the P.M.S. national office always encourages more and more participants for GOTAUS not only in the island of Java but for the whole archipelago.

The lay people are very happy about this movement. This was evident in their active and direct involvement when the secretariat was being established. They voluntarily took part in the campaign and spreading of the movement. With Mr. H.Y. Susmanto as the president and Mr. A. Sandiwan Suharto as the vice-president, they received so many helping hands and support. Special masses and evening gatherings were organized to raise funds and help in spreading this movement to others. The vice-president, who directs the national catholic magazine, “Hidup”, also makes use of this periodical to introduce the movement. As of September 2001, there were 325 donors, either as individual or groups.

The executive board consists of: the president, vice-president, counsellors, secretary, treasurers, auditors and representatives coming from the fundraising, formation and development, public relation and communication and program/celebrations committees.

Donation and Transparency

Every donor is free to give whatever sum of money. In the executive board two persons act as treasurers and another two auditors. The board meets regularly and in transparency, the financial report of the fund is always ready. As of 30 September 2001, the funds reached the amount of (Indonesian Rupiah) 425,091,909.34 of which (Indonesian Rupiah) 309,510,000.00. were distributed to the seminaries.

There is regular information and publication, wherein the report of funds received and distributed are given. All the names of the donors are published in this publication. As of this moment, GOTAUS has been able to help 28 seminaries in Indonesia (3.959 seminarians), with priority given to the minor seminarians.

Msgr. Galvez with Fr. Sridanto Aribowo

The seed is growing

At the beginning, it was a small and tiny seed; or just a small group of lay people. But, later, through the years, there it was, growing and growing, just like the parable of Jesus in the Gospel.

The Indonesian lay people realize that they should take part in the formation of their future priests. Thanks be to God, the church of Indonesia is rich in vocations. The chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Seminaries, Msgr. Blasius Pudjaraharja, describes the situation with these words: “I am very glad to know that every year the number of seminarians is rising, but at the same time, I am confused. How can we give them enough food?” For it is also true that the Church experiences financial difficulties in how to support those in formation.

And yet the awareness of the Indonesian lay people to help in the formation of their priests came about through the papal writing “Novo Millenio Inuente”. This is a fruit of the Jubilee Year - a concrete answer to “Duc in Altum”. If the church of Indonesia has been receiving helps, grants, subsidies from the Universal Church, through their funds and missionaries, then it is time now to start being self-supportive, self-reliant and to prepare future missionaries not only for Indonesia but for the church in general. As Pope John Paul II said in his 2002 Lent message: “We have received much, gratuitously, so we have to give also much, gratuitously!”.

We are grateful to the lay people of Indonesia for the seed which will hopefully grow deeper and wider. May the prayer of Jeanne Bigard and her mother help GOTAUS’ growth materially and especially spiritually. We dream that “GOTAUS” will spread and in the future share its solidarity even to other seminaries outside of our country that could be in worse condition. For there is nothing impossible to God. Just as the seed was small, God advances its growth - at first it was nothing, but now it is something. May God bless all our lay supporters.

Contributed by Rev. Fr. Terry Ponomban
P.M.S. National Director

Jakarta, 15 February, 2002

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