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FLORES – THE LAND WHERE FLOWERS BLOSSOM INTO FRUITS

Flores (from the Spanish word meaning “flowers”) is part of the immense chain that comprises the archipelago of Indonesia. Lying close to the equator, Flores is a long, narrow and rugged island marked with dramatic volcanoes and beautiful mountain lakes and forests. Strategically located between the bigger islands of Java and Timor, it is just 360 kilometers long and varies from 12 to 70 kilometers wide.

There were early records of trade with Chinese and other Asian races since the 12th century A.D. But the Portuguese re-discovered the island in 1515 and named it Flores in 1544. Though Flores offered little economic benefit to the Iberians, the island gave good anchorage to sea vessels plying the area. By 1570, the first missionaries set foot in the eastern part of Larantuka.

Around 1630, the Portuguese built a fort in middle portion of the island called Ende and they won the friendship of the ruling family, the Rajah of Sikka. Since the Rajah was educated by the missionaries, this started the long tale of loyalty between the Flores people and the Catholic Church.


A picture with the 62 ordinandi (4th Year Theologians)
of "St. Peter Major Seminary" after their Sunday Mass

Later on, the Dutch took over political possession of the country although one of the provisions was that Flores would remain Catholic. The arrival of the Dutch Jesuits in 1865 revitalized interest in Catholicism in Flores. During that time, there were only 3,000 nominal Catholics left is the eastern part of the island.

Missionary activity accelerated in central and west Flores with the establishment of the mission Center in Ruteng in 1917. Within a single generation, there was such rapid conversion that western Flores was completely Christianized. It was also in this period that the S.V.D missionaries took over the missionary work in the island.

At present there are 1.4 million people living in Flores of which 85% are Catholic. There are 3 ecclesiastical jurisdictions in the island and each one has minor seminaries: Archdiocese of Ende (St. John Berchman with 435 seminarians), Diocese of Larantuka (San Dominggo with 256 seminarians) and Diocese of Ruteng (Pius XII with 313 and John Paul II with 277 seminarians).

The major seminary, St. Peter, is located near the town of Maumere in the Archdiocese of Ende. For 47 years, it has opened its doors to 1594 candidates of whom 558 were ordained as priests and 4 were ordained as bishops. At present, this institution houses 14 priest-formators, 2 sisters and 57 lay workers. And for the present school year, there are 291 major seminarians coming from 6 dioceses.


The seminarians of "St. Peter Major Seminary"
on their way to classes in their "schoolbus."

The Pontifical Society of St. Peter the Apostle (P.O.S.P.A.) is proud to have assisted in the growth of Christianity in Flores. In 1999, it has provided US$ 100,000 for the construction of a new seminary located in Maumere. And in the past 10 years or so, it has provided scholarships to 16 local priests in pursuing further studies.

Right now, vocations continue to abound in this beautiful island. Some religious congregations have Indonesians, mostly from Flores, who comprise as their largest number in terms of nationality (e.g., S.V.D, M.S.C, etc.). It is heartening to think that less than a century ago, there were no local priest coming from Flores. Perhaps, its flowers are now beginning to turn into fruits, thanks to efforts of many including P.O.S.P.A.

   

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