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A Korean Salesian reflects

By Br. Philip Neri Hwang Bokman

Araimiri, Papua New Guinea, 3 December 2109 -- Br. Philip Neri Hwang Bokman is not very young in chronological terms but his heart is full of enthusiasm and missionary zeal. He has already an extensive experience in Salesian missionary life. Through an agreement between the Provincials of KOR and PGS he recently went for a missionary experience in Papua New Guinea in November 2019. He shares his reflections after his missionary experience.

“When I arrived in Port Moresby I was welcomed by the confreres from the Provincial house. My arrival was a reason for a simple family celebration with the confreres who happened to be in the Provincial house. Then I was given a few days cultural orientation by the Provincial, Fr. Alfred Maravilla, so that I could understand the Melanesian culture and help me through my initial cultural shock.

On the fourth day after my arrival I was on my way to Araimiri, the first Salesian presence in PNG. After 8 hours by very rough road, we reached Kerema, the Provincial centre of the Gulf Province. Then we had to cross the Bay for a 20 minute dinghy ride. On the other side of the shore we had to ride again on the truck for 45 minutes through bush track until we reached Don Bosco Araimiri. I noticed that the truck was marked as a gift of the John Lee Foundation.

Araimiri is a station where we have a Secondary School with around 200 boys and girls, many come from remote villages, and the parish which is a few kilometers away through bush track. The community of 5 Salesians and 3 MSI Sisters work together to serve the young and the people of the area. I was able to visit the villages of Ovaa, Akapiru and Herehere, with their own chapels and learning centres. I also saw the plaque in the chapel of Herehere remembering the Mission Office of the SDB Korean Province for sponsoring its construction.

After almost a month of sharing the life of the confreres, my experience made me recall how in the early days, in my childhood, my whole family had to walk even for more than an hour to go for mass to our parish, just like the people in Araimiri. In Araimiri life is tough. Confreres do not have the conveniences of daily life we now take for granted like the internet, phone coverage and electricity, except when the generator is on from 6-10 pm. But there we have time to deepen our fraternal and prayer life. This simplicity of life was what I once experienced as a young religious when we were not yet industrialised and technologically advanced as we are today in Korea. Indeed, I am very happy I came to PGS for this missionary experience.

Before I left I made a wooden tabernacle for the Church of Araimiri. I came to know later that the old tabernacle that needed replacement was actually built by another Salesian brother 40 years ago, Br. Joseph Kramar. I think like the tabernacle, we missionaries ought to be ‘where’ people can meet Jesus!”





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