Enga District

ENGA DISTRICT

The first SVD missionaries Frs William Ross and Gerard Bus walked into the land of the Enga people in October 1947. Fr Bus returned in February 1948 to set up the first mission station at Pompobus. Catechists from coastal areas and from Simbu assisted the many SVD priests and brothers who followed to establish the Church over the large mountainous region.

Initially Enga belonged to the diocese of Wewak and was developed from there under Bishop Leo Arkfeld SVD. In 1959 it became part of Bishop George Bernarding’s SVD’s new vicariate of Mount Hagen. In 1982 Fr Hermann Raich SVD became the first bishop of Wabag. At the time of his accession there were 47 thousand Catholics, 141 catechists, 22 community schools, a catechist training centre, two vocational centres and three health centres.

The Diocese continued with SVD leadership, developing a vision of the Diocese and participating in the Self Study of the Church (1972-1975). The pastoral plan of the diocese as well as the charismatic movement have been strong in Enga. Over the years until it was destroyed in tribal fighting the Catechist Training Centre at Pumakos produced well-trained catechists.

In 2009 Bishop Hermann Raich passed on the leadership of the Catholic Church in the Province to diocesan Bishop Arnold Orowae. The passing on to a local bishop is indicative of the way the people have matured in their faith and are enthusiastic in their support of the Church and its mission. There is a sense of appreciation of the work of the SVD in the past and requests for further ministry in the future. Bishop Orowae has formally requested that there be more SVDs working in the diocese, however, this has not happened.

Modern technology is pouring into the Province symbolised by the stream of huge vehicles travelling along the highway to the large Porgera Gold mine and the influx of mobile phones. Yet at the same time infrastructure such as roads, and services appear to be deteriorating and many people living away from the main roads have a sense of being forgotten. The SVD are supporting efforts to counter contemporary challenges such as the HIV and AIDS crisis, drug and alcohol abuse and the consequences of new-found sexual license. There are some large isolated areas in the Province without road access and confreres are very concerned that people in such areas should not feel abandoned, particularly as frontier mission is part of the SVD charism.

The principal challenges at the present are linked to the drastic drop in numbers of SVD missionaries as the remaining members try to maintain apostolates while at the same time attempting to develop community life with more than one member under the same roof. The members are trying in faith to be optimistic about their mission in the Enga District.