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Papua New Guinea Catholics calling for international aid to build church in the western highlands

Community spirit: A scene from an offering procession during the recent fundraising launch for Sinsipai’s big, new church.

A NEW parish of largely subsistence farmers in the Papua New Guinea western highlands is seeking international help to build a church of cathedral proportions.

The 10,000 Catholics who live in the mountainous Sinsipai Sacred Heart parish congregate in a church made of corrugated iron sheeting.

Their grand design is to build a massive house of worship set against the picturesque peaks of PNG’s highlands.

The isolated Sinsipai parish was declared in 2014 and has already embarked on a rapid building program including a priest’s house and a pastoral centre with conference facilities and accommodation.

But Sinsipai’s faithful are not stopping there. 

They recently launched an international fundraising appeal to build a new place of worship, led by Church and community.

Mount Hagen Archbishop Douglas Young told local leaders the project was a huge undertaking for a rural village, but not impossible with the help of God.

Archbishop Young used a Chinese proverb as an example: “If you want to walk a long distance, you have to take one step at a time”, and he has supported the idea of building a new church as most churches in Mount Hagen archdiocese were built by early missionaries and require rebuilding or considerable maintenance.

Divine Word University Education dean associate professor Joseph Kekeya is also backing the project and has assured Sinsipai’s Catholics that all-of-community participation will see the church building completed.

He used the example of local ingenuity used during the colonial days.

“Our grandparents were asked by patrol officers to carry each part of a car from Tambul to Mendi through the bush track and reassemble the car in Mendi and start the car,” he said. “The same concept can be applied if all contribute towards the new church building.”

Sinsipai has a flourishing history as a progressive Catholic stronghold and a self-reliant community. 

It was originally the name give to the food garden of the Poika Komb people. 

The first missionaries came and set up the first church in the 1960s. The traditional chief at that time, Chief Polgi, accepted the faith and gave his prime land to the Catholic Church.

The late Divine Word Missionaries Father Francis Cruisberg was a noted leader who encouraged an open and enquiring approach to the Catholic faith. 

He was dedicated to Christian education and commitment to taking care of people in need. 

The Church community has already built a priest house and a pastoral centre.

Like many today, Sinsipai is a church community in transition − from an outstation to parish and from an aging congregation to younger members and families.

It is estimated building a new church would cost almost $900,000.

For information about  Sinsipai church project email Allan Sumb at asumb@dwu.ac.pg/allansumb7@gmail.com or the parish at Sinsibaiparish@gmail.com 

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