SINSPAI Sacred Heart Catholic Parish is a new parish established in the Archdiocese of Mt Hagen in Western Highlands.
It has four outstations with approximately 10,000 parishioners in the Upper Nebilyer area. It has five primary schools and five elementary schools.
Sinsipai was declared a parish in 2014. The idea to start a new parish came from the late Archbishop of Mt Hagen Michael Meier who came to Sinsipai in 1992 for the final promise of late Sr Sabina Kerepia (Franciscan Sisters). He proposed that a separate parish be establish as the existing Kuruk Parish had grown big with 12 outstations. He suggested to the leaders that Sinsipai could become a parish if there was a house built for a priest.
The leaders started collecting money from church members and bought a chain saw and milled timbers in the forest without an architectural plan, material list or any idea of the overall cost of building. It took them five years and they started the construction in 1997. The house was partly completed and work stopped due to funding shortages.
The late Fr Francis Cruisberg, parish priest of Kuruk saw the need to complete the house and got K50,000 in donations from overseas and hired carpenters from the Rabiamul diocese headquarters to complete the building in 2002.
The completed house costing K100,000 has five bedrooms, one kitchen, two showerrooms and two living rooms.
Once the priest’s house was completed, the faithful planned three things: The opening, the arrival of a priest, and Sinsipai becoming a parish. This was to fulfill the dream of late Archbishop Michael Meier and late Fr Francis Crujsberg.
However, things didn’t go as planned. Church members were shocked when the late James Yalga, a young man who worked church leaders, was killed in an accident in 2004 while doing church work.
He and others were asked by Fr Cruijsberg to collect white goods at his home in Kuruk. The church leaders hired a car and picked up the white goods in Kuruk and on their way home, there was an accident and the young man was killed instantly. This was a very sad day for the church in Sinsipai.
The dream to make Sinsipai a parish was shattered after the death of James, and the former Kuruk parish priest the late Fr Cruisberg was transferred to be chaplain at Holy Trinity Teachers College and Archbishop Michael Meier retired. But the faith of the Sinsipai faithful remained strong.
They waited patiently for years and in 2009 the new archbishop Douglas Young sent Fr Bogdan to Sinsipai as a parish priest. Church leaders and members felt a little relief when they saw the house they had built for a priest was for the first time occupied. Unfortunately, most elderly church leaders and members had passed on without seeing the house being used.
After Fr Bogdan, the late Fr John Gui went there in 2012 and organised the people to build a new church building and completed the necessary documentation to declare Sinsipai as a parish. That finally happened in 2014 when Fr Raphael Mel Moka, the current rector of Good Shepherd College in Banz, was the parish priest.
Pastoral centre built
While the priest had a home, there was no pastoral center to conduct meetings or run parish operations. Church members felt that they had to build a pastoral center to make Sinsipai a complete parish.
With strong community support, in 2015, parish chairman Petrus Dumu and few of his leaders hired a sawmill and milled timber again in the forest and did the foundation without buying any building materials. However, some good Samaritans came to their aid and purchased the materials and completed the project.
The pastoral center is now completed with 32 beds, an office and conference room. It is open for hire and so far some of the first clients were Holy Trinity Teachers College students, Nebilyer Deanery catechists, St Paul Parish catechumens and Care International Girl’s Education. The building cost round K80,000. Those who wish to hire the centre can contact the parish leadership on 73371593 or email: Sinsibaiparish@gmail.com
The people and leaders fully understand self-reliance. They made sacrifices, even lost a life and built two projects themselves. During the opening of the pastoral center, they also launched their third major project which will be a new church building. This project has a plan and an established committee for the project, unlike the two previous projects. It is a major project so they appeal to interested individuals and organisations for help in cash and kind.
The first step
Archbishop Douglas Young launched the fundraising drive and assured Catholics in Sinsipai that this was a huge project in a rural village but was possible with God’s help. He used the Chinese proverb to encourage the parishioners: “If you want to walk a long distance, you have to take one step at a time.” He supported the idea of building a new church saying most churches in the archdiocese of Mt Hagen were built by early missionaries and local people needed to take ownership of those buildings by maintaining or replacing them.
Associate Professor Kekeya, dean of Education Faculty of Divine Word University also shared the same sentiments and assured the people that if they all participated in the fundraising activities they would be able to raise the targeted amount to build the new church building.
“Our grandparents were asked by patrol officers to carry parts of a car from Tambul to Mendi through the bush track and reassembled it in Mendi. The same concept can be applied if all contribute towards the new church building.”
For more than 50 years, Sinsipai built a reputation as a place where church members are encouraged to participate in activates and become a model for self-reliance. The church has flourished under the leadership of strong senior church and community leaders such as Petrus Dumu, James Alphonse, Joseph Wanbis and educated elites of the area and former parish priest, the late Fr Francis Cruisberg who had the vision to establish Sinsipai as a parish.
Fr Cruisberg was a strong leader who worked hard with the people and built on the church’s progressive tradition as embodied in its open and enquiring approach to the Catholic faith, its dedication to Christian education and its commitment to taking care of people in need. He raised many young men and women in the parish. His legacy will live forever in the lives of people he came and lived with.
Sinsipai is a healthy church in the midst of transition − from an outstation to parish and from one priest to another; from an aging congregation to younger members and families.
Sinsipai was a food garden of the Poika Komb people. The first missionaries came and established the church at the current site in the 1960s. It was Chief Polgi who gave his prime land to the church.
Kunai house removed
In 1982 the kunai house was removed and a new permanent church was built. It was an outstation of Kuruk parish. When the outstation was made a parish, people still used the same church building for Sunday worship but it has become overcrowded and old.
Thus, the people of Sinsipai decided to build a new church and it will cost approximately K2million. The costing, material list and architectural drawings were done by a private contractor in Mt Hagen. To meet the total cost of the house, the church leaders had a meeting and launched the fundraising activities and appointed the project coordinators. They are Allan Sumb, Simjayno Taso, Anthony Gono, Luke Lucas, Petrus Pes and Regina Paki.
They have discussed various fundraising activities including a raffle draw, clean-a-thon, special project collection, a corporate dinner and many.
If you wish to help in any way, please contact Allan Sumb on 79453167 or firstname.lastname@example.orgemail@example.com, Sinsibaiparish@gmail.com or Archbishop Douglas Young on 5421285/72799063
Project account details: Account name: Sinsibai Project Account; BSP Account No. 7015871465.
- The writer is tourism and hospitality lecturer at DWU.