“How lovely on the mountains are the feet of someone, who brings Good news… Good news … announcing Peace, proclaiming news of Happiness, our God reigns, our God reigns.”
Last April 23, Sr. Monica Moreno, Sr. Erlinda Elma and Susan Aina’au, our aspirant from Inauaia Parish of Bereina, took off to go to the Mary Help of Christians Shrine (Don Bosco-Taurama) for their daily mass before proceeding to Bereina. This day was the start of the SSJ Congregation’s response to the invitation of Bp. Rochus Tatamai, MSC, DD, the Bishop of the Diocese of Bereina to make our Congregation present in his Diocese. The Holy Family Province had decided to respond to the Bishop’s invitation by going monthly to the Diocese to give skills training in Basic Cooking for 3 days; that is, from every 4th Thursday to 4th Saturday of the month.
That morning, it happened that Bp Rochus was the Mass presider at Don Bosco. He was there for the Annual General Meeting of the Bishops’ Conference of PNG and Solomon Islands. What a coincidence! For us, it was a blessing. We approached the Bishop after the Mass to let him know that we would be going to his Diocese to start formally our monthly commitment for the development and empowerment of the women at Inauia Parish. We asked him to bless us which he graciously did. Thus, we went to Bereina bringing with us the blessing of our Community, the Blessed Sacrament to be kept in our room for our personal and communitarian prayers, the blessing of Bp. Rochus and our joyful disposition to give the best of ourselves for the mission. Indeed, we had what was basic for the mission.
Normally, the trip takes 3 hours, but Steven Aisi, our driver, being young drove fast and it took us only 2 hours and a half including our stop over at Anna Pino’s (a good friend) house to make our basic needs (the use of her rest room).
At 10:00 am, we arrived in the house of Susan and we were welcomed as usual by her parents with some cooked bananas, crabs and tea. We then took some time to eat, and then we proceeded to the Parish Church of Inauia. Upon arrival, Fr. Paul Guy, MSC, the Parish priest was there with some leaders. We sat down to have a short meeting. Fr. Paul introduced the leaders to us and we in turn introduced ourselves to them. Then Fr. Paul Guy formally welcomed us in the name of the Diocese and of the Parish, so with Mr. Joe Efi, the President of the Parish Pastoral Council together with Josephine Evi, the Diocesan Coordinator of the Catholic Women’s Association and Alan Agu, the Diocesan Coordinator of the Catholic Men Association of the Parish.
Later, we explained to them the purpose of our coming responding to the Bishop’s invitation. We honestly told them that we can offer to the Parish and Diocese a limited outreach program through skills training in Basic Cooking until we can possibly have a Training Centre and a community in God’s own time.
For the outreach, Fr. Paul Guy then suggested that maybe; we have to start with the Parish of Inauia with 7 Christian Communities: Inauia, Eboa/Lepo, Inauabui, Yeku, Bebeo, Oriropettana and Inaoae. Each Christian community will have three (3) consecutive months of 3 days training so that they will have the chance to learn how to cook more recipes. This was agreed upon by the group. We expressed to them that we can only give training to twenty (20) women participants. Then, a question was raised: how about the men? We replied that if they are interested, there is no problem on our part but we can only take in 20 participants. So they agreed to talk among themselves to finalize the list of the participants.
We did not do any training on that day. We agreed that training will happen on that Friday with 3 recipes: siopao, tapioc (cassava) pie, and curry sausage. We requested them to bring their cooking pots, firewood, coconuts to cream the sausage and water to be used for cooking as well as their own plates. Since, there was no previous planning for the training, the sisters brought the needed ingredients but for the subsequent months, the trainees will help in providing the ingredients for the 3 days cooking. We had the tasking: the men will put up the canvas and bring tables and the women will bring their cooking pots, coconut scrapers and containers with water.
On that Friday, 24th of April, the men had already put up the canvas and brought the tables to be used for the food preparation. We started the day with simple and short fellowship, using the Gospel of the day as our inspiration which was expounded by Josephine. Sr. Erlinda Elma also gave her short gospel insight and challenged them that being the chosen few from among the men and women of Inauaia (18 women and 5 men), God must have a purpose for them, that they have a special mission for the Diocese and all they have to do is to be attentive to God’s ways unfolded each day in their own reality. That everyone carries within, Jesus, the Light, to give light and life to the Training.
After the fellowship, we started preparing the following ingredients of the curry sausage: beef sausage, onions, garlic, ginger, salt, pepper and cream of coconut. We were very happy to see how each one participated, especially the men after having learnt that in Mekeo culture, it is degrading for a man to cook. Cooking is only for women but during the training, the men were really helping in the food preparation.
The last two recipes were tapioc pie made of tapioc and minced beef. Then we taught them how to make siopao using ox and palm corned beef and egg as filling. They enjoyed eating what they had cooked and they were just amazed to discover how tapioc can be cooked as a pie. The day was quite hectic but each one had joyfully expressed their gratitude to God for the blessings received through their skills training. The Men Association had also requested us to teach them songs and prayers of St. Joseph.
On Saturday, 25th of April, we again started the day with a fellowship then proceeded to the next recipe. The day before, they were told to bring kaukau (camote) tops so that we can make kaukau juice with lemon and lemon grass. They were very happy for their delicious juice. They contributed to buy ice block for the juice. The other recipe was ukoy, made of pumpkin, kaukau, spring onion, plain flour and corn flour, eggs and salt. They enjoyed the preparation and the cooking. When they tasted the ukoy, they were very happy and grateful to discover other ways of cooking their garden products. For the kaukau juice, we boiled the kaukau tops and used the water for the juice and the leaves for salad. We added a sachet of orange flavor tang powder. The juice was really nice!
At lunch time, Fr. Paul Guy came to join us. Many of participants commented to him that on Thursdays, during their market day, they will cook ukoy and prepare juice to be sold in their market. And so during next month’s training, they will share their cooking and selling experiences to the group.
We ended the training with a short prayer led by the participants. Before we left, the group expressed their gratitude for discovering new ways of cooking pumpkin and kaukau. With their Mekeo practice, they gave us bananas, oranges (kahel) and lemon to bring home.
Truly, we have felt their generosity and cooperation and we hope that they, being the first participants of the training will become the Parish leaven to proclaim the dignifying and sanctifying value of work. We hope that gradually, we shall be able to share with them the Spirituality of Work, harmonized with prayer, adding to their ingredients the hidden ingredients of Peace, Joy and Love springing forth from their hearts.
Our special thanks to Fr. Rey Caigoy, O’Carm, who patiently journeyed with us to initiate this project and also to our PNG Cluster and SSJ HFP Provincial Team for their continued encouragement and support. Again in the simple Parish of Inauaia, a poor village with no electricity and water supply, with simple parishioners, the dream of Fr. Butinyà with the silent commitment of St. Bonifacia, which is to: “ Proclaim the Good news of Work” has been initiated. To God be the Glory now and forever! (Ebt/29/04/15)