donderdag 16 augustus 2012

Rolf Reichenbach 1911-2004, Charismatic Catholic priest in Indonesia

It is a quite significant turn: from a biography of Soegijapranata to that of the German-born, Dutch-educated priest Rolf Reichenbach and his development in Indonesia. But it may also be a summary of some developments among Indonesian Catholicism, from a true nationalist to a proponent of the more individualist charismatic movement!

The reason for writing this message about him is the book by Anastasia Filika, Rolf Reichenbach, Pelayan yang rendah hati, Batam: SSCC Indonesia Publishing House. SSCC stands for Sacrorum Cordium, the Catholic order Priests and Sisters of the Sacred  Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Filika (bron Belinyu in Bangka, 1970) holds a BA in Indonesian Studies from the Sanata Dharma University in Yogyakarta and teaches in a High School in Bangka.
Rolf Reichenbach was born as the third son in a Jewish-Catholic family in Cologne, in 1931. Because of the attacks to Jewish possessions and person in the 1930s the family moved to the Netherlands in 1939. The father moved to the UK where he died in January 1946 from an heart attack. The three boys all studied theology and entered the priesthood. Klaus was a diocesan priest in Cologne and could later send much money to his younger brother in Indonesia. Hans was a missionary to Indonesia, but had to return in the early 1960s to the Netherlands. Rolf was like his brother Hans a  member of the SSCC. He came in late 1959 in the diocese of Pangkalpinang and worked as a parish priest in the island of Belitung and even longer in Tanjung Pinang, close to Singapore. His parish was a diaspora church of mostly Chinese Catholics. He studied therefore Hakka Chinese and is several times in the book for his ability to speak that language in a fluent way. Filika does not tell much about her sources, but apparently she had access to the letters sent to the mother, but also to the two brothers Hans and Klaus and she gives a nice reconstruction of  a priest in this region where Malay Muslims and Chinese people have live together for already more than a century. The Malay fishers and farmers, with the Chinese workers in the tin mines. This was the time of the changes of Vatican II in the Catholic Church. Not much sensational can be heard of its, but the personal irenic mentality of Rolf was strengthened by the new openness. On page 61 she writes about 1964 that "A young Arab physician was really very helpful for poor people. He became a good friend of Father Rolf in giving assistance to poor people." On p. 54 she had written already that his brother Hans started his medical problems with an accident driving his scooter on his way to a celebration of Maulud Nabi, the Birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. On page 62 we find a note about the first Natal bersama or ecumenical celebration of Christmas in this region.In the later sections of the book we find some general phrases about sympathy for Pentecostal Churches, but no concrete descriptions of common prayer events.
Pages 67-88 has a number of quotes from the magazine PELITA, Penerangan Katolik Tanjungpinang, short spiritual but also educational columns for his parishioners. Much is about educating children, but quite a few are also suggestions for frequent prayer and the support and consolation for these practices. One writing ia about Iner-religious Dialogue in the style of a debate between a man, his wife and thepriest. The woman does not like the idea, because her friend says that all religions are the same and she wants to remain Catholic. The priests fins a solution by stating that the differences between religions will remain, but also that it is good when leaders pray together, tal together about common problems, because "likes cooperation, brotherhood and universal love". (87).
In 1975 in the diocese of Pangkalpinang a new problem started: the arrival of ten thousands of boat refugees from Vietnam, espcially on the island of Galang. Reichenbach went often to the island. Later he was assisted by two French MEP Priests who had to leave Vietnam, but spoke the language and could give pastoral assistance in Indonesia.
In 1977 he became Vicar of the Bishop of Pangkalpinang and from 1979 until  1988 Apostolic Administrator of the diocese. He had to look for an Indonesian bishop and finally found the Flores SVD priest Hilarius Moa Nurak. From 1988-1991 he was the SSCC superior for Indonesia. But after that year he returned to the duty of parish priest and more and more concentrated on local and even national propagation for a charismatic spirituality. Page 132 describes how he attended in 1989 a seminar of Hidup Baru (New Life in the Spirit), led by the diocesan priest (Semarang) Gabriel Notobudoyo. [ Extra: a look to Notobudoyo on the Internet and found an amazing story at Mirificanet, 22 March 2006, where it is told that at a a well-known High School, SMU Pengudi Luhur , in Yogyakarta some 40 pupils and teachers had fainted  and behaved during four days as if they were possessed by an evil spirit, without clear reason. Priest Notobudoyo came there to say Mass and pray for the departure of the evil spirits. Praying the rosary is also a mighty weapon against the devil.]
From here the book has quite a few exciting stories about miracles, healings, groups that receive baptism in the spirit On page 128 one of the stories tells that Reichenbach came to a house for the bleesing of this place. There were hundreds of rats running int he house, but after a prayer with the exorcism of the evil spirits the situation came back to normal. A quite technical miracle happened when during a charismatic meeting the electricity fell down in a building, but the organ could continue playing!

Reichenbach was very active in many places to give retreats, held talks, also for many young groups and he could use this opportunity to seek more vocations for his own SSCC order. In the 1980s Reichenbach went to minor seminaries in Flores to seek candidates for the new Major Seminary in Bandung, but he now also could reach new candidates through meetings of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal as was the official name.
There were until 1993 no SSCC sisters in Indonesia, but three young women asked Reichenbach to start their initation. This story of told by Sister Anastasia Puji Hastuti SSCC (181-6; the last section of the book is a collection of some 50 personal memories of Rolf Reichenbach). They started with a period of discernment, then they became aspirants and later postulants. From time to time an American SSCC sister from Hawaii visited them. In 1996 out of the first three candidates only one started  the new international noviciate in Manila, together with one from India, one from Hawaii and one from the Philippines. In 1998 they started an SSCC house in Bandung : one sister from Indonesia, one from France and one from Hawaii. Not only the spread of Catholicism, but rather the continuation of a specific religious order was the main motor behind this international initiative. Of course we may make comparisons with the rivalry between the many streams of Indonesian Wahhabi groups, as described in Noorhaidi's doctoral dissertation on Lasykar Jihad. Not the kristenisi of Indonesia, but the survival of a religious order is here a main motive.

In the late 1990s Reichenbach became the regional supervisor of  BPN PKK, Badan Pelayanan Nasional Persekutuan (Doa) Karismatik Katolik. In 2002 he was nominated national supervisor, but soon after that his health declined with cancer of the skin and bones. After long suffering, trip to many hospitals in Singapore, Jakarta, Bandung and the Netherlands he died on 11 September 2004.

In October 2007 a long time sympathiser, Mrs. Fransisca Gazali visited his grave in the Netherlands, then still in Breda at the SSCC House in Bavel. When she heard that these graves had to be removed soon to a collective grave, she organised a reburial in Batam on 10 October 2008. His body was still in good condition when the coffin had been opened. It was miraculous!

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