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Father Ignatius "Feddy" Himawan is a Catholic priest from Indonesia in the Congregation of the Missionaries of the Holy Family.Rev. Feddy Himawan, M.S.F. is a priest of the Missionaries of the Holy Family from the Java Province of Indonesia. He served as pastor of Holy Family Parish in New Braunfels, Texas for over nine years. In June 2018, he returned to his home province in Indonesia. He is greatly missed! It is our hope that he will work with us again in the North American Province sometime in the future. For the Messenger and for World Mission Sunday, he answered some questions about his fascinating life.

Where were you born?

I was born in the city of Salatiga in the Central Java Province of Indonesia.

How many siblings do you have?

I have three siblings. Betty died in in 2005 at the age of 45. Benny and Ferry both live in Indonesia and are married. Our order of birth: Betty, me, Benny, and Ferry.

Were you raised Catholic?

Yes, I was raised Catholic, and I was baptized as a baby when I was three weeks old.

Where did you go to school as a child?

I went to Catholic schools from kindergarten through middle school, and I attended a public high school for grades 10 through 12.

How did you develop your love for the poor?

My parents taught me to help the poor by giving them food, clothes, and money to buy medicine and shelter. I did this out of our house for people who just moved to town or lost their homes for any reason. They would come to our house for assistance.

At one point, my parents helped five boys who were having educational and behavioral problems. Since my parents were teachers, they supervised and helped the boys finish high school. Some of them went on to college.

When I was in middle school, my mom took me with her several times to a part of town where prostitution was legal. My mom had an organization with the mission to approach children who were forced to become prostitutes. Only a few of the children we visited were able to be freed from a life of prostitution.

We would also visit an orphanage once a month. My older sister usually taught the children some subjects like math and English. I helped to sweep the rooms.

My dad would often ask me to walk along the paddy fields in the middle of the night to watch over the irrigation, because some people would steal water for their own rice field. He was a leader in his village, and he was obligated to watch over the irrigation. Additionally, cleaning up a public cemetery and a public road were some of our other monthly activities.

Who taught you how to live simply and not waste anything, especially food?

My parents usually asked me and my siblings to collect any leftover food after supper, and we would walk for 30 minutes to give the food to homeless people downtown.

What types of charity did you learn from your Muslim grandfather?

My grandfather was so generous in sharing what we have with the unfortunate, especially when it came to land. Some of our cousins had lost their jobs and their homes, and they came to my grandfather. He loved to welcome them into his own home or to help them to build their own simple houses.

Why did your family become Catholic?

My dad was born and baptized within a Catholic family, and my mom became Catholic when she attend a Catholic middle school. My parents met in the parish choir.

When did your Muslim grandmother become Catholic? Did she ask you to baptism her?

I baptized my grandmother a few months after I was ordained. She expressed her wish to follow Jesus when I was in middle school. Often she would said that she did not understand what would make people kill a good man like Jesus. When I entered the seminary, she was very happy and asked me to baptize her after I became a priest. She passed away three years after she was baptized. I could not attend her funeral because I was in the middle of nowhere in the jungles of Papua New Guinea on a missionary assignment.

Was your Muslim grandfather ever upset when members of his family became Catholic?

Not at all! According to my mom, she was encouraged to become a Catholic by her father (my Muslim grandfather). My mom followed her older sister who became the first Catholic among my grandfather’s children.

Why did you become a priest, specifically a missionary priest?

One day, during class in the eighth grade, my mind began to wander, and my calling came to me: I wanted to be a missionary priest, to be sent overseas, to minister in different countries and among different cultures. I grew up in a culture that was very much associated with traditional healers, but the modern world calls it superstition. The spiritual world was never strange for me. I liked to pray and connect with the spiritual world. My mom told me to leave all that nonsense behind and to join an organization like the Legion of Mary or the youth ministry. I opted to become an altar server.

Why did you choose the Missionaries of the Holy Family?

The Missionaries of the Holy Family was the only religious order familiar to me. The value of the family is important to me, and I was drawn to this charism.

How did you survive in the jungles of Papua New Guinea?

It was only by God’s grace that I survived! I firmly explained to the people that some of their cultural practices were not Christian. Ministering to the people gave me the strength to deal with all of the difficulties of living in the jungle. (Papua New Guinea is an island nation over 2,000 miles east of Indonesia.)

How did you almost become a martyr for the faith?

Several times people got mad when their needs and demands were not fulfilled by the pastor. In 2000, a man came to me at night with a three-foot-long machete, demanding that he should be appointed as a leader of the Catholic community. He placed the machete on my neck, and I was trembling, but I managed to stay calm and talk to him. Several villagers passed by the rectory, and they stopped to see what was happening. We ended up talking all night long.

Finally, I realized that this man wanted to start what was known as a cargo cult. The year 2000 was a very important year for cargo cult members. In the year 2000, they believed that the Catholic Church would release their leader, his name was Yali, a man considered by the cargo cult to be a prophet. Yali died of natural causes in the late 1960s. Cargo cult members, however, believed that Yali never died, but was imprisoned by Catholic missionaries in the city of Alexishafen, which was formally the location for the Archdiocese of Madang in Papua New Guinea.

What is your impression of the United States of America?

It is a great nation that has become a “mecca” for people all over the world. I am impressed that the Catholic Church seems fully alive here in a nation that has become a superpower.

What is your favorite memory as a priest?

Too many! Perhaps when I first visited families in the jungles of Papua New Guinea. Or, taking Jesus to the streets of San Antonio and New Braunfels, Texas in Eucharistic Processions.

If God said that He would grant you one wish, what would it be?

Lord, grant me wisdom and perseverance.

If you could be God for one day, what would you do?

I don’t know. I don’t want to play God!

What is your next adventure?

That depends on what the Church needs, and the decision will be made by my provincial superior. God bless your family! +JMJ+

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