Indonesian Catholic priests active in the Community of Sant'Egidio acknowledge that this involvement has enriched their spiritual life.
"I have been with Sant'Egidio (Saint Giles, in Italian) since 2000, and I feel that my closeness with and involvement in the community enriched my life," Jesuit Father Petrus Puspobinatmo told UCA News during the international Sant'Egidio meeting in Rome Feb. 27-28.
He was one of nine Indonesian priests among 350 Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox priests from more than 60 countries who gathered in the Italian capital to celebrate the worldwide community's 40th anniversary.
The celebration, titled Un amore senza confine: 40 anni di Sant'Egidio (A boundless love: 40 years of Sant'Egidio), took place at Sant'Egidio Conference Building near Sant'Egidio Church.
The Indonesian priests included Fathers Carolus Borromeus Mulyatno, Siprianus Hormat and Moses Komela Avan, who came from Yogyakarta on Java, Ledalero on Flores, and Samarinda in East Kalimantan, respectively. They joined six other priests who are working or studying in Rome.
The priests call themselves "spiritual friends" of Sant'Egidio communities in their respective places.
"Being a spiritual friend of Sant'Egidio really enriches me. I feel as if I was given a new mind's eye to comprehend the evangelical commandment of love," said Father Puspobinatmo, who is completing his doctorate studies in spiritual theology at Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
"I do not hesitate in building friendships with poor and marginalized people," said the 40-year-old priest.
On Sundays, he said, he celebrates Mass with Sant'Egidio communities on the outskirts of Rome. "The communities usually serve elderly people, mentally and physically disabled people, and also poor people in casa popolare (public housing)," he told UCA News.
The Jesuit praised Sant'Egidio for its constant efforts to promote peace and to help the poor. "I think Sant'Egidio is suitable for Indonesia, which has experienced conflicts in recent years and has many poor people," Father Puspobinatmo added.
During a sharing session on Feb. 28, Father Mulyatno said Sant'Egidio in Yogyakarta became known following an earthquake that struck the area on May 27, 2006. The quake flattened homes and killed about 6,000 people.
"Initially, many people came to help the victims. But after a few months, when publicity lessened, people no longer paying attention to them," he recalled.
"But Sant'Egidio still cares about the victims -- not so much in terms of providing material help but attention," the lecturer at Yogyakarta-based St. Paul Major Seminary told fellow participants.
Sant'Egidio looked for donors to help the victims. "The members volunteered to repair damaged churches and people's houses. They have the principle: no person is so poor that he or she cannot give anything to other people, because the gift does not necessarily have to be in cash or material," the priest said.
Members also help look for parents to adopt children at an orphanage in Wonosari, a district-headquarters town in Yogyakarta province, and provide skills training to people with leprosy in a village in Yogyakarta, according to Father Mulyatno.
Speaking with UCA News on March 6, the 40-year-old diocesan priest, who has been with Sant'Egidio since 1999, said the community's spirituality is an evangelical spirituality of love.
Sant'Egidio also cares about priests, he added. "So Sant'Egidio and priests are like friends who mutually complete and strengthen one another in living the Gospel and build solidarity and fraternity with other people."
Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia, spiritual director for the Community of Sant'Egidio, said in his speech, that many Religious men and women have paid attention to this international Catholic lay movement and became "friends of Sant'Egidio."
Andrea Riccardi and friends started Sant'Egidio in Rome in 1968, when Riccardi was a high school student. They used to pray and to read the Bible together. They also helped poor people living in slum areas.
Sant'Egidio originated from the name of a church dating to Roman times in the area of Trastevere, where Riccardi and his friends used to gather, he recalled.
Known for its work in providing service to the poor, promoting ecumenism, interreligious dialogue, peace and human rights, the Community of Sant'Egidio has more than 50,000 members in more than 70 countries worldwide. In Indonesia, there are 15 communities with about 300 members in 13 dioceses. ***Published in UCANEWS 10-03-2008: