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An Easter message from my teacher and first missionary


LAST week I started sending Easter greetings to a few friends.

One was Jim Fenton, an Australian. He was the patrol officer who in 1960established Kandep patrol post in what is now Enga Province.

The other was American missionary, Fr Jerry Gerald Theis SVD (pictured), who established the first mission station at at Pindak village, later moving to the present location at Mariant in Kandep.

I attended the government primary school but absconded when Fr Theis started Mariant Catholic Mission primary school near my village of Kondo. I didn’t like walking to Kandep every morning in the cold with barely any clothing covering my body. Fr Theis was my teacher at Mariant.

Fr Theis and Jim Fenton are two people mentioned in my book, I Can See My Country Clearly Now. They were the first to bring change to my backward people. I was privileged to meet Jim Fenton in Brisbane last year when I attended the Brisbane Writers Festival.

In 2013, at age 81, Fr Theis came to Mariant from Mt Hagen where he lived to celebrate his Golden Jubilee with my people – 50 years spreading the word of God.

I missed that special occasion but my family was there to participate in the festivities which lasted three days.

I want to share with PNG Attitude readers the Easter Message Fr Theis sent me a couple days ago.

Fr Theis’s Easter Message

We are a bit early in exchanging our greetings.

Thank you for news from my 'home' in Kandep. How have you been keeping? I hope that many people are clinging to the world view of Jesus Christ and not that of tribalism and politics.

Our USA culture 'stinks' these days and so I am still preaching Christ crucified, died, buried and risen. The mention of your sibling, Clara, brought back many memories. How is she? How is her life today? Of course I still remember Agnes Maiapu and the 'boys'.

Give my greetings to all your family and all the members of Kondo and surrounding tribes. Ask them to be forgiving of any harm I may have unknowingly caused in my youth and inexperience; pray for me a sinner.

[Signed] Fr Jerry Theis SVD (the 'J' in my formal name stands for Joseph. 'Jerry' is what my family and friends call me)

Fr Theis as a young manOn behalf of my family, I wish Fr Theis SVD a Happy Easter. The photograph here is of him as a young man with his parents before travelling to Papua New Guinea.

I thank him for starting the new mission school near my village. I don’t know what I would be doing today if Fr Theis hadn’t guided me along the path when I took those first uncertain steps to receive an education. Me, a boy straight from the village.

No, Father, nobody holds any grudges against you. You opened their eyes and years to the outside world. You showed my people a new way of life. Your good name still lives among them.

Of eight students you taught, one became a lawyer, one a high school headmaster, another a primary school headmaster, another a DPI Officer, another trained to be a surveyor but instead became a church pastor. The only girl, Agnes is a retired primary school teacher. And me? A radio broadcaster and journalist.

Thank you, Fr Theis. God will continue to bless you and keep you in good health to celebrate more Easters to come.


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Philip Kai Morre

I know Fr. Jerry Theis and such Easter greeting is emotional and make me feel like crying because I am a product of SVD Missionaries. Many have died, other have left and few are still in their old age. Thanks Daniel for keeping the catholic faith alive.

Daniel Kumbon

Thanks Craige and Arthur for your comments. This was the first ever time I had spoken or corresponded with Fr Theis since he taught me for a year or so all that time ago.

At some stage we had to transfer to Kandep Primary T School after our Grade 2 teacher, an Australian named Mr Carmichael, left.

Two of his friends, Jim Fenton and Fr Gary Roche of Divine Word University, separately provided me with his email address and I was able to write to him and thank him.

I still need Fr Theis's prayers so peace can return to Kandep as they - Fr Thies, Jim Fenton and other kiaps -
had left it. Those were peaceful happy times.

Right now, there is tribal fighting at Lagalap village near CM Mariant and my heart aches. There doesn't seem to be anybody interested to control the fight. No police, nobody.

I see more death and destruction ahead during this year's election period.

Arthur Williams

Daniel - A good Easter message of hope.

I have just re-read two articles started by Bill Brown on the ex-kiap website re Jim Fenton.

First: 2012 Sept 11 – ‘May River Patrol Post and The Mianmin - Two Vignettes’ Lots of posts resulted from original

Second is more recent: 2015 May 30 and tells of Jim’s trip to Bhutan at 81.

Both well worth a read for you.

Craige Brown

Thanks Daniel for sharing a great message.

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