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Fr Dr Clement Papa - chip off the old block

Fr Dr Clement Papa
Clement Papa - priest, rector and now PhD from the Divinity University in Australia: the youngest brother in a remarkable family 

| Asia-Pacific Anticorruption & Human Rights Advocate Group

MOUNT HAGEN - Fr Dr Clement Papa is the youngest son of Pius Pii - popularly known as Kopi Kund Pii - a pioneer PNG Catholic missionary.

In 1947, Pius Pii, among the first students of pioneer American missionary Fr William Ross, upon completion of his training at Rebiamul, Mount Hagen, was sent to Anglimp-South Wahgi to establish the Kuli Parish.

Kund Pii was among the first 28 Hagen people to be baptised by Fr Ross at Rebiamul in 1938.

Fr Clement followed the footsteps of his father to work for the church. He served as a priest in Ambuluah and was the rector of the Good Shepherd Seminary at Fatima, near Banz, in North Wahgi before undertaking postgraduate studies at Divinity University in Victoria, Australia.

Dr Papa comes from a devout Catholic and scholarly family.

His elder brother, the late Anton, was a high school teacher in West New Britain for 50 years until his death last year. His second eldest brother is Dr Thomas Webster, former director of the National Research Institute, and also a former school teacher.

The third son is Dr Paulus Ripa, a medical doctor with a master’s degree in medicine and who taught at UPNG before joining the Mount Hagen Health Authority. The fourth brother is Joe Palimi, a former UPNG lecturer in accounting and recently UPNG Bursar, who has a master’s degree in accounting. He is currently in Buka working for DFAT as a financial advisor.

The fifth son is Jeffrey Jonah Pup, the only village-based sibling. Jeffrey has co-authored a book on the history of the KomKui people with Fr Pat Howley and has worked with me on numerous election observation studies.

Now we come to Fr Clement, the sixth and youngest son of the remarkable Pii family.

Three brothers, Webster, Ripa and Palimi, have taught at UPNG, while Anton and Fr Clement have also been teachers, making the Piis the most successful educationist family in the country.

This family has two PhDs and two Masters degrees - an incredible story that is still being written.

The sons owe their success to the strict Catholic upbringing by Kund Pii.

They are all humble gentlemen, easy to get along with, pleasant in their behaviour and extremely intelligent.

The people of Western Highlands and Papua New Guinea owe a debt of gratitude to Pius Pii and the Archdiocese of Mount Hagen for producing such wonderful educators for the development of this country.

God blesses those who toil for Him. In the Pii family, we can see the evidence of that testament.

My family and I would like to join the rest of the country in congratulating Fr Dr Clement Papa for his remarkable accomplishment in obtaining his PhD.

This is the highest honour of academic achievement. It is a lonely road. It takes a big chunk out of your life. It makes you grow grey hair - and lose it fast.

So, well done, my friend, Dr Papa.


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Elissa Roper

Rev Dr Clement Papa is all that this article says of him and more.

A great PNG man. I look forward to seeing what he contributes to now he is back in his beloved PNG.

Dr Cecilia Francisco-Tan

Congratulations again, my dear friend and colleague. Looking forward to more collaboration with you.

Garrett Roche

Some people who read this item on Clement Papa may be wondering how it happens that these brothers - Anthony Kunump, Thomas Webster, Paulus Ripa, Joseph Palimi, Jeffrey Pup, Clement Papa - all have different ‘surnames’.

They are all sons of the same father, Pius Pi Kumbamung.
Traditionally in the Hagen area a person was identified by their given name and also by the name of their clan.

After 1934 and the coming of various missions, individuals who got baptised were given a ‘Christian name’ in addition to their existing ‘local’ name. The use of the name of the father as a ‘surname’ became more common only gradually.

Ninji, the son of Kama, might in Australian records be known as Ninji Kama, but his own people would never have called him Mr Kama. He was not Kama, he was Ninji.

In the same family some children may use different ‘surnames’. For example, a young male child who was the son of a man named Pamnda and a woman named Moni was born near Hagen town around 1941 and was given the ‘local’ Hagen name ‘Doa’ at birth (Doa is the Melpa word for ‘eagle’.)

When Doa was later baptised in 1955 he was given the Christian name of Raphael. In school he was known as Raphael Doa. And using that name he worked for Radio Western Highlands and later was elected as a member of parliament for Western Highlands.

A younger brother of Raphael Doa named John was commonly known as John Pamnda. Another brother of Raphael Doa also used the name Pamnda.

An early classmate of Pius Pi was named Michael Mel. One of his sons Peter Wama was a well known public servant in WHP.

Another son called Michael Mission used his father’s name Mel and became a well known businessman and politician named Michael Mel.

Another classmate of Pius Pi was Jacobus Kup, whose children did tend to use Kup as a family name, and one of his sons was John Kup who as a local kiap was probably known to Phil Fitzpatrick.

In brief some well-known Hagen identities were genuine blood brothers, but their names did not reveal this. Some used their father’s name as a surname, some others did not. Some outsiders would not know that some identities were in fact genuine brothers.

Why would some people decide not to use their father’s name as a surname?

If the names in their early school and college certificates simply included their own Christian name and a local name, but not their father’s name, then it was probably more convenient for those individuals to continue using those names rather than use their father’s name as a surname.

Returning to the local names of Clement Papa’s brothers, they are all traditional Melpa names with the exception of Webster. So how did Thomas get the name Webster?

The story I heard is that, as a student ,Thomas Kuli Pi was so good in the English language and knew so many words, that other students simply referred to him as ‘Webster’, with the allusion to the then well known ‘Webster’s Dictionary’! And the name stuck. This may or may not be true - ask Webster!

Anyway, sincere congratulations to Clement Papa Pi on his doctorate.

Arthur Williams

Thanks for the story of such a great Christian family and how they are an asset to the development of PNG.

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