Peter and Margaret Cassidy have been volunteering as teachers in Bedois, Timor-Leste since January 2017. This week, Peter shares an update from the Bedois Parish surrounding the one year anniversary of the death of Father Monteiro, who witnessed the conversion of East-Timor to Catholicism during Portuguese and Indonesian rule.
Last weekend was an extremely busy time for the Bedois Parish; probably the busiest weekend for quite some time. On Friday there was a holiday to commemorate the anniversary of Father Monteiro’s death. At 4:00pm, parishioners and school children lined the road leading into the parish precinct while the Bedois Secondary School Drum Band marched ahead of the Bishop of Dili, Father Virgilio Do Carmo Da Silva SDB, in a procession that ended near a shrouded monument recently built in front of the new school building. A brief unveiling ceremony followed, during which beautiful bronze statues of Father Monteiro and two children standing in a boat were revealed to generous applause and cheers from the large crowd.
The official opening of the new school was also included in the ceremony and, to conclude proceedings, bottles of champagne were opened. Father Alberty shook up one bottle and sprayed it over the crowd; a ritual we have come to expect from Father at big celebrations. During the Mass after the opening celebrations, the Bishop paid tribute, in glowing terms, to the wonderful, selfless and humble service Father Monteiro had given to the Timorese people over sixty years.
On Saturday there were thirty adult Baptisms and fifty weddings in the Bedois Church. Many private parties were held in the Bedois community on Saturday evening and some of the celebrations continued until dawn on Sunday.
On Sunday afternoon the Bishop returned to Bedois for a Confirmation Mass, during which he confirmed 440 candidates. That evening, after Mass, the congregation moved to the new, large, concrete court and stage area on the northern side of the church for an enormous feast and entertainment. The concrete for this area was poured manually, over about eighteen hours, only two days before the feast. Margaret and I felt honoured to be seated with the Bishop and other guests for the feast. A large team of parish ladies were responsible for preparing and serving the meal, which catered for more than 500 guests.
The Bishop had not visited Bedois since Father Monteiro’s Funeral Mass in October 2016. In that time a very attractive and functional secondary school, with a student capacity of 450, was completed, as well as a large outdoor sports and assembly facility and a large parish preschool. The Bishop was clearly impressed with the achievements of Father Alberty and his large team of dedicated workers.
Margaret and I feel very fortunate to have been living onsite to observe Father Alberty’s dream for his parish become a reality. As the final phase of the ambitious work unfolded, it became apparent that an important aim of the project, for him, was to inspire this poor community with realistic hope for a bright and successful future. Father is a very good model of a resilient, dedicated worker and his example has demonstrated that hard work and determination lead to success.