An Australian Capuchin, Fr Luan Le, has felt a call to work in the missions. He has been sent to Timor Leste to begin to work with the friars who are from Portugal and Pontianak, Indonesia. There are around 15 young Timorese men in formation as Capuchin friars. The National language of Timor Leste is Portuguese, but the local languages are dialects, with Tetum being the common spoken language amongst the people.
Fr Luan arrived in Timor just before Easter this year. After a few weeks there he writes:
I am already settling in here and am getting used to hot and humid weather. On my second day in Tibar [which is just outside of Dili], Fr Fernando [the head of the mission] asked me to help with confession. I went with Fr Isidor [a Capuchin friar from Pontianak, Indonesia] to the mountains, about 20 kms from Tibar. We visited 3 villages, hearing confessions and administering the sacrament of the sick. People came to me confessing their sins in Tetum, I gave them absolution in Portuguese. It was a great experience. The mountains are very beautiful and peaceful. The people are very hospitable.
I’ve now been in Laleia [a few hours’ drive from Dili] for the last few days. Fr Filipe [a Capuchin friar from Portugal who’s been working the mission for several years] asked me to come to help him with the Triduum Easter services because they have another 2 villages apart from Laleia. Yesterday, I went to a village called Samalai to celebrate Mass. This is where Fr Ben [a young Capuchin friar from Australia] went to celebrate Easter when he was here last year with a group of young Australians. In the morning there were The Stations of the Cross and in the afternoon the Passion of The Lord. I read Tetum to the best of my ability. I hope people understood me.
After another few weeks had passed, Fr Luan writes:
I am still in Tibar but on Tuesday, I go to Laleia to fill in for Fr Filipe, since he will be going to Portugal on Monday. I really like Timor and am getting more involved in the missionary works that the brothers are undertaking. The property in Tibar very much reminds me of Plumpton seminary when I was in my postulancy and novitiate. It is big and requires constant maintenance. When I look around the property, I recognised the previous brothers have put in so much effort to make the place habitable. They cleared the ground, planted trees and grew veggies.
I am also working around the property, cutting grass, trimming trees and planting new trees. I have also started planting beans and lettuce. I hope that they will grow!
My Tetum is improving. I help Fr Isidor with celebrating the daily Masses. Today I had 2 Masses, one in a chapel nearby and the other up in the hills. I drove a 4-wheel drive to the place by myself, which was not too bad since I have not driven a manual car for a while.
Yesterday, Fr Isidor and all the student friars went to visit a village that is far from Tibar. I had to stay back to celebrate Mass for the people. They drove and then walked for an hour to reach the village, since it is inaccessible by car. They went there to teach catechism. Fr Fernando started this program and it runs monthly. The friars left early in the morning and returned late in the afternoon. They were exhausted when they arrived home.
Fr Luan returned to Australia at the end of June to be with the friars for their annual retreat, and he will return to Timor Leste towards the end of July.