A part of the planet that had its first contact with the outside world only in 1948 celebrated fifty years of Augustinian presence on 19th March 2006.
This is the district of Ayawasi in Papua, Indonesia. The Augustinians who settled there on 19th March 1956 appropriately chose Saint Joseph as the patron saint of the area.
The area lay uncontacted by the outside world until 1948 because of its isolation.
It is located centrally in the vogelkop ("bird’s head") of Papua, and is surrounded by at least 150 kilometres of tropical jungle in all directions.
In the relatively brief history of the Order of Saint Augustine in Papua, its members from the Netherlands served continuously in Ayawasi for most of these fifty years.
Only in recent times has the parish priest been an Augustinian who was born in Papua.
Originally the religious sisters there were also Dutch, but the region is now served by Franciscan Sisters born in Indonesia.
Fifty years ago, the first Augustinians walked to Ayawasi in foot.
All materials were carried in by human porters until eventually an airstrip was built.
Today the Parish of Ayawasi may be unique in the world for having as many as eight grass airstrips.
The first road reached Ayawasi only in 2002. Because of flooding and erosion, it is unable to be used during times of heavy rain, which is frequent in rain forest that is less than one degree of longitude below the Equator.
(Continued on the next page.)
For the Augnet photo gallery on the ministry of the Order of Saint Augustine in Papua, Indonesia, click here.