Life

Sindhunata: Finding his
peace

"After two weeks at the seminary, I knew I didn't like it. I couldn't stand all the regulations. I wanted to be as free as I was before," he recalled.

He then asked permission to leave from Father Verbeek O Carm, who at the time was the school's dean, and headed home to Batu, where he wished to attend a Catholic senior high school.

But questions from his brother Dwianto Setyawan made him change his mind. "Why was it so easy for you to decide to leave the seminary? Have you considered that?" his brother asked.

"I don't know why his words touched me, but that night I decided to go back to the seminary," Sindhunata said.

The next morning, he left for Lawang again only this time he was alone.

Deep down, he was worried whether he would be accepted back into the seminary.

"Fortunately Father Verbeek was kind-hearted and accepted me again. If not, I wouldn't be standing here celebrating 25 years of priesthood," the friendly Jesuit priest, known as Father Sindhu, said recalling his early days in the service of God.

He now lives at Kolese Santo Ignatius (St. Ignatius College) in Yogyakarta and is better known as a man of culture, a journalist and a writer.

Sindhu, who graduated with a doctorate of philosophy from the Hochschule fur Philosophie Philosopische faculty of the Society of Jesus in Munich, Germany in 1992, celebrated his silver anniversary as a pastor in Batu, East Java - the place where he was born 57 years ago.

Listening to his brother Dwianto Setyawan's recollections during the mass at the celebration, Sindhunata smiled and happily remembered the cry-baby who entered the seminary years before.

Now that he has followed his calling as a Catholic priest, Sindhunata says his heart is at peace after negotiating many heavy obstacles, experiences and struggling spiritually.

"After I finished studying theology, I almost failed to find the courage to propose myself for ordination. But I finally became a Catholic priest. I thought that afterward my life would be calmer. But many temptations still get in my way," he said.

"Every time I was trapped in ordeals and haunted by temptation, I wanted to run away and avoid God. But God has always been close to me, and He has forgiven my sins."

Sindhunata has faced many heavy life struggles over the years.

When he was still a candidate for priesthood, he was a journalist for Kompas daily newspaper, and on various assignments met different kinds of people who made him wonder whether he should become a pastor.

Those types of encounters continued along with his spiritual struggles over the past 25 years.

To remind him that his road in life carries heavy responsibility, painter Djoko Pekik presented him with a drawing on which was written: "There is no turning back despite having to face death".

The painter said these words are a famous slogan of political prisoners imprisoned on Buru Island in 1965. These words were given to Sindhunata so that he could keep walking through life as a pastor until the end of his life.

The slogan reminded Sindhunata of the time when he went on assignment to Buru island in the 1970s and came face-to-face with political prisoners for the first time. It was also the place where he met the late author Pramoedya Ananta Toer.

Once, he was asked by Pramoedya to take a bundle of his book manuscripts and daily notes away from Buru Island and get them published.

"Pram challenged me:you brave enough to take these documents off Buru Island?' And as a young journalist I said, *Why shouldn't I?'" Sindhunata recalled.

Smuggling Pra-moedya's papers was possible only because of Sindhunata's ex-periences both as a journalist and within the clergy. His job as a journalist provided him with many experiences, and his role as a churchman gave him many insights.

He said that his job as a journalist placed him in a red zone that was generally off-limits to religious people.

"In all those places that as a journalist I had to enter, I often met people who were widely considered to be *bad'. I have also been friendly with drunks. Sometimes I met robbers and even prostitutes.

"My world was also an artists' world, which could be dirty, but which also held the belief that their religion is freedom and their faith is creativity."

His spiritual experiences led to tension between moral and immoral behavior, holiness and filth, goodness and badness.

Sindhunata said that he was lucky to have the support of the St. Ignatius College community in Yogyakarta to get a grip on his life.

Now after he has tasted the sweetness and the bitterness of life, Sindhunata feels that he has found his path.

He no longer cries or is worried. Instead, he has found a place similar to the one he wrote about in a poetic excerpt to mark his 25 years of priesthood, titled My Home Has Found Peace.

How beautiful nights are when they've been passed through

Even I have to go through with the pain of my sobbing

Beautiful because actually God is always with me

In fact when sin and darkness cover me

Till my hope is almost broken

Now God I meet you with a new heart

When I have extinguished the senses of desire and my desire

How lucky I am

To bathe myself in the dawn of your love

Please look, how calm now is my home

Post Your Say

Selected comments will be published in the Readers’ Forum page of our print newspaper.

From Our Networks