The service for St Peter is in progress and all around, no matter how far one strays from the cathedral, the landscape becomes part of that morning Mass. The hymns sung in Wedauan further echo and re-echo the significance of Dogura as the Jerusalem of the Anglican Church in Papua New Guinea.
“Vavana aiaina (Goodness is his name)
Mara ana nuaiai (For his is joy eternal)”.
Only yesterday, a contemporary of mine, Mervin Clyde Igara, was consecrated in this very cathedral as the new bishop of the Dogura diocese. The Primate of the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea, Archbishop James Aiom, observed the ritual of consecration, in the presence of the Head of the Anglican Communion throughout the world, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan William. At this ceremony also the Chancellor of the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea, Justice Bernard Sakora, read out the Bishop’s Charte, confirming the legality of the consecration and the sort of duties that a diocesan bishop was designated to perform. The blessing granted upon the new bishop was highly symbolic and traditional. A Fijian mat was spread on the floor of the cathedral, upon which a seiara (a traditional grass skirt made of besa leaf fibres and signifying the staple diet of the region from which Mervin Clyde comes) was placed, for the new bishop to lie upon and receive the consecration blessing. When the mitre was finally placed on the new bishop’s head, the whole cathedral erupted into a huge roar of applause and clapping, punctuated by traditional drum beats. Those witnessing the entire consecration Mass described it as overwhelming as much as “awesome”.
Now, as I sit under this mango tree and marvel at the structure of the cathedral, I wonder at the sort of changes that come upon men of different tastes and interests in a span of four or so decades. The former university school mate I am waiting for is having a meeting with the bishops as the Chancellor of the Church. My other contemporaries that I have spoken to yesterday, including Isaac Taitibe, the former MP for Alotau Open, could hardly think of seeing a former classmate such as Mervin in a bishop’s mitre! And at Martyrs’ Memorial School some 43 years ago, which of us at the Mukawa Garden House can ever forget scolding a clever little boy for sewing up his torn clothing with electrical wires instead of cotton and needles? But we would all be cautious then in our judgment with the prediction, of course, that anyone who was good with wires would do great things in time to come. And sure enough Mervin did proceed from Martyrs’ to the University of Technology in Lae where he had graduated in Electrical Engineering to later work for several years as a senior technician with the National Broadcasting Commission.
But the greater achievements of our little boy from Martyrs’ would come in June this year when 5 diocesan Anglican bishops met behind closed doors at Divinai, a few miles out of Alotau town and right in the heart of Charles Abel’s Kwato Mission, to elect him bishop of the Dogura diocese. The fact that the election took place at a strange territory was sign enough that what the new bishop and his colleagues desire seeing is all the Churches working together to develop that region of the Milne Bay Province, namely that spanning from East Cape to the coastal and hinterland borders of Milne Bay, Oro and Central Provinces.
The speeches made at the gift presentations by various Churches to the new bishop reflected this sentiment of inter-denominational cooperation. The LMS, Kwato Mission, United Church and the Catholic Church all expressed the need for cooperation in developing North East Milne Bay.
Aside from the main ceremonial activities, there were traditional dances performed day and night during the three-day long celebrations, accompanied by drama performances by various youth groups from dioceses throughout PNG. The notable crowd pleasers were flute musicians organized by the Melanesian Brothers from the Daga and Bonenau areas of the Dogura diocese, and the most colourful traditional dancers were those from BogaBoga and Wamira. Mothers from Wamira One and Two came and sang at the gift presentation ceremony, and the ones from the Kwato Mission looked equally elegant and colourful.
Indeed, hundreds of visitors, coupled with the hundreds that came from the immediate surrounds, gathered to witness this great event. All this added up to a couple of thousands in number, and these included clergy, government officials, guests, representative parishioners from all over PNG and overseas, not to mention pilgrims to Dogura who also were present. There were other visitors as well such as Holy Name Grammar School’s sister-school visitors on term holidays from Australia, but these were noted camping at the villages along the coastlines of Wedau and Wamira. Among the dignitaries were the Governor of the Bank of Papua New Guinea, Mr Kamit and his wife Mrs Kamit, the Provincial Administrator of Milne Bay, Mr Henry Bailasi, Justice Bernard Sakora, Mr Robert Igara, brother of the new bishop, and the tireless gift providers and faithful Anglicans, Dr Glen Mola and Mrs Mola. Present as well were two representatives from the Australian Board of Missions, Bev and Robert, along with another from England called Chris. But the most colourful and flamboyant of the lot was the Catholic representative from Alotau town, Father Michael who coined the phrase “Local Boy Makes Good” in honour of Mervin Clyde Igara.
Bishop Mervin Clyde Igara comes from Mukawa, in the Cape Vogel area of the Milne Bay Province. Until his new post as bishop of Dogura, he was Rector and Priest-in-Charge of the Ascension Parish in Alotau town. He becomes the second clergyman from Cape Vogel to be consecrated bishop, the first being Bishop Blake Kerina of Tototo Village.