Fr. Paul Budi Kleden, SVD: Member of SVD General Council

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Fr. Paul Budi Kleden, SVD

Is that true that when you were asked to go to Rome, you did not go as a candidate of the member of SVD (Society of the Divine Word) Council? If that is true, how could you be chosen as member of the council that time?

The Capitularis (Those who join a meeting) came to Rome as the participant of Chapter, not as a candidate. There is no specification that the society (SVD) that every province should put forward someone from its member as candidate of General Superior or the member of council. Before going to Rome, there was a talk among the capitularis from Indonesi. But it was not neccesary according to the constitution. In every general chapter, every member of SVD who fulfills the written requirement in the constitution; he is worthy to be a candidate. The Chapter not only points or picks  someone from the the capitularis, but also someone who is not present is the chapter but is considered capable.

I got an impression that after one period of leadership without anybody from Indonesia in the General Council (2006-2012), It looked like the capitularis wanted that someone from where come 25% member of SVD, could also be a member of general council. However, that was not necessary and it was not regulated in constitution. I just wondered that I was chosen because from those capitularis of Indonesia at that time, it seemed like I was the one who could be picked easily without causing any big problems later in my previous place. For, some participants from Indonesia were provincials or rectors of the university or the important leaders of institutions in their province.

What is the main job of a member of SVD General Council?

The main job of a member of SVD General Council is to help Father Superior General in executing these three main jobs, namely: animating members of SVD to keep on having strong commitment as the member of Society; coordinating various kind of works of society in all provinces to hand in hand realize the vision of society; running the administration of the society according to the regulation of the society and the church.

All these three jobs are important. We run all these jobs by reading and responding to all letters sent to us, assisting every meeting of council members twice a week, giving input for the courses sponsored by society, joining all the simposiums with another societies and Vatican institutions, making general visitations and special visitations.

Father, you often made visitation, didn’t you? How many countries have you visited?

Since I become the general council member in Rome, I have visited 18 countries. Most of them were general visitation, the other were for special courses.

In your impression, which place (you visited) that impressed you profoundly? Why?

Every place has its own uniqueness and specialty for there were always be a special situation with special members. However, a very impressive visitation for me was the one when I visited Liberia by the end of 2013.

I went to Liberia when SVD had not been working there. On that time, the bishop from Cape Palmas in Liberia had sent invitation for SVD to open the mission there. When I was making the visitation o Ghana, I was asked by Superior General to also go to Liberia to look closer and deeper the situation over there and give some useful inputs for the General Council how to respond proactively to the invitation of the bishop.When I went there, Liberia had been in peace condition for 10 years after 14 years of civil war. However, Everywhere I still witnessed the trace of war: Burnt government buildings, abandoned schools, and uncared churches and chapels. The United Nations soldiers were everywhere. More than that, the faces of traumatized people really expressed the burden they were shouldering.

The Dioscese of Cape Palmas (One of the 3 dioceses in Liberia) only had 5 diocesan pastors. Those congregational priests and nuns left the country during wartime and never came back. In the region that was proposed by bishop to be handled by SVD, there was a shelter for those refugees from Ivory Coast. On the last 2013, there was about 30. 000 people there, taken care by UNCHR. Besides the parishioners, those refugees also needed pastoral concern. After going back, the General Council decided to accept the invitation to send missionaries there.

From your visitasional experiences, are those visitations still need to be done, when technology of information is now sophisticatingly upgraded and reaches to every body?

Yes, visitation is still necessary because what happens in a visitation can not (always) be channeled through technology of information. Through technology, we can get those information, but by making visitation we get the impression and experience: experience of being (presence) and feeling the joy and challenge of those confreres we visit, the happiness and enthusiasm of the confreres because they are visitied, heard and apreciated. Many things would be understood differently (or deeper) after those visitations.

In total, how many members does SVD have now (pastors, Brothers and fraters)? From which country come the most membes of  SVD?

By this time (October 8, 2016), the number noted in the data base of General in Rome are 5915. Some provinces like Indonesia has not informed the number of their novices. Counted with all those data, it can reach 6. 000 members. From that number, there 49 bishops (547 brothers of perpetual vow, 84 brothers of temporary vows, 37 novices brothers, 33 fraters of perpetual vow, 295 novices of priest candidate, 11 of them retired) and the rest are deacons and priests. Indonesia is the country of 1567 member of SVD. This is the biggest group according to nationality.

What is the general impression of the people, in places where the SVD missionaries of Indonesia work?

Generally, people really appreciate the work of Indonesian missionaries. Humility, willingness to visit people and joy are the treasure owned by indonesian missionaries. There are also good impression of administration in the parish. The pastoral style is still ortodox or traditional. A bravery in taking inititative must always be improved. The capability of mastering languange varies, some can be really good, some still lacks and must be perfected.

There were quite many parishes where SVD missionaries used to work have been handed over to dioceses and now are taken care by diocesan priests. So, what categorial (special) works that are still actively improved by SVD until this time?

SVD has these 4 special dimensions and they should be improved continually: Bible Ministry, JPIC, Communication and Mission animation. Besides that, education must also be promoted more in some countries like India.

Is the role of SVD lay missionaries quite important in the sight of General? What kind of special program that has been talked to build performance with lay SVD?

Yes, they are important and they play significant role in society. The XVII General Chapter talked quite enough about lay people and for the first time, the representatives were invited to join that chapter for couple of days.

In some provinces, there has been association of Lay SVD with their own statute/ regulation, like SOVERDIA in Java province. Some months ago, a buletin of Lay SVD was electronically published. Next year, there will be a workshop for those lay SVD which takes place in Nemi, Rome. In many provinces, the representatives from lay missionaries will always be invited in the province chapter, of course without the right to vote.

What is the big issue that SVD must respond now? Is there any special programme planned to respond that issue?

I notice 4 big issues that must be responded. First, The life and the intercultural mission which is big theme in the last general chapter in 2012. In the wordly context nowadays, where the interaction among people from various backgrounds become intense but also problematic, the members of SVD are challenged to live a intercultural partnership. It means, basically, we do not make cultural and tribe difference as source of disunity or animosity between us.

Therefore, since that last chapter, all provinces all obliged to plan activities that can broaden the horizon and improve the capability of each member to live and work interculturally. There has been two workshops in Rome about this theme. The last one specifically talked about how to cope with intercultural conflict.

Secondly, as a part of the church and international society, SVD also look at the problem of immigrants and refugees as one biggest challenge that must be faced. As missionaries, we are also immigrants. Therefore, we should have experience and capability to help the local churches cope with this problems. We rejoice that some SVD communities in Europe have open their house to share space with the refugees. In Sankt Agustin, German, there are 100 refugees now. This has been done for more than 25 years in Sank Gabriel, Austria. Now, there are many communities follow this pathways. We also collaborate with JRS (Jesuit Refugees Services) to train SVD’s members in order to have experience in dealing with refugees. Beside opening houses and providing spaces, another thing that must be faced is how to overcome negative perception of people, especially in Europe, which only look at this problem as the danger of islamisation of Europe. As missionaries, we are challenged to convince people that helping people with misery and burden is a pious neccesity. Islamisation is a phobia (a scare created) triggered by people with unhealthy nationalism. Actually, they hate stranger/ foreigner. By connecting the problem of refugees with the problem of religion, they expect to gain a lot of support. And unfortunately, so many people, including the functionaries of the church, are also trapped in this.

Thirdly, how to animate provinces to execute consequently the action plan that has been decided in the XVII general chapter. The provinces determine some priorities and make action plan. Often time, i had impression that action plan has not been executed well.

The last, it is about vocation and education of the candidate and young member of SVD. This year for all Europe, we only have one novice, from German. In Latin America, we have 3. It seems like it becomes difficult to get vocation from these areas. There must be some reasons for that. However, as an international society, we have to find our way to get (back) our vocation and at the same time involve more lay people in this mission so that the innfluence and contribution at those areas in which we experienced degradation of vocation would not be vanish easily.

Talking about the education of the candidate and young member, we see that formation must always be renewed and improved in order to prepare members that can think and have capability as intergentes missionaries. It means to be a missionaries that can really be present and work in the middle of the people and society, especially those who are marginalized. The big challenge most of all is faced in the formation or education of priest, which emphazises too much on clericalism that place priest above all and at the same time keep him far away from the people.

The formation in SVD is the formation for mission. Therefore, one must always be brave to take initiative to bring himself closer to those who are poor and have commitment to defend them. In many places, we still face the reality that missionaries easily place themselves as or at the equal place as ruler or authority and therefore lose sensitivity to defend those who are poor. We are convinced that this matter can be coped with  if we keep on evaluating our formation program. The next chapter will concentrate on the spiritual renewal in its own originality, namely renewal of attitude and basic spirit, main orientation in life. Spirituality is not just about prayer and meditation, but a profound attitude of someone toward himself/ herself and nature/ universe in the relation with God. And this renewal will be promoted while putting great concern on what should be done in the basic formation in order to maintain and perpetuate this basic attitude.

If in the next SVD general council election, you would not be elected anymore, do you have any preference? Would it be, back to Ledalero to tutor/ teach? Or is there another option?

My transfer from Ledalero to Rome was a very profound experience for me to live how it means to be a member or religious society. At that time, I got a lot plans, I wanted to write books with couple of themes, to propose some lectures with different topics or to deepen some specific themes. Anyhow, when I was cleaning my room and having to move those books from my room to the Ledalero library, I felt something burdened my heart because I realized that those plans needed to be delayed for the sake of society. Yes, the moment of moving that books was really a difficult time for me. I noticed that time that eventhough I might have plans for my work, but as a member of society, I always had to be open to the needs of society. After the 2018 chapter, I can go back to Ledalero but I am also open to be sent as a missionary to another place.

While being busy doing your job, did you still have time to play “Takraw” or another favorite sport that you like?

Sure, usually, beginning from the end of springtime until the end of autumn, if we could gather 4 or 6 players, we would play “takraw.” Fortunately, there were friends that brought the “takraw” ball from Indonesia. Those who played were confreres from Indonesia and Vietnam. Nevertheless, these last couple of months, it became a little bit difficult to find enough number of players. So, if I could not play “takraw”, I will just play pingpong.

When I was in Ledalero, couple of times I went to Unit Yosef to play pingpong with fraters, like Ronald Lima Letu. It was just easy to find someone who wanted to play with me, who oftentimes played the games just for fun. (Bill Halan-Translated by Fr. Yori Soda Nango SVD)