He walked, hunched over, with his slow but firm steps that showed his meek but determined character. He looked toward the path that led through the forest, and, after the curve, he found another ascent. The mountain was steep, green and luxuriant, but not seeing the destination made the journey even more tiring. They had walked for days and his companions, younger than him, looked for a reason to stop and rest. But he seemed to be sure that beyond that curve there was somebody. In fact, Somebody was waiting for him. Along the journey they had heard him repeating something… but they were not able to understand it… it was not Roro, nor English, nor Kuni… it resounded through his lips like an unceasing prayer: ut cognoscant te… ut cognoscant te.
Il Vescovo Alan de Boismenu walked for weeks from Yule Island, the small island where the first catholic missionaries arrived in Papua New Guinea, going to the mainland, up in the mountains. He truly wanted to reach the depths, geographical and spiritual, of this place and people. For one reason alone: that they may know God! He had left France when he was young and strong, newly ordained priest in the Congregation of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, to whom the Pope entrusted the task of evangelizing Oceania. He knew it was going to be not easy, but he trusted that His Love would have moved the mountains. Sowing was enough.
While his companion were thinking, “This ascent will finally end…”, when, before their eyes, a wide and surprising view appeared. A valley in which there were huts and children playing among coconut trees while mothers were washing and singing along the river and fathers where hunting in the near forest.
“Here we are…!”. They had arrived. Bishop Alan could see far away, not just thanks to his characteristic round eyeglasses, but for the depth and soundness of his faith. The village later on was called Kubuna and it is from that journey of Bisho Alan that started the evangelization of this mountainous forest. It is in Kubuna that some years later he founded a congregation of religious sisters and where this brave missionary was buried, after dedicating his life to announce Christ, being sure that only by knowing the truth, that God loves all of them, these people could be truly free.
That is why, even in the smallest and simplest daily actions, he repeated: ut conoscant Te…
With our Italian friends who came for a missionary experience “at the end of the earth”, we passed along the same way where Bishop Alan walked.
Now there is a road, full of holes and of unsteady bridges, but well viable by car. We went to visit him, asking him to intercede for us: his tomb in fact is the destination of many pilgrims and the process of his beatification is ongoing. On a superficial level, we may say, “there is nothing to see here, just a tomb, grass and silence”. Instead, this silence and the tombs of this bishop and the other early missionaries buried beside the Founder make this place a special one for prayer. Our Italian friends too grasped its meaning and appreciated the simplicity of this pilgrimage.
This Bishop continues to intercede from heaven for all of us, missionaries here in Papua New Guinea, and for all the baptized who are called to live in the freedom of his Love: may they know You!