Rabaul campus students reminded of the Cross

Final year students at the Divine Word University Rabaul Campus were reminded of the importance of the Cross during the Missioning Ceremony on Wednesday 29 November, 2017.

The reminder came from the Catholic Archbishop of Rabaul Francesco Panfilo SBD who was the main celebrant at the Missioning Mass at the Cathedral of the archdiocese at Vunapope.

The Rabaul Campus students comprising 186 trainee teachers from Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (OLSH) Kabaleo and 32 trainee nurses from St Mary’s School of Nursing-Vunapope participated in the Missioning. Both Catholic colleges amalgamated with their big sister institution, DWU, in 2015 and now form the Rabaul Campus of the University.

The Missioning in which each student received a DWU Cross was held a day before the graduation ceremony which was hosted at Kabaleo which is not far from Vunapope.

Abp Panfilo based his Missioning Ceremony homily on the main reading from the Gospel of Mathew Chapter 4 verses 18-22 which talks about Jesus Christ meeting four fishermen at Lake Galilee and asking them to follow him.

Abp Panfilo said the Missioning Cross the students were receiving that day symbolised them following Christ in their professional and personal life to do good and witness to others.

After the Mass, brief speeches were made by DWU Rabaul Campus Vice President Professor Francis Hombhanje and DWU Vice President Research and Higher Degrees Professor Father Philip Gibbs. Both speakers also reminded the students of the meaning of the crosses they were receiving that day.

“The crosses you received today, is the sign of humility,” said Prof Hombhanje.

“Being a teacher or a nurse is not easy – believe me, it will require a lot of personal as well as family sacrifices. That is the cross you are going to carry in your life,” he said.

Prof Gibbs shared four aspects of life that the Cross represents for a DWU graduate to be a responsible person in society.

“Firstly, it (the Cross) is a sign of pain and suffering.

“We hear in the Letter of Paul to the Ephesians how Jesus “emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave, and became one of us. He accepted death on a cross.”

The second sign of the Cross is that of triumph over suffering and death and transforming into new life as symbolized by Christ’s resurrection from death.

“This second meaning of the cross as a symbol of new life is important for us here in PNG where many people are suffering,” Prof Gibbs said.

“Why do we have the highest rates of maternal mortality for the Pacific region? “Why so much domestic violence and particularly sorcery accusation related violence that has been in the news headlines lately?

“We have a challenge ahead of us, and the cross as a sign of triumph strengthens us to not give up on facing that challenge.

“Those of you graduating as nurses will be called to minister to the sick in all sorts of challenging situations, where you are isolated and where you have few resources other than your own passion to be an instrument of care and healing.

“Those of you graduating as teachers face a real challenge in education. Some people would say that teaching is all about the three ‘rs’ reading, writing and arithmetic. I beg to differ. The three r’s are important but to me it is much more important how one uses those skills. What is the good of knowing how to count if it is only to count ill-gotten gains through corruption? Why educate girls if their voice will not be heard?

“Many of you will end up being the most educated person in the local community and young people will look up to you for example. It is important that you show by that example what it means to be an honest leader in the community.”

Prof Gibbs said the third meaning of the cross is that it is sign of blessing.

“Today you are not only blessed with the cross but you will receive it and you will take it with you as a continual sign of that blessing.

“That is why today’s ceremony is separate from graduation, Today’s missioning doesn’t end - for the cross you receive is a sign that you are chosen to witness to the goodness that the cross represents – and that doesn’t end. Taking the cross with you is saying to you today, ‘Go and fulfill your life purpose’.”

Prof Gibbs said that “the fourth meaning of the cross is that it presents us with a challenge – the challenge to witness to the values that you have learned here at OLSH Kabaleo and St Mary’s – both humanitarian and Christian values that are also the core values of Divine Word University: Integrity, Academic Excellence, Community Engagement, Respect, Diversity, Hospitality, Learning for Life, and Social Responsibility.

“Which of these values is close to your heart?

“To really witness to those values is a challenge today because there are a lot of other counter values circulating around,” Prof Gibbs reminded the students.