Sr Anne Marie’s Pre-Chapter visit to Indonesia

My pre-Chapter Visit to Indonesia

My visit to our Ursuline Sisters in Indonesia was a most enriching experience. From the moment of my arrival, their very warm welcome, graciousness, attentive hospitality and benevolent generosity made me feel so at home in the Ursuline family. The spirit of “Insieme” was truly alive.

We were a multi-cultural group – Sisters Brigitte Brunet (France), Anka Kogelnik (Slovenia,) Leocadie Cissokho (Sainte Angele d ’Afrique), Rosana Villegas (Peru), Suzana Crncec (Croatia) and myself.

Indonesia, a Southeast Asian nation made up of thousands of volcanic islands, is home to hundreds of ethnic groups speaking many different languages. It has five big islands and less than one thousand smaller islands, its most famous island being Bali. Now that I have visited Bali, Juanita Hall’s “Bali Ha’i“ from the film / musical  “South Pacific” has taken on a new meaning for me

Bali Ha’i may call you,

Any night any day,

In your heart you’ll hear it call you

Come away, come away

Bali Ha’i will whisper on the wind of the sea

Here am I, your special island

Come to me, come to me……..!!


On the island of Java lies Indonesia’s vibrant, sprawling capital Jakarta. It is home to over 10 million people with diverse ethnic group backgrounds from all over Indonesia. What struck me initially was the huge number of people and motor bikes everywhere. Ireland is so tiny in comparison and we have so much more space. I was very moved by the evidence of such absolute and urban poverty in some areas of the city and its surroundings.

We were fortunate on our first day to attend the Ursuline Gathering, meet all the Sisters and have a very interesting and informative morning’s input on the situation and context of Indonesia, given by B. Herry Priyono SJ.

We visited Istiqlal Mosque the largest mosque in Southeast Asia. It has five levels representing the five pillars of Islam. It stands out with its 45 m diameter dome and tall minarets. It was built to commemorate Indonesian independence and named “Istiqlal” an Arabic word for “independence”. We had a wonderful tour of it. The Istiqlal Mosque is a symbol of religious tolerance which characterizes Indonesia and Indonesians inspiring the world. In Indonesia the majority of the population is Muslim.

We had Mass at the Cathedral in Jakarta. I was surprised not so much by the size and style of this Cathedral, which is definitely great, but much more by the huge interest of the locals to the liturgies inside. It was crowded. And how beautifully they all sing….there was a magnificent choir that gave me goose bumps. We had our picture taken outside the Cathedral in front of the emblem of the Republic of Indonesia with Pancasila (Five Tenets) as national ideology-

  1. Belief in one supreme God
  2. Just and civilized humanity
  3. United Indonesia
  4. Democracy guided by virtue of deliberation through people representation
  5. Social justice for all Indonesians

Bhineka Tunggal Ika = Diversity in Unity = E Pluribus Uum

In Jakarta we stayed in St. Maria – Juanda Community. We visited Santa Ursula – JI Pos Community, Jakarta, St. Theresia Community, Jakarta, Santa Vincentius Community, Jakarta, and Pondok Damai Community, Kampung Sawah. We then visited the Provincialate Community, Bandung, Merdeka Community, Novitiate Community Bandung, St. Mary’s Convent, Surabaya, Santa Trinitas Community Malang, Pacet Community, Stella Maris- Labuan Bajo Community Flores, St. Ursula – Ende Community Flores and the Postulants. In all of the communities we were welcomed with open arms and gracious hospitality. I was surprised by the big numbers in each of the communities so different to our experience in Ireland / Wales / Kenya. While there were many similarities with our Ursuline life in Ireland / Wales / Kenya I think the biggest difference and most challenging for me was intercultural communities, the diversity of cultures within Indonesia itself and the big numbers of Novices, Postulants and Aspirants from different islands and various cultures. I was also struck by the way religious sisters in Indonesia are revered and held in such high esteem by the people.

We also visited magnificent and impressive Ursuline schools where everywhere the Ursuline spirit and charism of Angela was palpable. The Ursuline philosophy of Education is very much alive and active in Indonesia. In many aspects it is different to Ireland / Kenya – different customs and rules, different educational requirements and school facilities yet there was that bond that all Ursuline schools in the world share under one common motto which is SERVIAM. I was struck by the respect and courtesy shown to us by the staffs and students in all the schools. In every single school that I visited we were greeted with radiant smiles and genuine enthusiasm. We were welcomed through speeches, regional dances and song, choirs, orchestras, pageants, with students all decked out in elaborate, colourful costumes. We were showered with gifts, presented with bouquets of flowers and scarfs, photographed as is the local custom. We were treated royally everywhere we went. I was very moved to see the support of the advantaged schools for their more struggling sister schools. It was a surprise for me too, to see that the Ursulines have two orphanages where the children are nurtured and cared for by our Sisters. These too were very happy places.

The majestic landscape and natural beauty in Indonesia especially Flores was a feast for the eyes and good for the soul. Labuan Bajo is a small port town where we enjoyed beautiful sunsets, waters teaming with sea life, and island hopped!


We went to Rinca Island to see Komodo. The Komodo National Park is home to the giant lizards known as Komodo dragons……they were just like very, very, large ghekkos!!It was a challenge for me to try and befriend them!


From there on to Atlas Pearls, Raja Ampat pearl farm where some of the world’s most beautiful and sought after South Sea Pearls are produced and cultivated. We were shown the journey and process of each pearl.

Then we hopped to Kelor Island to swim and snorkel in the clean, crystal clear water. It is surrounded with pearly white sand and exotic corals are to be found in the water. These islands are just breathtakingly beautiful.  

We visited Mount Kelimutu near Ende in central Flores. The tri-coloured lakes are special for natural occurring phenomena. These lakes change colour dramatically and unpredictably from blue or green to red or black. It is a beautifully haunting place.

And finally for rest and relaxation in Bali in a most beautiful hotel by the ocean! Over 90 % of the Balinese people are Hindus. In Denpasar the capital of Bali, you have temples and other places of worship of the different religions peacefully built side by side.

We visited the Uluwatu Temple, at the edge of a cliff overlooking the waves of the Indian Ocean. We enjoyed a performance staged by the Kechak dancers there. It is the most unique type of Balinese dance, it is not accompanied by any musical instrument instead it is accompanied by a choir of around 70 men. It is a sacred dance.

We visited Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park. It is devoted to the Hindu God Vishnu, and his mount, Garuda, the mythical bird who became his companion.

We visited the Tirta Empul water temple considered to be one of the holiest temples in Bali. Pilgrims go there to cleanse themselves in the holy waters. The drive there was incredible, we went through rice terraces and local villages and saw the subak irrigation system for the paddy fields.

In Bali, each Hindu family has its own personal sacred temple. It is built to honour the memory of their ancestors.

We visited Penglipuran Village a traditional village where the people who live there still preserve their traditional culture in their daily lives. They still follow the philosophy of Balinese society regarding the balance of relations between God, humans and their environment.

We visited Bedugul mountain lake resort, Beratan Temple and Bali Botanic Gardens and Tanah Lot Temple. It is not surprising that Bali is known as the “Island of the Gods”, or “Island of a Thousand Temples”!

I am deeply grateful to Sr. Agatha, (Provincial), the Provincial team and all our Indonesian Sisters for a truly memorable immersion experience. Indonesia will always hold a special place in my heart.

Terima Kasih banyak!