Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Prefecture Apostolic of Kaiserwilhelmsland

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Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Volume 8
Prefecture Apostolic of Kaiserwilhelmsland

by Eberhard Limbrock


Comprises the German part of the island of New Guinea, area about 460,000 sq. miles; about 1,000,000 inhabitants. It was only in August, 1896, that the first Catholic missionaries arrived there, three priests and three brothers. On a coast extending about four hundred miles there are now twelve stations established. The small mission steamboat Gabriel is the means of communication along the coast. The Apostolic prefecture was established in 1896 and transferred to the Society of the Divine Word. It had in 1909 twenty-two priests, seventeen lay brothers, and twenty-nine sisters; there are no native priests, the mission being too new. A cathedral is already planed, St. Michael's in Alexishafen. Since the beginning of the mission there have been 1960 baptisms. There are thirteen parochial schools and 600 pupils; priests instruct in religion, while the sisters (Serv Spiritus Sancti) teach reading, writing, arithmetic, singing and geography. A catechism school has just been started. The principal difficulty is the variety of languages; at St. Michael's about 120 pupils speak twenty-five different languages. The common language is German. Some of the adult pupils learn from the brothers useful trades, e. g. carpentering, joinery, smith-work, boat-building, mason-work, and tailoring. Some farms have been started, so that the lower classes of New Guineans may learn to appreciate and love the work. It is hoped that in time, through the practice of useful occupations, the mission will be entirely self-supporting. Each mission is governed by a priest, who is subject to a dean, whose duty it is to see that the rules are observed. Conferences are held every three or four weeks, and in order to promote the spiritual welfare of the community, an eight-day retreat is given yearly.

It was at first proposed to found a leper settlement, but for the present this charitable work has failed, owing to the deep mistrust and superstition of the New Guinean character. Moreover, they have an easier way of disposing of these crippled and afflicted creatures; they simply drive them into the great wilderness. All the natives belong to the Papuan race, but along the coast are found a few of Malay race; the few Malays and Chinese are mostly artisans in various trades. The centre of navigation is Astrolabe Bay Friedrich Wilhelmshafen. The latter station belongs to the New Guinea Company, which has, with few exceptions, the monopoly of all land there. Seven English miles north of it is Alexishafen, superior in every way to Friedrich Wilhelmshafen.

E. Limbrock.