Home Commentary Indonesians mourn Fr. Frans' death, prominent figure in social communication service

Indonesians mourn Fr. Frans’ death, prominent figure in social communication service

The death of Father Fransiskus de Sales SCJ, a prominent figure in social communication service in Indonesia, is a huge loss. This loss is felt not only by Sumatra’s Palembang Archdiocese and the Sacred Heart Religious (SCJ) Congregation but also by the Indonesian Catholics who have dedicated their lives and work to the development of disseminating the Good News through social communication outlets.

Frans de Sales, a Sacred Heart priest, was ordained in 1998 after completing his theological studies at the Pontifical Theological School of Sanata Dharma University and earning a master’s degree in journalism from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

“Before joining the SCJ,” the priest told me during the 3rd Indonesian Youth Day in Palembang in June 2023, “I was expected to become a catechist, as my previous studies were at the Pastoral Institute of Indonesia (IPI) in Malang, East Java.”

“It was indeed true that the late Father de Sales SCJ was a former catechist in South Sumatra’s Sidomulyo,” Yudi, his former classmate in SCJ said.

Avid Trainer in Social Communication

As a priest, Father de Sales had a strong ambition to proclaim the Good News across the vast Archdiocese of Palembang, which covers three provinces: Jambi, Bengkulu, and South Sumatra. For this reason, he often motivated me to join his pastoral mission tours to remote villages surrounded by extensive palm plantations across the three provinces.

He frequently made trips to visit Catholics in remote areas during Holy Week and the Christmas season. “I felt morally called to administer holy sacraments to these ‘neglected’ Catholic congregations where Eucharists might not be performed weekly,” Fr. Sales told me in 2017.

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As the chief of the social communication commission of the Palembang Archdiocese for over 20 years, Fr. Sales never ceased visiting parishes to inspire the youth to become “speakers” of the word through social media platforms.

During his tenure, he conducted dozens of trainings for students and laypeople on using modern communication technology for pastoral missions. “I was very aware that motivating those in parishes was highly effective in inspiring young people to undertake this pastoral mission,” the priest told me in 2017.

Contributing to Signis Asia

His contributions to Signis Indonesia and Signis Asia have been very fruitful. He became a member of the board of Signis Asia for the term 2023-2026. Earlier, he served as vice chairman of Signis Indonesia from 2011-2013 and then as its chairman from 2013-2018. In 2017, he also invited Sesawi.Net to join Signis Indonesia’s annual meeting-cum-gathering in Ketapang Diocese, West Kalimantan.

“From the priest, I learned to be humbler and to work hard to develop the group,” said Bernadetta Widiandayani, who is also a member of the board of Signis Asia.

Long Treatment for Various Illnesses

The last time I met the priest was during Palembang’s 3rd Indonesian Youth Day in June 2023. He was the person in charge of providing all the tools and devices needed to make the national Catholic youth event go viral. At that time, I was personally concerned about his health condition. Every time he drove me home to a local religious residential house in downtown Palembang late at night, he appeared completely burnt out.

Father Fransiskus de Sales died on Sunday morning, April 7, at the age of 62. He was a native of Maumere, Flores, in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) Province. “He died due to multiple illnesses, including diabetes and cancer,” said Fr. Suparman, SCJ’s Chief.

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