News: Letters from PNG: Trades and Maintenance

Frank Hanrahan, from Bungaree, has just completed his two year placement as a carpenter for Madang Archdiocese, PNG.

Frank with his latest catch
For the past seven weeks I have been at Bogia parish, which is the main parish in the north-west area of Madang Archdiocese.  It is a meeting place and a handy spot for the Priests at small parishes South and West of there to drop in and stay a night or two on their way from their parishes to Madang headquarters.  There used to be five priests there, but two of them have now moved into their parishes inland and Fr Zuccolo unfortunately died in December.  He was parish priest of Manam Island for many years, but was moved to Bogia after Manam erupted a few years ago.

I have been working on the main building which has about ten bedrooms with a big living area on the ground floor.  A local man who was given some carpentry training by Fr Zuccolo helped me replace some rusting gutters and repair the roof and windows.  He is now repairing the windows of an older building while I have given the living room of the main house and the kitchen and dining room some maintenance to doors and latches and a couple of coats of paint.  I have also scraped and sanded tables and chairs and re-varnished them.  There was a young chap working there when I arrived, but he has gone to Br Stan’s class at Danup to do two years carpentry training.

There is also a gang of six from Manam Island who had been trained by Fr Zuccolo who have extended and renovated the other living quarters where people can stay when they come for seminars, conferences or training.  They have an experienced carpenter in charge, so I have left them to look after that.  It has been a busy little area for a couple of months.

Frank, with Christine O'Halloran
The parish priest of Bogia is Fr Michael who came from Poland several years ago and the assistant priest is Fr Alex from Bougainville.  He was going to Manam Island for Mass some weeks ago so I took the opportunity to go over with him for the weekend.  The seas were rough so it was a bumpy ride for an hour in the speedboat.  The people from one area have returned to Manam from the mainland – I walked around to their village with one of them.  There is grey ash over everything – in one area the Island is about 100 metres bigger; ash about three metres deep has pushed out into the sea.  We saw three young men ramming copra tightly into bags – they had a shed full of it ready to go to Madang to be processed, so at least the coconut trees haven’t been affected by the volcano.  The fertile soil has been though – they have to dig down through the ash to sow vegetables and trees.

It has been a very wet year over most of PNG so far, and its playing havoc with the roads.  I was to go with Fr Itigo to his parish west of Bogia to work out the best way to extend their church but a landslide had blocked the road, so there was a 3/4 hour walk at the end.  As I had hurt my leg, it meant we had to postpone it.  Its rained a lot more since, so I’m not sure when we will get there.  Fr Ronnie from the same area also has some walking to do to reach his parish, so hopefully the dry season will be here soon.  Fr Adrian from Banara has some work for me in his house so I don’t think I’ll run out of work!  That is 30kms down the coast from Bogia. Fr Michael has marked out a tennis court behind the church so we have some exercise on Sunday afternoons.  I wait until he and Fr Adrian have worn each other out before I tackle them.

Regards, Frank

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