Wednesday, June 6, 2018

National Catholic Teachers' Day

National Catholic Teachers’ Day celebrating St. John Baptist De La Salle, the Patron Saint of teachers, is on May 15. The Diocese celebrated the day on Friday May 18th.  Our staff were given special yellow t-shirts to commentate the special day. 

Mass was to begin at 8am at the cathedral. We were to meet at 7:30 in the staff room and walk over together. At 5 minutes to 8 - we were still in the staff room and the cathedral is at least a 15 minute walk. No one was in any hurry, but my American mind is going crazy because mass begins in 5 minutes and no one was going anywhere. Finally, the school bus pulls up (small 12 passenger van in the US) and takes a few teachers and half of the school choir who were going with us to sing their designated songs. The bus dropped us off and went back for the second half.

Everyone from Caritas showed up, as well as students and teachers from other schools, but no priest. Evidently, the priest assigned forgot and was not even in the area. The parish priests already said the 6:30 mass, someone from another sub-parish was called and we had to wait for his arrival. The 8 am mass began at around 9:15 - normal PNG time. His message was very good despite his late arrival.

After mass, we headed back to the school where the students had special plans in store for us. I was escorted to my home room where my students presented me with my first merriblouse- a dress and undercloth typical of what women of PNG wear in this day and age. The merriblouse is really pretty with purple flowers on white fabric. The undercloth was a purple lap lap. 

We were escorted by our students to the chapel for a variety of dances from each class.  The day included gifts presented to the teachers by their students. Each homeroom provided food for their class matron and students and my class did not disappoint. Chicken and rice, sausages, fried sago, fruit and chocolate cake for dessert. Yum!

The day ended with another cake presented to us by Sister Sara. Nice!

All in all, it was a wonderful day and I'm already looking forward to celebrating it again next year.

Thank you to all for your support and prayers for my mission. I feel lucky to work with a great staff and wonderful students. I pray for you daily too. God bless until the next message.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Two Bishops

Happy Mothers’ Day was celebrated here in Kimbe on Sunday May 13, but Kimbe had another celebration that day at the Diocese. Mass was celebrated by two Bishops that morning. Our own Bishop Bill Fey and a newly ordained Bishop Frances Meli, J.C.L, D.D. who was initially ordained as a priest in the Kimbe Diocese and returned to Kimbe for a mass and a huge celebration in his honor that took up most of the day. The celebration included traditional dances that were lively and joyous and I know God was present for this glorious occasion.

The day began with the 8 a.m. mass that started outside. The clergy and Bishops were escorted by warriors in traditional dress, women in both native and traditional Kimbe dress, drums drumming away, spears present ( yes, real spears) making the progression worth standing in the already hot sun.

There were way over a thousand people - from all parts of the Kimbe Diocese there to celebrate this special day. The cathedral was packed and every window occupied by hundreds more who were outside looking in. I was lucky enough to follow the Sisters to a designated area up front reserved especially for the Sisters and the three missionaries. The sing-sing (music) was harmonized by all and the offertory was again accompanied by another set of warriors who danced (not sure this is the right word) their way to the altar, the offertory gifts following behind.

After mass, a buffet was laid out in honor of the new Bishop. The table had taro, coconut, both eating and sweet bananas, chicken, rice, other vegetables, cucumbers, sausages, fruit, and again some mummu pig and so much more. I will describe the mummu pig in my food blog coming soon. Yum!

There was a special cake decorated by the students and the Sisters of Caritas (my school) for the Bishop with a special song sang to him by the different congregation of Sisters from the Kimbe Diocese. They were led by my student, Sr Bernadette.

The buffet was followed by celebrations representing almost every parish in the diocese who either sang, said a prayer or danced in celebration of the new Bishop. Gifts were given as well which included money, food, and other traditional items the Bishop may need. (Bishop Fey left after the buffet to do some last minute work before leaving for the US the next day.) I loved it- it is so different and so traditional. I stayed to almost the end.

Bishop Frances will be over one of the most difficult diocese to work at in PNG. His diocese is on and in the surrounding area of the PNG-Indonesia border and can only be accessed comfortably by air. I'm sure you can hike through the jungle, but I did say comfortably. I'm expecting the people of that area will welcome him with as much pageantry as he received in Kimbe. It would be interesting to visit him sometime and his diocese. Please pray for him as he begins his Service in that area.

Thank you for your support and prayers. I feel very comfortable here. I really enjoy my students, my fellow teachers, the religious community and everyone in-between. God bless each and every one of you. I will pray for you in return. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Culture Day at School

Caritas Technical Secondary School is run by the Caritas Sisters whose order originated in South Korea under the founder Don Bosco.  
Danita and Sr. Sarah
I am teaching English to 9th graders and literature to 11th graders. I am also temporarily teaching Personal Development, but a new science teacher will be taking over that class. Because I am temporarily teaching that class, I was at liberty to teach any chapter- so I naturally found the New Guinea Culture Identity and am asking the students to teach me about their culture. Fascinating!! For those who know my background, I remember being in school and writing and presenting about the Amish for teachers who knew nothing about them. No wonder I would get "A's" and now I know how those teachers felt.

I asked the class to present 5 items that represent their culture. They naturally formed groups with others who come from the same region of PNG and have a similar culture. Their presentation was on Friday and both of my 9th grade classes joined together for their presentations. We were able to reserve the chapel room and a few other classes joined us. My fellow missionary, Karen Srajer, was able to join me and take pictures. 

There is a school mass every Wednesday morning at 7:40 (the only day I can sleep in a little bit). Fr. Michael and my fellow St. Bartholomew parishioners, can you believe I attend mass at 6:30 am almost every morning? It's actually a highlight of my day. Mayra- there is even singing at all the masses here.  (English on Monday and Friday and 6:30 Sunday morning) (Pidgin on Tuesday and Thursday and 8 am Sunday morning). English at the school mass on Wednesday. On Wednesday, my home room class were responsible for the songs sung and prayers said during the mass. During the offertory, they did a native dance to music up the aisle led by Sister Bernadette, a student in my class.

Saturday, the school students and their parents and other volunteers helped clean up the city of Kimbe. The cleanathon began at 6 am. (To take advantage of a 'cooler ' morning and finished with a sausage sizzler fundraiser at the school. It was successful (but 6 am on a Saturday?) Oh well.

Next week is a week vacation for the students, the staff have to be here to plan our next term. The next term begins April 23 and lasts for 10 weeks. The students will then have a two week break.

I like my classes. The students are respectful. They stand and greet me when I enter the room. I'm known here as Ms. Danita.

Bishop Bill is in Port Morseby this week attending a Bishop Conference for PNG. Sisters Sara and Florentina were able to go and decorate the hall where 70 Bishops representing PNG and the Solomon Islands will have mass and have meetings. The pictures they took are remarkable.

I encourage you to check out my fellow missionaries blog (Ron and Karen Srajer) as well to get another view of our mission journey.  Their blog address is:

If you want to send me anything, please send it to the following address:

Danita Kurtz
Catholic Diocese of Kimbe
P.O.Box 182
Kimbe 621 West New Britain
Papua New Guinea.

Have a wonderful day and I will be back to you soon.

God Bless all of you. 

Monday, April 2, 2018

Happy Easter

Happy Easter!

The church had over a thousand plus people at the Good Friday Service, Holy Saturday Vigil and Sunday morning mass. It was raining Friday night and people stood outside under umbrellas looking through the window. All services were beautiful- no organ, no instruments - maybe an occasional guitar, but their voices harmonized well together and everyone sings from the heart.

There were around 76 baptisms during the Saturday night vigil. The majority were babies (so there was a delightful chorus of wailing going on up front) and 7 adults. After the Saturday night vigil mass, the Sisters were jubilant giving out Easter goodies, singing - very nice.

I walked to church on Sunday morning so I could put my Easter treats in Ron and Karen's fridge- didn't want them melting. The church was packed again, but somehow we were escorted right up front. The mass was wonderful again- the offering had dancing women escorting the gifts with Sister Benedict (Missionary Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart) leading the way with leaves and flowers adorning their outfits.

After mass, I had breakfast with Ron and Karen, then the Bishop picked us up and took us swimming in the ocean. It was a little ways outside of Kimbe where the sun was shining, but when we got to the Franciscan retreat center, rain was threatening and when we got to the ocean, we went in and watched as the rain approached. To get to and from the ocean, you walked a path through the jungle till it opens to the ocean. The water is warm and cold at the same time, depending on where you stood. If it's cold, walk a little ways and you are warm again. But the downpour started and we were soaked returning on the path through the jungle leading back to the retreat center.

We returned back to Kimbe, had a bowl of ice cream and the Bishop gave me a ride home. Marilyn, my neighbor and fellow teacher, and I were then invited to a student’s place for a BBQ. I wasn't going to pass on this opportunity to meet people from PNG. The BBQ was plentiful- chicken, 2-3 types of sausages, beef, 2 types of greens, cooked banana and a few foods I didn't know the names of. Delicious.  The families are originally from the Highlands (The Hagan) but were recruited to work in Kimbe. I noticed no one uses napkins- so wanted to see what they do with their hands after eating with them. Still not sure...

All in all, I enjoyed Holy Week and now it's Monday- Easter Boxing Day and a national holiday. It rained the whole day. Tomorrow I begin teaching... please pray for me. 

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Student Workday

The students completed their exams and today is their workday. They cleaned classrooms and then planted plants on and around the perimeter of the school.

The Sisters are so much fun to watch and the students like them too.  Sister Sarah found a few students hiding from their responsibilities and picked up a paddle. I stood there stunned as I watched her race  towards these students, her habit flying behind her, her paddle in her hand, the students laughing at the whole situation as she pretends to use the paddle- the students run away from her and everyone is  laughing, including Sister Sarah. I can't even make this stuff up. But when the plants and flowers grow, they will make the whole place much better.

After the workday was over, many students, the staff and the Sisters went to the 'beach' behind the school. I think it will become a future workday project to clean the beach. Many went into the water and others played with beach  balls   Two of the Sisters went swimming too - habits and all. It was a nice way to end the school term.

Today is Holy Thursday here in PNG - a day ahead of many of you. I'll be going to church tonight with the Sisters.

Happy Easter!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Honeymoon Stage

I am in the honeymoon stage here at PNG and so far I love it. My 'house' is the only down point, but it's better than many PNG houses. The Sisters are trying their best to make it cozy for me - poor ventilation and they still want to put in an A/C. Yes, cold showers.

I work for Bishop Bill and he is originally from Pittsburgh and is really wonderful. He is very smart- PH.D from Oxford and a philosophy teacher at heart. He made me feel at home from the beginning and now that Ron and Karen are here as well- we all are getting along just fine. Bishop loves having Americans here with him and the other priests and Brothers are great too.

I am currently working at Caritas Technical School in Kimbe and will begin teaching English the second term - a week or two after Easter. I am already observing in the classroom and it seems very easy. It's a girls’ school and they are very respectful. Sister Florentina is the mastermind and the Caritas nuns originate in South Korea. Sister Sarah is the person in charge of the work projects, Sister Romero is newly arrived and is in the English classes and Sister Benedict is their first PNG sister to join them. I live across from their convent.

This past weekend was so awesome!! Karen, Ron and I got in the boat with Bishop Bill and other native clergy. We had to get on a banana boat and went to the villages of Kaliai and Baliai. The welcome ceremonies from each village and even one here in Kimbe were so special- just as I imagined. The drums, the native costumes made of leaves and flowers and their dance were wonderful. Then each person in the village came by to shake our hand. Babies are so honest- they are frightened- such white faces!! Ha!!

The masses, one on Saturday to confirm about 200 or so people and the Palm Sunday mass were both packed at each location inside and out We were able to sit up front and  - it was awesome!! I still don't have the right words to describe it - I will have pictures as soon as I can get my laptop to work.

To get to these villages, we had to take a ride through the country roads filled with potholes to the ocean (took about an hour or so) then we took a boat for about 5 hours. The first three hours were calm and smooth, but the last 2 or so hours were rough wet and choppy. I am so glad I had a pillow to sit on that I brought from home. I got the worst of it - splashed in the face repeatedly. We had a Vatican flag on our boat to let everyone know the Bishop was on board. Karen sat on one side of him and I sat on the other, protecting him from the ocean spray that seemed to last forever.  Ron sat up front- uncomfortable, but glad to come along.

I was severely sunburnt and the Sisters brought me some cream to ease the burn. Ouch!  Bishop Bill has a sense of humor and all I could do was laugh, the alternative is not even an option. We stayed with the parish priest- no electricity and no running water, but survived. On Sunday after mass in the afternoon, we went to an island to swim in the ocean and took some picinini's (children) with us. They covered themselves in sand and then dunked into the ocean. I asked them to do it again, and they did...Beautiful- I can't wait to show you pictures.

This is Holy Week and there will be a chrism mass on Wednesday night. Many priests are gathering in Kimbe for this special mass before returning to their own parish churches for Holy Week services. I go to church (mass) every morning at 6:30 at the cathedral- nothing like any cathedral in the US. This is a very humble place and is why Ron is here- to help build a better church. On Wednesday morning there is a mass at the school at 6:45am. The girls are not afraid to sing and their voices harmonize very well. The other mornings, I hitch a ride with the sisters- funny scene- 7 of us in a SUV pounding over potholes to cross the street to the cathedral in the morning. Something like an 'E' ride at Disney- if some of you are old enough to remember such tickets. So far so good.

Like I said, this is supposedly my honeymoon phase and I hope it does not end too quickly.

 God bless

Monday, February 26, 2018

Visa Approved

Great news! My visa was finally approved and I begin my mission on March 15, 2018.  I will travel with my fellow missionaries, Ron and Karen Srajer. As of now, our travel agenda includes flying from LAX to Brisbane, Australia. We then fly to the Capital City of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. We will be met by Bishop Fey, the Bishop of the Diocese of Kimbe, PNG. If you can, google his name and you will not only find out a little about him, you will also see pictures of the culture I will discover soon.

Bishop Fey will help acclimate us to our new country, then we will fly together to our home for the next three years, Kimbe, PNG.  As of today, my mission assignment is to teach English at a Catholic technical school outside of Kimbe.

The next time I write, it should be from PNG as I will write periodically to update you on my mission journey.  I have been in contact with a few missionaries who served in PNG and heard their wonderful stories.  Now, I look forward to writing my own as I begin my journey. So, stay tuned...

National Catholic Teachers' Day

National Catholic Teachers’ Day celebrating St. John Baptist De La Salle, the Patron Saint of teachers, is on May 15. The Diocese celebrat...