The heart of a missionary

Fr. Agustinus Guntoro, SCJ

SCJ didn’t want to get “too comfortable”

Although the summer ESL program doesn’t begin for another month, one of its students is already at Sacred Heart School of Theology getting a head start: Fr. Agustinus Guntoro, SCJ.

Originally from the Indonesian Province, Fr. Guntoro, 38, was ordained to the priesthood in 2003. As he was preparing for ordination he wrote to his provincial superior and asked that he be considered for a missionary assignment.

“I thought that I would be too comfortable as a priest in Indonesia,” he said about his request. “A missionary is someone who is not satisfied with ‘the comfortable.’ A missionary is someone who is totally available to go where needed. It is my dream to have the heart of a missionary.”

His dream was to come true faster than he expected. His superiors decided that he would go to India soon after his ordination.

“’Oh my God!’ I thought,” said Fr. Guntoro. “I didn’t even speak English; I was just barely a priest. I didn’t think it would come so quickly!”

As the saying goes, be careful of what you wish for in case your wish might come true.

India itself was a surprise. When he thought of “mission” he had images of a place like West Papua’s remote missions, where several Indonesian SCJs had ministered.

With India he had to think again of what it meant to “have the heart of a missionary,” said Fr. Guntoro. “It meant to go where needed and there was a need in India. I went!”

When he got there Fr. Guntoro had three months to settle in, get to know the district and culture of India and learn some of the English that he would soon be using. Br. Lenny Zaworski, SCJ, an American in India at the time, helped him those first months. “He taught me ‘American English,’ laughed Fr. Guntoro. He supplemented his lessons from Br. Lenny with books and the internet.

Fr. Guntoro’s first assignment was with the minor seminary. He spent three years serving on its formation team before working with older candidates to the community.

Ironically, just as he was starting to get a better sense of English himself, he was assigned to help Indian students learn the language, supplementing their class work with conversation. “I told them that we would learn together.”

Before leaving the country last year, Fr. Guntoro served as district secretary and helped with the production of the district’s newsletter. For the past year, he has been in the Philippines, working with Indian students at the international novitiate.

And now, he is at Sacred Heart School of Theology, working on his English and preparing for future mission ventures in Asia.

“Yes, I always say ‘yes’ when I can pursue my dream to develop the heart of a missionary,” he said.

Fr. Guntoro will be in the ESL program until September.