Thirty (30) pilgrims from Maleai Village in the Shortland Islands left for Rabaul in Papua New Guinea (PNG) on 1st of July 2017 for a weeklong visit to the Memorial of Blessed Peter ToRot, the only person in PNG and SI who has been elevated to being Blessed in the Catholic Church by late Pope Saint John Paul II in.
The group left by three canoes from the Shortlands to Buin, southern part of Bougainville where they took a truck that drove them to Buka.
At Buin Town, the group was accommodated by the Turiboiru Parish on the night of July first before they got onto a truck to Buka at about 11.30am.
The journey was long and rough, but arrived at Arawa sometime at 10pm. The group was thankful to Dominic and his wife, Angela who took the time to prepare a place for overnight.
From Arawa, the group started the long drive to Buka at 3am. It was a beautiful drive although at times the highway was not all that good to the travelers.
Upon arrival at Buka by 11am, the pilgrims were delighted to see that the boat was already at the wharf that would take them to Rabaul.
After some formalities were completed, the group headed for the boat whose name was CHEBU. The trip to Rabaul from Buka was great, it took only 13 hours to get to Rabaul.
Upon arrival the group was delighted to have realized that two priests from the archdiocese of Rabaul were at the wharf to pick them up to get to Rakunai, the parish that housed Blessed Peter ToRot, a home parish.
On July 4th, the pilgrims had a day of rest, they took up and opportunity to get to know the place as well as trying to settle in.
It was also the first day when some of the pilgrims went to have a first sight of the shopping center at Kokopo as well as having some first taste of what Kokopo market offered to the ques of crowds.
July 4th was the date where programs for the pilgrims started following the schedule prepared by the local parishioners of Rakunai parish, namely St Augustine’s parish that accommodates the remains of Blessed Peter To Rot.
It was a day of prayer and fasting when pilgrims visited the chapel of Blessed Peter To Rot as they wished and also as groups. There were continuous prayers and singing offered during the day and at night.
July 5th was designated as a day for the pilgrims to have an opportunity to visit historical sites associated with Blessed Peter To Rot during his life time, particularly areas where he had withdrawn after a threat by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II.
First pilgrims were taken to an area where he had made a cave to secure a place where he could baptize people, marry couples and where he had hidden the Blessed Sacrament.
He performed all these ceremonies in hiding because the Japanese had banned him from conducting religious services.
Despite that, Peter continued his pastoral work, he served his people without fear of his life when and wherever he could.
From here the pilgrims were taken to a site, another cave where Peter had hid his family after a conscious threat, after which the pilgrims were shown the original site of his home (family house).
From the family house location, the pilgrims were led to see and area where he was murdered by the Japanese by injecting poisonous substance into his body.
While he struggled to die, he had also to bear by having a piece of cloth around his mouth to stop him from making noise and vomiting.
It was then that two Japanese had placed a piece of timber over his neck while they stood on this timber on both ends. Peter breathed his last at that time, and his relatives came and took his body away.
The pilgrims were then taken to Peter’s birth place where his mother had given birth to him; where Peter for the first time existed in the world and prepared for the tasks ahead of him.
Walk to the sites associated with Peter To Rot took several hours to complete. The fact was, walking to the sites was accompanied by prayer and singing so that the pilgrims can experience what is was like before. Pictures show the places pilgrims had visited.
There was a great satisfaction felt by pilgrims to have not only been there but to have firsthand experience of who Peter To Rot was and the kind of environment he existed and tolerated were very touching. It was an experience of a lifetime for many, if not most of the pilgrims.
By Fr. Henry Paroi OP