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Prefectures Apostolic of Borneo

Ecclesial territory in Indonesia

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I. DUTCH BORNEO.—The former Vicariate of Batavia was composed of Sumatra, Java, and the other Sunda Islands, including Borneo, under the control of Holland. The northern part of Borneo, now under British suzerainty, was separated from this immense vicariate, August 27, 1855; that part of Borneo which is under Dutch rule was taken from the Vicariate Apostolic of Batavia, February 11, 1905, and made into a separate prefecture under the care of the Capuchins. The missionaries for the new prefecture were selected from the Dutch province of this order, and the first prefect Apostolic was appointed April 10, 1905. Up to the time of the separation what is now the Prefecture of Dutch Borneo was administered by the Jesuits who had charge of the Vicariate of Batavia, and who visited the Catholics of Dutch Borneo twice a year. In 1875 the Jesuit Father de Vriez built a little church at Singkawang, a small town situated on the west coast of the island. In the neighborhood of Singkawang there were nearly 200 Chinese Catholics and 118 soldiers. In 1890 Father Staal, afterwards Vicar Apostolic of Batavia, founded a station in the interior at Smitau. The station was afterwards transferred to Sedjiram on the Penboeang in the region inhabited by the Dyaks. The mission at Sedjiram gave good promise of success and in 1897 included 400 baptized persons, but the missionaries were too few in number to give the station constant supervision, and it was consequently abandoned. Later the Holy See decided to erect a separate prefecture covering an area of 204,633 square miles. According to the “Statistics of the Capuchin Missions” for 1906, there were in Dutch Borneo at that date 8 Capuchin priests; 4 brothers; 396 Catholics, consisting of 210 Chinese, 100 Dyaks, and 86 Europeans; 2 stations, Singkawang and Sedjiram; 3 chapels; 20 conversions were claimed. There had been 56 baptisms and 156 communions, the latter number referring to the Catholic laity as, outside of the Capuchins, there are no religious in the prefecture. The population included in the prefecture is 2,000,000. A report of November 26, 1906, gave the founding of a third station at Samarinda on the east coast of Borneo, some two weeks’ sail from Singkawang, and of a fourth station at Pamangkat, which is seven hours from Singkawang.

II. BRITISH BORNEO, or THE PREFECTURE OF NORTH BORNEO AND LABUAN.—In 1687 Father Ventimiglia, a Theatine, was commissioned by Pope Innocent XI to preach Christianity in Borneo. There are no memorials of this mission, which has left no traces in the island although the missionary declared that God had blessed his labors. The Propaganda, August 27, 1855, decreed the erection of the northern part of the island of Borneo into an independent prefecture and entrusted it to the Rev. Charles Cuarteron, a Spaniard. Father Cuarteron was originally a sea-captain and had vowed, after escaping great peril, to devote himself to the evangelization of Borneo. He landed at Labuan in 1857, in company with several missionaries who deserted him in 1860. Although alone in the island of Labuan, Father Cuarteron courageously continued his labors. At length, seeing that isolation made him powerless, he went to Rome in 1879 to request that the Propaganda place the mission in charge of an institute. From Rome Father Cuarteron went to Spain, where he soon died. The British had obtained the island of Labuan in 1846; they gradually extended their power over the petty rulers of the northern part of Borneo until, in 1888, the British Protectorate of North Borneo was formally acknowledged. English-speaking missionaries being desired in the British part of Borneo, the Propaganda (March 19, 1881) confided the mission of North Borneo and Labuan to the Society for Foreign Missions of Mill-hill, England. The first prefect Apostolic appointed under the new administration was the Rev. Thomas Jackson. The society has since continued in charge of the mission.

The island of Labuan has an area of 30 square miles and contains 6,800 inhabitants; it is an important shipping station between Singapore and Hong-Kong. The prefect Apostolic lives at Labuan. The stations served are Labuan and Sarawak (Kuching), the two most important towns. Outside of these two places where the missionaries live there are ten stations which are visited: Sibu, Kanowit, Egan, Oya, Mukah, Baram, Papar, Jesselton, Patatan, and Sandakan. According to the “Missions-Atlas” of P. Streit, the statistics of the mission are: 19 regular priests; 2 lay brothers; 15 sisters; 8 churches; 20 chapels; 16 catechists; 14 schools with 740 pupils; 2,600 baptisms; about 1,000 catechumens.


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