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June 12, 2006

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Celebration becomes an earthquake benefit

Also See:
Pastoral Appointments for 2006

Ordination just shows ‘the love of the people’


When a massive earthquake ripped through Indonesia Saturday May 26, it was felt half way around the world by then-Deacon, now-Father Nicolas Tumbelaka. The earthquake hit the country where he was born just one week before his ordination to the priesthood, a bitter prelude to the sweetness of answering God’s call to serve as a priest.

Jeff Graham / The B.C. Catholic

Jeff Graham / The B.C. Catholic

Jeff Graham / The B.C. Catholic

However, despite the difficulty of the previous week, Father Tumbelaka was obviously overjoyed at his ordination at Holy Rosary Cathedral June 1 by Archbishop Raymond Roussin, SM.

"I just felt the love of the people and the love of the Church. People made every effort to make my ordination special; so many people did so much," he told The B.C. Catholic.

For Father Tumbelaka the earthquake hit close to home, as he was deeply concerned for the safety of his sister, Elly, and her family, who live just 50 km from Bantul, the city hardest hit during the quake. While Elly and her family ended up being okay, she gave her brother a firsthand account of the massive panic and death the earthquake caused.

"My brother-in-law just ran out to rescue the children, because people were saying a tsunami was coming. Everybody was running to the mountains, and that was part of why so many people got hurt, because people were running towards the mountains and getting into accidents," said Father Tumbelaka. "They said it was just like a war; there were so many ambulances and so many people dead."

In response, Father Tumbelaka unselfishly used the celebration after his ordination as an opportunity to raise money for the victims of the disaster. The first initiative Father Tumbelaka organized as a priest was a collection for the diocese of Jakarta for Catholic hospitals in the area.

For local Indonesian Catholics, Father Tumbelaka’s ordination was a notable silver lining to the disaster. Father Tumbelaka explained that the Indonesian community in Vancouver rallied around his ordination and around the victims of the disaster, providing food and decorations for the ordination as well as money for the victims overseas.

"In the Indonesian community here, there are so many of them that come from the area, and so they really felt they should help," he said. "The day before my ordination the chairman of the Indonesian society of British Columbia called me and said he had got a lot of requests for help. A lot of Indonesians here have relatives there, that’s why they want to help."

Father Tumbelaka said he was grateful for all of those who helped with the music and decorations at his ordination.

"The Indonesian youth made the drawing of the Good Shepherd in the hall, and because they had to study, they came at 7 or 8 in the evening and stayed up all night to do the painting," he said. "I was also really touched by how much these ladies were helping, putting in so much effort to make my ordination special."

One of the most special moments of the celebration was the cutting of the cake, with the first piece going to his mother, Agnes, as is appropriate according to Indonesian custom, and the second going to his bishop.

Father Tumbelaka said the ordination touched him in many ways, and that he is grateful for all the prayers and support he received.

"My friend Father Andrew L’Heureux from Kamloops called me and said, ‘You will like it. You will enjoy it. It’s such an awesome feeling."

If Father Tumbelaka’s beaming smile throughout the entire ordination and the party afterward were any indication, the recently ordained Father L’Heureux was right.

"I want to extend my gratitude to all the people who attended my ordination. It is really an experience to see how the kingdom of God can be experienced by everybody, with everybody helping together."

"I felt how much people love the Church, and how people do everything for Church and for God. When all of our efforts are put together, it gives me a lot of encouragement," he continued. "I just really felt these people were a part of my family."

"I was really surprised to see that so many people came to my ordination. I thought it was very beautiful. There was a lot of excitement, and I just had such a happy feeling."

After the ordination, Father Tumbelaka addressed the hundreds of faithful who had come out to support him.

"From the very bottom of my heart I would like to thank the Lord Jesus for answering your prayers for more priests," he said to the crowd. "Thank you, Archbishop Roussin, for listening to the Holy Spirit and for being willing to ordain me tonight."

"Thank you very much. Merci Beaucoup. Maraming Salamat Po."

The crowd erupted into raucous applause after Father Tumbelaka said Maraming Salamat Po (thank you in Tagalog), indicating that he has the support of Filipino Catholics in the archdiocese as well.

"Again, thank you all very much."

"The key is to follow Jesus. I really understand now about how our soul is restless until it rests in God," he told The B.C. Catholic. "True love can only be found in God, and now I can really understand when Jesus says, ‘Look only for the kingdom of God’; now I really understand what it means to put the kingdom of God first."


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