Talking culture and vocations

Anne Marie Amacher
Sister Aprilia Untarto, SSpS; and seminarian Engelbertus Salmon, SVD, lead All Saints Catholic School students in a song during a culture and vocations talk Jan. 31 at the Davenport school.

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — Guests from Divine Word Seminary in Epworth, Iowa gave a presentation on culture and vocations as part of the Catholic Schools Week celebration at All Saints Catholic School on Jan. 31. Students, faculty and staff wore cultural attire that ranged from authentic Hispanic ponchos to Vietnamese ao dai (silk tunic with pants).

Len Uhal, national vocations director for Divine Word, spoke first with students in grades 2-5 and then students in grades 6-8. Sister Aprilia Untarto, SSpS, and seminarian Engelbertus Salmon, SVD, who come from two different islands in Indonesia, also spoke with the students.

Uhal told the students he too went to All Saints Catholic School — but in Chicago. He asked the students if they knew the difference between “Catholic” with a capital C and “catholic” with a lowercase c. He expected the older children to know the answer but was impressed that the younger children also understood that “Catholic” refers to the Catholic Church while “catholic” means “universal.”


Each of the speakers wore a top from a different country. Uhal wore a shirt from Haiti, where he has been seven times. Sister Aprilia wore a top from her homeland. Engelbertus wore a top from Burma, now known as Myanmar, which he has visited.

When Uhal asked the students what “seminarian” means, one guessed “musician.” Uhal provided the correct answer, referring to Engelbertus as someone studying for the priesthood. Uhal introduced a third word, “archipelago.” He explained that the term means a chain of islands. “Did you know the Philippines is made up of 7,000 islands?” he asked the students. Then he asked them to guess how many islands make up Indonesia. Guesses ranged from 70 to 1,000 islands. The answer:  around 14,000 islands.

Sister Aprilia explained that Indonesia is the southernmost country in Asia, with a population of around 350 million people — the fourth-largest country in the world. She described Jakarta, the country’s capital, as “a small city, but the most populous in Indonesia.”

Engelbertus described Indonesia as beautiful islands. He is from Komodo Island, where residents primarily fish for a living. Many live in straw houses built more than 100 years ago. The island of Sumatra’s housing is more elaborate, featuring large traditional homes in which multiple generations live together, he said.

ister Aprilia shared some other facts about Indonesia. Students in all schools — Catholic and non-Catholic — wear a uniform with set colors based on elementary, middle school and high school levels. The main food staple is rice, served morning, noon and evening. The people eat plenty of fish and frequently use chilies. The predominant religion is Muslim, which 97% of the country practices. Engelbertus’ island is very Christian, he said.

Uhal showed a video of liturgical dance during a Catholic Mass in Indonesia. “Other cultures often have a lot of dance,” he said. Engelbertus played a song on his guitar, with the lyrics appearing on a projector for students to sing along. He also taught them a dance. Sister Aprilia danced and clapped along with the students. All three speakers reminded students to respect people no matter their culture or religion.

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