About the Author(s)

Fransiskus J. Hamu symbol
Faculty of Theology, STIPAS Tahasak Danum Pambelum Keuskupan Palangka Raya, Palangka Raya, Indonesia

Adison A. Sihombing Email symbol
Department of Research and Development, Ministry of Religious Affairs of Indonesia, Jakarta, Indonesia

Zaenuddin H. Prasojo symbol
Faculty of Ushuluddin, Adab and Dakwah, IAIN Pontianak, Pontianak, Indonesia

Emanuel P.D. Martasudjita symbol
Faculty of Theology Wedhabhakti, Universitas Sanata Dharma, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Antonius D. Firmanto symbol
Faculty of Philosophy of Divinity, Sekolah Tinggi Filsafat Teologi Widya Sasana Malang, Malang, Indonesia


Hamu, F.J., Sihombing, A.A., Prasojo, Z.H., Martasudjita, E.P.D. & Firmanto, A.D., 2023, ‘Liturgical transformation of Diocesan Church in Palangkaraya, Indonesia’, HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 79(1), a7850. https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v79i1.7850

Original Research

Liturgical transformation of Diocesan Church in Palangkaraya, Indonesia

Fransiskus J. Hamu, Adison A. Sihombing, Zaenuddin H. Prasojo, Emanuel P.D. Martasudjita, Antonius D. Firmanto

Received: 19 June 2022; Accepted: 18 Nov. 2022; Published: 06 Feb. 2023

Copyright: © 2023. The Author(s). Licensee: AOSIS.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The congregation is challenged by modern times that require various life adjustments, including priestly pastoral ministry. Therefore, this study examined the pastoral ministry style for the parishioner’s rural community of St. Petrus Paulus Ampah Diocese in Palangka Raya. A descriptive qualitative approach was used with data collected using participatory observations, in-depth interviews and document studies. Furthermore, the data analysis involved reducing, displaying and process verification. The participants included parish priests, catechists and station council administrators. The results showed that the congregations did not participate in church activities because the pastoral ministry style did not fulfil their needs, economic factors and lack of Catholic faith knowledge. Therefore, the church authorities in pastoral ministry should create a holistic and transformative congregation based on their needs. The current pastoral ministry practice is based on ecclesiastical organisation building and worship (liturgy) focused service. The church should simultaneously conduct catechism practices and charitable diaconia such as social, economic and spiritual activities. This was an interdisciplinary study that focused on practical and pastoral theology, catechesis and social sciences on Catholics’ pastoral ministry style for rural communities.

Contribution: Importantly, it contributes to the literature on pastoral style reforms focusing on the congregation’s socio-economic life. Therefore, it can improve the congregation’s interests, ecclesiastical activities and independence.

Keywords: holistic transfornation; liturgical transformation; transformative pastoral; congregation; rural community; diocesan church; paulus ampah; spiritual organisation; conceptual understanding; patoral ministry model.


The church is a spiritual organisation and entity (Andrews & Roller 2011). The leader’s conceptual understanding directly impacts the pastoral ministry style (Hahnenberg 2005:9). There are two developed church models, the communion and the mystical body. These models emphasise the church’s spiritual or invisible aspect but neglect the visible aspects (Hahnenberg 2005:15; Hegstad 2013). The implication is that the Indonesian Catholic Church follows the pastoral ministry style focused on creating a spiritual entity, invisible, theological aspect and liturgy-based service. However, it neglects the visible organisational aspects and the congregation’s social conditions (Ballano 2020). This affects the congregation’s church activities participation. Furthermore, their awareness and motivation to participate in church activities continuously decline in quality and quantity. They consider worship activities only for administrators and easily convert because of lack of interest, indifference and limited Christian faith knowledge. The congregation’s spiritual life of the rural community parish of St. Petrus Paulus Ampah, Diocese of Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan did not develop. Therefore, the growth and development of the rural Catholic faith are threatened. The Catholic faith legacy introduced by the missionaries will be affected unless the pastoral ministries fulfil the congregation’s needs. Therefore, the pastoral ministries style is essential for the development, spiritual-faith life growth and the congregation’s involvement.

Previous studies on the relationship between the pastoral ministry style and congregational participation analysed the linear church relationships and neglected the nonlinear (references for some writings are needed here). There are three studies on linear relationships: Firstly, the relationship between the pastoral ministry and creating ‘vital’ congregations. It stated that the church regulates the congregation’s life and works together to achieve their shared vitality goals (Dalensang 2018). Secondly, the impact of centralised and top-down pastoral activities on the management of congregational development. Lack of positive impact on congregations from centralized and top-down pastoral activities on congregational development management. The pastoral ministry is driven by rules and guidelines not to fulfil the community’s needs (Laukapitang 2016; Saputra 2017). Thirdly, pastors should focus on pastoral ministry as a spiritual service (Hishiyama 2013). These three studies view pastoralism as the organisational relationship between the church and pastor and disregard the holistic-transformative model. There lacks literature on the pastoral ministry’s transformative holistic model of the rural communities’ congregation.

This study examined the transformative holistic pastoral ministry style in the rural community congregations on the parish church of St. Petrus Paulus Ampah Diocese of Palangkaraya Indonesia. It showed that pastoral style affected the congregation’s ecclesiastical activities. Furthermore, this study had three objectives: Firstly, the parishioner’s attitude and participation in church activities. Secondly, the effects of pastoral ministry style on the parishioner’s attitudes and participation. Thirdly, explain building the rural church community’s enthusiasm and concern for their faith. These objectives explain that pastoral ministry fulfils the congregation’s spiritual needs, leading to their transformational strength in maturity, independence, caring and active involvement.

This study perspective is that the pastoral ministry style that disregards the congregations’ needs affects their ecclesiastical activities participation. This is because of the unresponsive style to the entire congregation’s conditions. Therefore, understanding the congregation’s issues and life struggles is a pastoral ministry constitutive element. The church authorities should choose the right style that creates significant changes for the congregation, leading to faith maturity and stable spiritual life. Therefore, they gain independence, quality of life and become Christ’s disciples.

The context of the Diocese of Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan

The Catholic Church in Palangka Raya Diocese was promulgated on 14 August 1993 by Pope John Paul II. The diocese includes 28 parishes led by 65 ordained pastoral staff. There are 406 professional catechists and volunteers leading the service to the Catholic community in rural communities (Hardana 2018). The congregation’s domicile and livelihood indicate that most live in small communities in rural areas and villages called ‘peripheral or interior’ communities. They are mostly farmers and company labourers. The Stasi congregation domicile in Palangka Raya Diocese is shown in Figure 1.

FIGURE 1: Map of people’s domicile in Palangka Raya Diocese.

Table 1 shows the portrait data of Palangka Raya Diocese based on the 2017 ecclesiastical census (Hardana 2018).

TABLE 1: Portrait of Palangka Raya Diocese.

The portrait of Palangka Raya Diocese influences the pastoral policy of leading people. The main factors of pastoral policies implementations include: (1) the domicile living in small village communities and its areas; (2) the service area size and distance between the parish centre and rural community Catholics; and (3) people ecclesiastical understanding and pastoral officers (pastor centric).

St. Peter Paul Ampah Parish Church is among the Roman Catholic Church parish in Palangka Raya Diocese, Central Kalimantan. This parish is located in Ampah Kota Village, Dusun Tengah Sub-District, East Barito, East Barito Regency, Central Kalimantan. It was founded on 01 January 1965, and according to the 2020 census data, it has 6 778 congregants (Hasti 2020). Its vision states: ‘The church that lives in the grace of God manifests its faith in church and community life and preserves nature as an environment’. Meanwhile, the mission includes: (1) Opening oneself to receive God, experiencing His presence, mercy in prayer, works, living wholeheartedly, expressing and practicing faith; (2) Empowering people to realise that the church that lives in God’s grace cares and is involved in church and community life; (3) Empowering the small, weak, poor and marginalized; and (4) Defending life and upholding human dignity (Hardana 2018).

‘Visit Pastoral’ ministry of congregation

A congregation is a group of believers devoted to God. It is the fellowship of people who believe in Jesus Christ at a certain place and in the Christian community (Heuken 1992). The Christian congregation is a loving medium between God and Man. God calls, chooses and expresses His love through the church. That is why Paul admonished the Ephesian church elders; ‘take care of yourselves and the whole flock, to shepherd the church of God which he bought with his own blood!’ (Lukas 2005). The church’s role is revealed in various allusions in the New Testament Scriptures such as the church is a building with living stones (Pt 1 2:4–5), it is a pillar (1 Cor 3:4–5). 16), it is such a herald and her soldiers (Tm 1 3:15), it is a body (Rm 8:37), it is a bride (Rv 22:17, 12:5–17) and it is such a woman (Rev. Eph 4:15–16). These figures represent the congregation’s importance and existence to God. Therefore, God cares and protects them by choosing and sending priests as pastoral ministry officers.

Pastoral comes from the Latin word pastor meaning a shepherd. The pastor and/or priest’s task in ecclesiastical life is to be his congregation’s shepherd. This term is associated with Jesus Christ and His work as the ‘Good Shepherd’. In practical connotation, the meaning of ‘pastor’ is to look after or care for (Beek 2007). Pastoral is the adjective for the pastor, meaning a shepherd or shepherding, caring, maintaining, protecting and helping others (Storm 2005). According to A. Heuken, it includes all pastor’s duties (shepherd). ‘pastoral’ sometimes abbreviates the congregation’s care and pastoral theology (Heuken 1993). Therefore, pastoral ministry involves shepherding the congregation to care, grow and maintain spiritual faith and life to sustain the relationship with God and others. Pastoral ministry can be explained as a metaphor for a shepherd caring for his flock, following the life and practice of church care. Pastoral duties involve priest’s and bishop’s pastoral ministry towards their congregations (Ballano 2020). Pastoral ministry is the active involvement through quality efforts and actions creating moral space and a well-rounded life (Doehring 2015; Schuhmann & Damen 2018). However, pastoral visits style is determined by the congregation’s domicile location and the distance between the parish centre and rural community. These include scheduled activities to perform sacramental services throughout the year, such as celebrating the Eucharist. Therefore, pastors and/or priests make brief visits to provide liturgical services. They lack the opportunity to extend congregation dialogue, observe their daily experiences, difficulties or conduct catechesis. The catechism teaches faith on the Church doctrine, specifically for baptism candidates to achieve the full Christian life (O’Shea 2018; Pranyoto 2018; Black 2020). Catechesis also involves growing God’s people in the Bible (Black 2020:3). In contrast, it is a word ministry that awakens people’s faith to be basic and active through teaching (Paulus 1992:17). Scholars define catechesis as education in children faith, youth and adults on the Christian doctrine conveyed in a general and systematic way to experience God’s grace (Pope Paul VI 1993:II.5). Westerhoff stated that catechesis attempts to acquire and adopt a way of life to achieve harmony with God’s will (Westerhoff 2005:2). Based on these definitions, catechesis involves becoming a Christ disciple through teaching faith and doctrine to unite with Him and achieve salvation. It promotes Christ’s obedience, growth, faith maturity and love (Sultana 2020; Pope Paul VI 1979; Soukup et al. 2019). Therefore, catechesis is essential for the growth of the congregation’s faith and significant in pastoral ministry activities.

According to these scholars, effective pastoral ministry requires knowledge of the congregation’s life (Hendriks 2002; Hooijdonk 1996). The socio-cultural perspective includes the consequences and challenges of modernisation. Therefore, effective pastoral ministry is achieved when pastoral officer analyses the church situation to determine the member’s needs. Pastoral ministry should promote participation based on their respective duties and functions. This follows the decree Apostolicam Actuositatem mandate (Concili Vatican II 1993) that the congregation should be active followers of Christ in daily life and church activities.

The context of the Parish Church of St. Peter Paul Ampah

An effective pastoral ministry model is essential where the congregation disregards their religious life. Therefore, this study focused on holistic-transformative pastoral ministry relationships for three reasons: Firstly, the pastoral ministry model has had a broad response to the challenges of pastors and congregations. Secondly, the lack of studies analysing the relationship between holistic-transformative pastoral ministry models. The existing literature shows various challenges but does not examine the significance of the pastoral service model on the congregation. Thirdly, the pastoral ministry model analysis is essential to develop congregational participation. These reasons indicate that understanding the relationship between pastoral ministry and congregational participation will determine the church policy structuring.

Qualitative study through primary and secondary data was applied to explain the relationship between the pastoral ministry model and congregational participation. The primary data included the current pastoral ministry practice, its challenges in providing services to the congregation based on socio-economic status, facilities, congregation knowledge, culture and the provided solutions. The secondary data consisted of the congregation’s background, church activities and lifestyle. The primary and secondary data analysed the relationship between pastoral ministry and congregational participation.

The results showed that the congregation did not participate in church activities. They neglected and considered the activities only for administrators. Therefore, this study examined the rural community members, church administrators and pastoral ministers. The church administrators and members represented the pastoral ministry experience, and their characteristics and challenges were identified. Furthermore, pastoral minister (pastors, catechists) shared their roles and experiences in providing services to rural community congregations. The three participant groups were identified from the primary sources to evaluate their position and experience in pastoral ministry for the congregation.

The secondary data collection included members’ interviews, church administrators and pastoral ministers such as pastors and catechists. Secondary data were collected through the news in the diocesan magazine. The interviews were conducted with church administrators, members and pastoral ministers such as pastors and catechists. The data were analysed in three stages using two techniques. The stages included: (1) data reduction involved organising data systematically, specifically and thematically; (2) data display to present results using tables and graphs (through interview quotes); and (3) data verification in the conclusion stage following the data trend. The analysis applied descriptive methods and content analysis. The data description involves the interpretation process conducted contextually. The analysis stages and techniques allowed concluding the relationship between pastoral ministry style and congregational participation in church activities. In addition, this study applied a qualitative approach conducted from June to November 2020. The process involved asking the parish priest for written permission to conduct the study and requesting his participation. The second stage involved the observations and interviews. The results indicated that the pastoral ministry was inefficient because of conceptual influence, emphasising the church as a spiritual entity and disregarding the organisational dimension. Furthermore, the pastoral ministry had challenges in the following three aspects:

  • Congregation – the current challenges included low economic power and lack of Catholic teachings knowledge. This is shown by the congregation’s behaviour, such as cultural ritual practices, intermarriages between churches and religions and easy religious and church conversions. Furthermore, the congregation consisted of a minority group and was widespread in remote village areas.
  • Pastoral minister – these include the parish priest as the church leader and the appointed or elected members by pastor to assist in pastoral ministry duties. They are referred to as catechists or Catholic education teachers. The conventional pastoral style was applied through visitations because of the limited number of priests and catechists. As a result, priest scheduled their duties throughout the year. Therefore, they visited the congregation and administered the sacramental service of the Eucharist. The conventional model results from the church’s conceptual understanding that emphasises spiritual entities and not organisations. This challenge worsens because of the church’s financial situation unable to finance the pastoral ministries of professional catechists.
  • Pastoral-field issues – the ministry areas are broad for the parish priest because of scattered congregations in remote village areas. This is a major challenge for pastoral officers in providing services, specifically because of the limited infrastructure. The service area size affects the community’s quality, consistency and equal distribution.

The results showed that the pastoral ministry implementation varied at the parish centre and in rural Stasi. The congregations near the church received monthly pastoral visits. In contrast, those living far from the church received pastoral visits once every 3 months. The visit’s first service includes worship or liturgical matters. The other ministry includes visiting the sick, worshiping spirits and marriage (R1, R2 and R23). Pastoral ministry is ineffective in exciting or building people’s enthusiasm for following the church life (R4, R28). As a result, many members do not participate in church activities.

Pastoral ministry in rural areas such as St. Peter and Paul Ampah with widely spread congregations in remote areas is challenging. Furthermore, there are insufficient human resources, including priests and catechists, and limited infrastructure. This promotes the visiting pastoral method or among the congregation known as the tourney. The congregation’s responses indicated that the downside of the pastoral tourney is that it only allows worship or liturgical matters because many rural stations require similar services. The visitation disadvantage is that some communities do not receive services or scheduled visits because of limited time and energy. Pastor also lacks the opportunity to conduct catechesis (teaching of faith) or enquire on the congregation’s spiritual and socio-economic issues. Optatam Totius (Pope Paul VI 1965) stated that the Second Vatican Council decision on pastoral education emphasised the importance of formal and informal faith teaching services. This affects the entire pastoral ministry (Boyle & Dosen 2017). The visiting pastoral service hinders the pastor from conducting his priest duties, such as catechesis and/or teaching faith to the congregation. Priest’s duty and responsibility are to lead, sanctify and teach (Boyle & Dosen 2017).

The results showed the lack of faith teaching through pastor’s catechesis. This causes estranged personal relationships between members and pastor as a pastoral leader and minister. As a result, the congregation gradually decreases in quantity and quality. Church activities are only considered for worship, uninteresting and church administrators. Various members believe that church activities waste time and lack economic benefits, preferring to work in the fields or companies. This is caused by the lack of knowledge and understanding of their faith. They lack spiritual values to grow and develop their spiritual life. The lack of catechesis affects the Catholic Church traditions eroding its foundation because of reduced congregational expectations (Brosend 2010:54). Faith can also be boring and uninteresting (Black 2020). Pastor’s scheduled activities limit reflection, finding and developing a new programme, strategy, pastoral pattern or model that fulfils the congregation’s needs.

The congregation reduced participation in church activities is not only experienced in Indonesia. Previous study shows similar issues in European countries (Ignatowski, Sułkowski & Seliga, 2020). The difference is the causal factor; in Europe, it is because of the modern influence and science and technology development, while in Indonesia it is the lack of understanding of the church’s meaning as a spiritual entity. The church as an organisation is neglected, implicating that pastor has the inadequate managerial ability as the leader of the parish church organisation. Organisational management principles and skills affect the church’s efficiency and effectiveness in achieving its vision (Smith M 2011; Welch 2011). Ineffective church resources management causes congregation’s conversions (Holmes 2014; Lotich 2014; Whitesel 2015). Previous study showed that the Indonesian congregations viewed that clergy (pastors) should strengthen their leadership skills, communication and sensitivity to their needs (Junianto 2018). Other studies reinforced and emphasised the importance of external collaboration and communication and fostering community relationships in church activities (Conrad 2008; Nwanganga 2017). Furthermore, the congregation requires a spiritual leader with effective skills and innovative communication techniques (Eagle 2015). Pastoral power involves directing unilateral human behaviour, and the congregation’s independence, hence, requires communication techniques (Cooper 2020). The church should have active communication activities to avoid mistakes (Kuca & Chmielewski 2019). Furthermore, they should develop effective and convincing communication language to facilitate pastoral ministry in a changing world (Harding et al. 2008; Thorstenson 2012).

The results showed that the pastoral approach was centred on the parish church’s development as a spiritual entity. Therefore, the church as an organisation that requires skills is neglected. This is shown by the pastoral ministry limited to liturgical matters in the scheduled visits dominated by worship services. However, these lack a programmed agenda on the church’s tasks in congregational development such as the Stasi community improvement [koinonia], [kerygma] faith teachings and Christian life, fostering the spiritual life, witnessing [martyria] a quality spiritual and physical way of life and providing spiritual services [diaconia] that empower and change the way of life and perspective for quality life renewal.

The visiting pastoral ministry reduces congregational participation in church activities. The congregation increases when priest visits the station, specifically during the Eucharist celebration. Most prefer to go to the fields on Sunday worship without a priest. The major challenge in the pastoral approach is that it prioritises communal pastoralism and church building as a spiritual entity instead of the congregation’s development as subjects, individuals and God’s disciples. The church concept causes this as a spiritual community and the dominant mystical body of Christ. The concept emphasises invisible and spiritual reality (Ballano 2020; Hahnenberg 2005). It affects pastor’s normative, theological and liturgical service style. Furthermore, it disregards the congregation’s empirical and social aspects, requiring a social science approach, management and leadership skills. Therefore, the discipleship practice (knowing and following Jesus) is neglected because the main pastoralism objective questions the ‘church growth’ or church planting as a spiritual entity (Sutanto 2008). The effect of the communal pastoral model is that it measures the church’s growth by creating a spiritual entity. The congregational development promotes the achievement of spiritual church development. These results support Abineno’s view that the congregational development in the Indonesian church is neglected because Western tradition recognises the church as a ‘spiritual institution’. This perspective still influences and remains ‘embedded’ in the Indonesian Catholic Church (Abineno 1989:35) because it is a Western missionaries legacy.

The church attitude, which prioritises collaborative development, affects the members’ lives, togetherness and cooperation. The members have a low understanding of rights and obligations and the Catholic faith enthusiasm. They view the church affairs as only for church administrators or officers. The congregation lacks the understanding of Catholic faith teachings and the meaning of church activities, thereby changing religions easily. Furthermore, the results mentioned other challenges, such as in adequate communication skills in leading and managing church resources as an organisation. The parish priest disregards the socio-cultural approach in pastoral ministry. As a result, spiritual activities and Catholic teachings are less attractive, difficult to understand, live by and feel such a Catholic.

The findings support the Indonesian Bishops Conference (KWI 2003:6–10), which mentioned various humanitarian challenges the faithful face that requires pastoral ministry attention. They include poverty, divorce, child education, mixed marriages, ideological, educational, cultural, healthcare, religious freedom, discrimination and social communication. Previous studies also found that the congregation’s positive impression of the church increased their spiritual and social life (Casidy 2013). In contrast, the St. Petrus Paulus congregation viewed church affairs as only for administrators and had a less positive impression, lowering their participation in church activities.

The pastoral ministry challenge for this congregation includes the methods and strategies to facilitate the spirit and participation while ensuring their survival. The ministry that reaches the congregation’s personal and communal life has undergone significant changes. This style is known as a holistic-transformative pastoral ministry. This style subjects and objects are the congregations. Therefore, it is from the congregation, by the congregation and for the congregation’s benefit. Furthermore, the congregation knows and understands their need for the growth and development of their faith. They are the determining factor and main actor in transformative empowerment. The pastoral ministers only facilitate and motivate the holistic-transformative pastoral process.

Holistic-transformative pastoral

The visit pastoral style (model) determines the breakthrough and pastoral ministry style changes based on the situation, condition and the congregation’s state of St. Petrus Paulus Ampah. The style follows the congregations’ needs for significant life changes. Therefore, the holistic transformative model effectively leads to congregational change (J. Herrington, M. Bonem & J. Furr 2000). This model requires continuous transformation, specifically the vision. Pastors focus on creating the congregation as church members instead of the organisation. Therefore, they are empowered as church subjects. The parish pastoral council work programme involves the congregation as main actors in the church-building process (Kessel 1999). The programme conducts discipleship (knowing and following Jesus), enhancing the situation. Abineno viewed that the pastoral ministry orientation is for the congregations’ development. Its objectives include: (1) raising their awareness of God’s presence and using their lives for God’s glory; (2) preparing the congregation to face the world situation; and (3) developing their participation. Congregation participation is through internal ecclesiastical and daily life (Abineno 1989).

The holistic-transformative pastoral ministry focuses on congregational building and church praxis. Church praxis includes various personal and communal activities in transformative orientation. This style is dependent on pastor as the congregation leader because a transformative Catholic begins with the pastor. Pastor should understand the congregation’s reality and needs, fulfil, influence and work together for the common good for effective transformation (Riyadi 2020). Transformative churches include changes in two mutually influencing activities: the congregation dialogue and reorienting the church goals and duties in an integrated, holistic manner. Transformation refers to the change process. The Big Indonesian Dictionary [KBBI] defines transformation as change through nature, function and others (Yandianto 1997). Some define transformation as a change process with different characteristics, an identity for the differences referenced in the process, is historical and the different historical conditions (Ernita Dewi 2012). The transformation involves a gradual change to reach the ultimate goal. These changes are from the external and internal elements’ influence (Stephanie Jill Najoan 2011). Therefore, holistic-transformative pastoralism changes the congregations’ lives, teachings, knowledge, spiritual life and understanding and appreciating their identity as Christ followers. At the same time, church organisations are managed through the professional management principle and leadership to effectively and efficiently run the pastoral ministry.

The transformative pastoral ministry model transforms the congregation into physical and spiritual independence. The independence is through: (1) Active participation in ecclesiastical activities; (2) As a Christian faith subject in the community and society; (3) As a holistic empowered pastoral agent in personal and community independence physically and spiritually; and (4) By knowing and understanding their rights and obligations as church members and implementing them in their life and work. The transformative pastoral operational function is based on Jesus Christ’s mission and ministry, such as: (1) healing to improve through guidance for physical and spiritual congregation healing; (2) Sustaining by helping sick church members overcome challenges because congregations require the pastoral minister’s reassurance in their presence and being with them; (3) Accompanying (guiding) and helping church members make decisions and difficult choices that affect their mental state; (4) Reconciling, through pastor mediation between members of the rural Catholic community with the local community, and personal relationships with God; and (5) Nurturing, pastor and congregation cooperate in maintaining survival, as well as enhancing the congregation’s potential growth and development.

The results showed that the main challenge of pastoral ministry in the rural community of St. Petrus Paulus Ampah is not in worship (liturgical) but in social transformation. This is caused by the pastoral ministry style that disregards the congregation’s needs. The congregation ignores the faith life problems. The visit pastoral ministry style known as ‘tourney’ is commonly used in Indonesian Catholic Church. This style was incompatible with the St. Peter Paul Ampah congregations. However, as a church leader, pastor should implement new, positive and challenging ways to accommodate all resources for church transformation (Riyadi 2020). In his apostolic letter Gaudete et Exultate, Pope Francis stated that the church should run and act in new and relevant ways to help congregations, specifically those suffering. Pastors should implement new and creative ways of providing ministry to the congregation (Fransiskus 2018). The transformative holistic service presupposes a transformative pastor. Pastors have the spiritual and practical wisdom to transform individuals, congregations and communities (Tribble 2005). This study found three areas adopted by the pastoral ministry style to fulfil the congregation’s needs. Firstly, the unpreparedness of pastoral management where priest as the parish leader practices conventional methods. Secondly, the pastoral staff readiness, including pastors and catechists, is low in identifying, understanding the congregation and finding the pastoral ministry models for the congregation’s social transformation. Thirdly, supporting infrastructure and financial facilities to implement pastoral ministries in wide and inaccessible remote areas.

Transformative pastoral target

Accuracy in selecting the transformative targets is essential because they determine the effectiveness of congregation empowerment activities. The Catholic life targeted transformative aspects in rural communities include:

  • Koinonia as believers fellowship in Allah is through fellowship with brothers and sisters in faith, the faithful, society and the natural environment. Communion with fellow believers creates a close, intimate, harmonious relationship united by faith in God. This is shown by the togetherness and presence in church activities, caring for each other, specifically the grieving congregation members afflicted by disaster, sick and sharing. The goodness and love of Christ felt and experienced together encourage the congregation’s participation in the community’s social life. Therefore, they live in harmony and do good within the congregation. They will share, testify and work as Catholic believers.
  • Diakonia is a church service to the needy, including (a) Charitable diaconia that provides incidental assistance without changing the community structure, for example, donating to the poor and disaster victims. (b) Reformative diaconia offers sustainable assistance, improving people’s lives, such as job skills training, educational scholarship and job opportunities. (c) Transformative diaconia leads to structural changes in rural Catholic communities such as dismantling the existing system and creating a new one.
  • Liturgia or worship is the source and centre of faith. It helps members discover, acknowledge and proclaim their Christian identity in the Catholic Church. This is done through prayers, symbols, signs and people’s togetherness (p. 35). Active participation leads to liturgical celebrations such as worship of the word, prayer, sharing communion, as a lector, psalmist, organist, medina, choir, altar, sacristy decorator and being part of every liturgical celebration.
  • Kerygma is a church proclamation to help the congregation explore God’s word, foster the spirit to live on the evangelical spirit, seek deeper Christian faith knowledge and be faithful. The works include deepening faith, catechesis for baptism candidates, mysagogy and preparation for other sacraments. This area requires improvement in the church of St. Petrus Paulus because of the applied visiting pastoral ministry style. It hinders pastors from performing catechesis, education and formation of faith. The congregation lacked the opportunity for dialogue, queries and express their faith challenges. They were doubtful, confused and complicated after the baptism and did not receive mystagogy, namely coaching and mentoring for their faith growth. As a result, the community does not participate in church activities because of a lack of interest in the Catholic faith knowledge, religious conversions and cultural traditions attachment against the Christian faith. Therefore, catechesis facilitates the congregation’s meditation of the gospel, deepening knowledge and faith maturity, internal transformation and change of mind (Chrzanowska 2020). Catechesis benefits the congregation to develop holistically in the five human dimensions: physiological, cognitive, social, religious and moral (Sultana 2020). Pope Paul II in Catechesi Tradendae emphasised that the congregation has the right to holistic and integral development in faith education maturity, including the spiritual and religious realm (Pope Paul VI 1979; Lidawou 2019).
  • Martyria is the participation of believers as witnesses of Christ in the world. All congregation members should be the leaven, salt and light of the community and the surrounding. This is only achieved after the previous four areas. In a holistic-transformative pastoral system, the faithful’s personal and communal life is a transformative target. The other targeted areas of the holistic transformation are shown in Figure 2.
FIGURE 2: A holistic transformative process of the Catholics rural community on St. Petrus Paulus Ampah, Palangkaraya.

Holistic transformation process of Catholic people rural community

The holistic-transformative process of rural community Catholics is presented in Figure 3.

FIGURE 3: The holistic transformative process of the Catholics rural community on St. Petrus Paulus Ampah, Palangkaraya.

The pastoral ministry challenges caused by unpreparedness for the congregation’s social transformation prove that the conventional pastoral model is strong. The pastoral ministry goal of achieving an independent congregation is poorly developed. The congregation depends on the priest for all ecclesiastical activities. The challenges of pastoral ministry are caused by the strong attachment to traditional patterns, adequate pastoral management skills and mastery of social sciences. This affects the social transformation achievement for an independent and mature congregation. Currently, churches such as St. Petrus Paulus Ampah require a pastor with a new ministry style. Pastoral services improve the congregation’s participatory process, creative collaboration and transformation for the common good (Montuori & Donnelly 2017). Future pastoral ministry styles should empower strong, faithful and independent rural Catholics. The required pastoral ministers help the congregation understand reality, promote and find a new future and a changed life. Through collaboration, pastoral ministers involve themselves and the congregation in creating a better future for the community (Ballano 2020; Riyadi 2020).

The results showed three important pastoral ministry style meanings. Firstly, rural congregational pastoral ministry requires a socio-cultural transformation that allows faith growth. Catechesis facilitates spiritual development, but the respondents stated that the church lacks religious education, catechesis and mystagogy. As a result, the congregation is only Catholic by identity without understanding and appreciating the Catholic faith. The congregation did not experience significant changes, was dependent on the church and was immature. This is indicated by a lack of care attitude and being inactive in church activities. Furthermore, the congregation should not depend on the priest. Secondly, the pastoral ministry challenges prove the need for various parties’ participation and pastoral policymakers in the Catholic Church at various levels. Church members should be promoted and mobilised to participate and seek useful ways for their church community development. This establishes a new acceptable tradition in the pastoral ministry style with best practices. Thirdly, there lacks a socio-cultural foundation that hinders the effective transformation of traditional pastoral ministry. The congregation’s ease of leaving the church reflects the shift of institutionalism (Stanley 2016). Therefore, the dominant classical pastoral model that views the church as a spiritual institution is irrelevant in modern times. Additionally, the strong Catholic hierarchical culture influence contributes to the challenges and obstacles for the transformation, congregational creativity and pastoral service. This reality reflects the importance of the parish priest and the believer’s community in church life (Zito 2020). At the same time, the parish leadership models should be modernised to change the pastoral ministry styles, establishing a congregational life transformation. It requires full time and volunteer personnel in the ministry, local resources utilisation and charisma (Stockton 2017). Therefore, the church should adapt to every culture and modern contextualisation (Mueller 2018). The church community’s challenge is to strengthen their personal and communal relationships to nurture their faith. This indicates the importance of a transformational holistic pastoral ministry.

This finding supports previous studies that showed pastoral ministry should follow a holistic and empirical assessment of the parishioner’s pastoral needs using social science (Ballano 2020). This indicates the importance of changing the pastoral ministry style. The traditional pastoral style is ineffective as it cannot bring change in the congregation’s life (Riyadi 2020). As a result, the congregation is distant and disinterested in ecclesiastical activities. Therefore, the transformative-holistic style of pastoral ministry is the solution to these problems and the current congregation challenges, specifically those in rural areas. This requires a deeper understanding of the church. The theologians’ statement stated that the contemporary ecclesiology weakness is its ideal church emphasis, disregarding the empirical everyday life realities (Healy 2012). Ecclesiologists support that the church’s main object is an empirical fact focusing on its eschatological expectations (Haight 2008). Therefore, the church is a balanced combination of human and spiritual elements. The church’s humanity and divinity have similar meanings on earth (Ballano 2020). Furthermore, pastors require leadership skills and a social science approach for effective and efficient pastoral ministry. There should be balanced spiritual concerns and organisational aspects in pastoral ministry management (Florence & Judith 2018; Griffin 2015; Pope Paul VI 1975:26). Previous literature proved that pastoral ministry with good management skills creates an effective, holistic ministry and achieves significant changes (Carlopio 2012; Irwin & Roller 2000; Rush 2003; Warford 2007).

Based on the established pastoral ministry challenges, the situation can be improved through three action plans, firstly, formulation of pastoral ministry models. Secondly, pastoral and catechists training to improve ministry skills through social sciences and leadership approach. This will complement pastor’s theological-philosophical perspective in understanding their congregation’s problems and needs. Thirdly, the pastoral ministry style assistance is based on the congregation needs in St. Peter Paul Ampah community. Therefore, they can solve their daily life problems as Catholics. The three action plans promote the congregation’s significant transformation. The new tradition will improve the pastoral ministry focus on the congregation’s life by integrating faith, social, spiritual and physical dimensions, besides liturgical matters. Michele Hershberger stated that the current spiritual teaching pattern on the congregation needs should be changed to make it attractive. Currently, the believers want to experience faith in action, positively change lives and apply their faith to make a difference. Furthermore, they are spiritual and practical (Canales 2020; Hershberger 2002). This presupposes the combination of knowledge and experience in the catechesis current contemporary model. Learning based on experience changes theoretical conditions to concrete and applicable. Therefore, catechesis should adapt to the changing environment (Kirkconnell 2020). Besides catechesis, the congregation’s families should be counseled to improve their active participation. Previous studies showed that counseling promotes and increases active community participation (Evan & Mburu 2018). The catechesis programme is systematically conducted to cover the entire faithful life (Kanu & Omojola 2019) and designed with relevant content of the congregation’s life experience (Monye 2019).


This study proved a significant relationship between the pastoral ministry style and the rural congregation’s participation in ecclesiastical activities. The relationship was causal, meaning that the applied pastoral ministry style did not consider the congregation’s concrete situation and needs, reducing their participation in church activities. The classical pastoral ministry (pastoral visits and/or journeys) is difficult to change because of the strong old traditions. The Indonesian Catholic Church, such as the Church Paroki Santo Petrus – Paulus Ampah, is a European heritage that views itself as a spiritual organisation instead of a personal association, as a subject with its characteristics in a local socio-cultural context. This impacts the emphasis on pastoral ministry that only focuses on the liturgical aspect. The congregation requires a personal touch, individual and subject for transformation achievement. This follows the main aim of pastoral ministry to improve the faithful personal and communal life for spiritual and physical independence.

A broad and deeper catechesis is required for a transformative experience. This will prepare the Catholics for a lifelong commitment to Jesus Christ (Jeremy Conn 2020). On the issue of the strong church’s hierarchical culture ‘pastor centric’, the pastoral servants (catechists and/or religious teachers and/or religious counselors) cannot be creative and innovate in pastoral ministry without the parish priest’s approval. They conduct their duties following the leader’s orders, directions and instructions. The modern changing times affect the congregation’s religious issues, social, economic and cultural, requiring a change in the pastoral ministry style. Therefore, it should adopt a holistic-transformative pastoral ministry style.

The ‘holistic-transformational’ concept in pastoral ministry helps to understand the current congregation’s concrete problems and needs, besides the shortage of pastoral resources. This brings a better understanding of the pastoral ministry challenges in their unpreparedness for transforming the old tradition in the ministry. The church is viewed as a conventional-traditional way of a spiritual organisation instead of a modern organisation with individual dynamics, personal and congregational subjects. This study recommended that the parish priests establish programmes such as Sunday schools, small teaching and support groups, discipleship training schools and Bible studies. This will effectively provide congregational spiritual formation. Furthermore, reflective pastoral policy analysis is required to ensure the right pastoral model application. Therefore, the pastoral implementation should be based on a clear local Christian community unit. The congregational community development begins by identifying social problems based on their needs and aspirations. The congregation condition requires change, innovation and creation in pastoral ministry. The results showed that the congregation needed a pastoral ministry holistic-transformative method, viewing them as individually and personally empowered and socio-culturally. Therefore, the current pastoral ministry officers should apply a social science approach to complement their theology and facilitate effective ministry for the congregation. The current global network and society complexity affect the pastoral ministry and difficult jobs to handle. Therefore, various perspectives and sociological studies are required to understand the community’s pastoral and social needs.

This study sample was limited, affecting the comparative analysis. Furthermore, two aspects require to be developed: additional parish church congregations that analysed considering the study’s vast Indonesian territory and informants. A comprehensive analysis will be achieved through comparison. Accordingly, this suggested further study exploring parishioners and involving the bishops, traditional community leaders and religious and sociological education leaders, besides the congregations and parish priests. Therefore, a complete and in-depth portrait of the current pastoral ministry in the Indonesian Catholic Church will be obtained.


To Mr. Elmansyah (IAIN Pontianak) who read and reviewed this manuscript before submitting to HTS Teologiese.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no financial or personal relationships that may have inappropriately influenced them in writing this article.

Authors’ contributions

F.J.H., Z.H.P. and A.A.S. conceived and planned the research. A.A.S. wrote the original draft. A.A.S., Z.H.P. and E.P.D.M. made an appropriate methodology. E.P.D.M. and Z.H.P. validated the methodology. A.D.F. gave the data curation. F.J.H., Z.H.P, A.A.S., E.P.D.M. and A.D.F. contributed to the preparation of the research and the interpretation of the results. F.J.H. took the lead in writing the manuscript. All authors provided critical feedback and helped shape the research, analysis and manuscript.

Ethical considerations

This article followed all ethical standards for research without direct contact with human or animal subjects.

Funding information

This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

Data availability

Data sharing is not applicable to this article as no new data were created or analysed in this study.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any affiliated agency of the authors.


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