ON TUESDAY the Diocese of Aitape celebrated its golden jubilee. Fifty years ago Franciscan Bishop Ignatius Doggett OFM had become the first Bishop of the Aitape Diocese.
Priot to this, on 15 May 1952, Monsignor Ignatius Doggett OFM had been installed in charge of Prefecture Apostolic of Aitape.
Following him was Bishop William Rowell OFM in 1970, Bishop Brian Barnes OFM 1988, Bishop Austen Crapp OFM 1999 and now Bishop Otto Separy of East Sepik (pictured on right), who was consecrated on 30 October 2007 and is the present Bishop of Aitape.
In 1946, some 18 priests and 14 brothers who had survived World War II arrived back in the Sepik District from Australia and were joined by six Franciscans who moved to the Aitape and Vanimo Districts manning some SVD mission stations and moving inland over the Torricelli Mountains.
The friars quickly consolidated and expanded their mission, which grew into the Vicariate and became the Diocese of Aitape.
Italian Franciscans expelled from China in 1952 continued their mission apostolate in Aitape. Franciscan sisters joined the friars in 1949, followed over the next two decades by various congregations of brothers and sisters.
Then in 1981 the Spiritans sent priests to assist the diocese.
Bishop Otto Separy now heads a team of 124 mission workers: priests, brothers, sisters and lay volunteers.
The diocese operates through three deanaries, with 24 parish centres serving 64,500 catholics in an area of 12,000 square kilometres.