After several aborted attempts by other orders, Missionaries of the Sacred Heart established a mission on Yule Island in 1885 and began work in the world’s most linguistically diverse environment: New Guinea and its offshore islands. In 1896 Fr André-Louis Navarre’s Manuel des Missionnaires du Sacré-Cœur parmi les Sauvages was published at Port Léon, Yule Island. Intending it for internal use, he advocated that indigenous workers would reduce Catholicism’s foreign nature and help it to take root. Missionaries and local partners worked to translate biblical material into vernaculars. Training included literacy skills for the masses and publishing skills for the few. Their efforts helped to preserve some of Papua New Guinea’s more than 860 languages and its rich oral histories and material cultures. Tension between the universal and the particular saw spreading contact bring to the fore need for a common language. In the 1930s missionaries of the Society of the Divine Word chose Tok Pisin (Pidgin), which became one of three national languages, including Motu and English. Mission workers laboured with government offices and other churches to increase types and numbers of publications. Challenges included Australian publishers’ perceptions of ‘turf,’ copyright restrictions, geographically imposed transportation difficulties, and even limitations by Papua New Guinea’s own government. Fortunately, the geographic dispersion and personal tenacity that has characterized Catholic endeavours from the beginning applies also to its publishing, which continues to provide not just religious books, but materials in a myriad of fields so as to improve people’s daily lives—counselling, education, health, personal finance, politics—and to celebrate local arts, cultures, and languages.
|Keywords:||Publishing, Papua New Guinea, Catholic Church, Politics, Nation-state|
Dean, Faculty of Arts, Divine Word University, Madang, Papua New Guinea
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