New Guinea Bishop Visits Lansford to Renew Mission Ties

Date: July 22, 1972
Location: Allentown, PA
By: Steve Armstrong
Newspaper: The Morning Call
Page: 8

There are strong religious ties between New Guinea in the South Pacific and Lansford in Carbon County.

Seven Lansford priests and five Lansford nuns are doing missionary work in New Guinea, halfway around the world from their home.

Their bishop was in Lansford this week to visit the hometown of his missionary coworkers.

The Rev. Louis Vangeke, auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese of Port Moresby in the Papua Territory of New Guinea, was in Lansford Wednesday as part of his first trip to the United States.

He is the first native New Guinean to become a bishop. He is visiting this country and Canada to raise funds for missionary work.

His trip to Lansford was among several planned in Eastern Pennsylvania to see the hometowns of many missionaries he has worked with in New Guinea.

He visited friends at the home of Stephen Kopunek of E. Patterson Street, Lansford. Kopunek has two brothers doing missionary work in New Guinea.

Most Americans doing mission work are on New Ireland and other islands north of New Guinea mainland.

The seven priests from Lansford on missions in New Guinea are the Revs. Vincent and Martin Kopunek, George Sirak, Stephen Geusic, Barnard Jakubco, Michael P. Fetko and William Jones, who recently returned to New Guinea after a visit home.

Father Jones has been appointed national Catholic education director with the task of coordinating Catholic efforts to establish a school system in New Guinea. He is stationed in Port Moresby with Bishop Vangeke.

The five Lansford nuns working in New Guinea are Sisters Josepha Lapos, Rosemarie Balazek, Mildred Imrisek, Depfilia Lako and Regine Sediva.

The sisters, priests and Bishop Vangeke all belong to the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, an international missionary group. It was the first missionary order to come to New Guinea in 1885.

Before his three-week U. S. tour, Bishop Vangeke spent six weeks in Canada. He has already visited Chicago and Youngstown, Ohio. After his visits in Pennsylvania, he will fly to New York to depart for Europe.

He has been especially interested during this trip in raising funds for adult education and vocational training centers in New Guinea. He said he feels his fellow citizens must prepare for independence, which Australia will soon grant them.

Bishop Vangeke has also been working in cooperation with Wings of Hope, Inc., of St. Louis, Mo., a private charitable organization that supplies air transportation to remote areas of the world. He is trying to raise money to establish flights to supply New Guinea missions.

He said there will be a benefit air show Sept. 17 at Pocono International Raceway to support missions in New Guinea. It will be sponsored by Wings of Hope and the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.

Born in Papua Territory, Bishop Vangeke is the son of a tribal sorcerer and was raised in a missionary orphanage. After his conversion to christianity, he studied and became the first New Guinea priests in 1937.

During a visit to Australia in December 1970, Pope Paul VI personally ordained Bishop Vangeke. When Bishop Vangeke returned to his native village to celebrate his first Mass as a bishop, the tribunal chiefs invested him with the powers and prerogatives of a temporal chief.

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