In memory of Father Mattheus

"Toshi.." Mom called me from downstairs.

I rushed to the stairs and asked, "Yes?"

"Remember Father Mattheus?" she asked.

"Yep of course. Why?"

"He passed away last week because of heart attack"

I stood there, unable to comprehend Mom's words.

"He umm.... what?"

"He passed away last week", Mom repeated, "I just received an SMS from Bali...""

"Is this serious? I mean... why?"

"Heart attack"

"Have you confirmed the facts right? Is the news from Pak Frans?"

"I dunno, it's a Balinese number but it's not in my phonebook"

"I suggest Mom call him right now" I urged her.

I really hoped that the news turned out to be a rumour, but it was not. It finally dawned upon me that Father Mattheus Keraf is now no longer here. He passed away around early September due to an ailment he had been fighting over the last couple of years.


I firstly met Father Mattheus during one of the Saturday Catholic masses that he held in Bali Hyatt Sanur. The mass was held in English (instead of Bahasa Indonesia), and though my parents were quite reluctant to have masses on Saturday, they went along.

I remember one particular Saturday evening when Dad had a business to do in Kuta and Mom also went along with Mary. They asked me to go along too, but nah, I prefer having the mass in Bali Hyatt instead of going to the Denpasar Cathedral on Sunday. I prefer having a mass with those folks instead.

No car and no driver at my expense (since it was Saturday evening), I walked by myself all the way from my residence in Semawang to Bali Hyatt, which altogether took around 20 minutes.

My Dad, who at that time managed one of the most reputed five-stars in Bali, soon invited him to administer Christmas and Easter masses in the hotel ballroom. The masses were generally opened to all Christians of all sects (Catholic and Protestants alike) and it was just pleasant to have all those togetherness with all the Balinese Christians, Chinese, and foreign expats who came to Bali for holiday.

My whole family soon became quite close to Father Mattheus as he was a down-to-earth kind of person. Dad invited him to my house several times during those Christmas and Easter days, and we even held a mass at my own residence twice. In one of the mass homilies administered at my former Sanur residence, he once described me as a humble person, and it is a description that I am looking forward to hold onto.

My parents took Sis and me to his seminary in Tuka (not to be confused with Kuta, it is located not very far from Canggu). In that seminary, Father Mattheus took us to have a look at his office and what Balinese Catholic laymen used to do there.

His place in Tuka was strikingly awesome.

If you have seen a blend of culture between Chinese and Muslim in the Surabaya's Cheng Ho Mosque, then the one in Tuka is simply the Catholic version.

The Catholic centre in Tuka has a blend of Balinese and Catholic flavours.

Well as a matter of fact, it looks more like Balinese through and through. When we first came there, Mom and Dad and Sis and I asked each other, "Are you sure this is a Catholic centre?"

It looked more like a Hindu Pura (temple) to us. Its architecture and its paintings were all fabulously decorated with Balinese taste.

Put into words, Father Mattheus was one of the best Catholic priest I have ever known in person, and whom I have deemed like my own uncle. During those days in Singapore, I sought more of his spiritual guidance instead of looking it from my own priest in the church in Clementi. Should there be a chance to meet him again, I would like to relive the memories of having him coming over to my Sanur residence together with Pak Frans' family for an hour of warm confab.

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