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Thursday, 28 October 2021 16:43

New book gives vibrant pictorial account of PNG missionary life

Fr Ennios book launchFr Ennio Mantovani SVD, a missionary for more than 64 years, has launched a new book, bringing to life in vibrant pictures his 15 years of living with and accompanying the people of Yobai in Papua New Guinea.

The book, entitled History of Yobai in Pictures, is a companion volume to Fr Ennio’s 2019 written account of his missionary life, entitled Sixty Years of Priestly and Missionary Life.

Speaking at the online book launch on Saturday, October 23, in Marsfield, Fr Ennio said the book gave a small insight into his life as a missionary.

“This History of Yobai in Pictures covers only a small part of my priestly and missionary life extending to over 64 years,” he said.

“Allow me to put not only the 15 years at Yobai, but my whole life, into perspective. What is written large in my life is the role of Divine Providence. For me, what we call Divine Providence is the Eternal Love that created me out of love and accompanies, guides and protects me every moment of my life.”

Speaking at the book launch, Provincial, Fr Asaeli Rass SVD said that as a Melanasian Fijian he has always admired the tenacity of people like Fr Ennio who left their homelands in Europe and Asia and sailed to the islands of the Pacific “in the purpose and mission of Christ’s life”.

“It was only when I joined the Divine Word Missionaries in early 2000s that I came to further admire the Italians, the Australians and Kiwis, the Germans, Americans, Polish, Indians, and many other expatriates who trekked the wilds of Papua New Guinea and made a mark and made a massive contribution to nation-building,” he said.

Fr Ennios Book Yobai in Pictures 300“Only God knows how the change from Europe or Asia must have transformed their own theology and perception of life. So, in their appreciation of the dignity and inner worth of the person, these missionaries, like Fr Ennio, also introduced the knowledge of working with steel, how to ride a motor bike, how to maintain a bull-dozer in order to make roads, cabinet-making and even building an air-strip by hand with the local people or learning to fly and aeroplane so that humans everywhere can arrive at a better living condition, Capacity-building projects, I strongly believe, go hand in hand with the struggle against the sinfulness of humanity.

“When I was working with indigenous Australians in Central Australia, they always reminded me to speak to them in pictures. Well, here we are, and it is no coincidence that during the celebration of 125 years of SVD ministry in Papua New Guinea and 100 years of SVD presence in Marsfield, NSW, we are launching Fr Ennio’s book – a History of Yobai in Pictures. A chronicle of his first 15 years in the Chimbu province of Papua New Guinea.”

Fr Nick de Groot SVD, who has known Fr Ennio since the 1970s, said Fr Ennio’s latest book was an excellent companion to his previous written account of his missionary life, because the photos allowed the reader to enter into the story in different way.

“When you try to describe something in word, by reading it, that is one way, but there are details of the journey that are captured by pictures which are much more graphic and form very much part of this whole story,” he said.

“Ennio spent a lot of time in Yobai. He went into that area when no other white person had yet entered. The people had not seen the things the white people were bringing for the first time – steel, cars, planes, you name it.

“Thank you Ennio for sharing your life’s journey and as it has been a gift to you, now it is also a gift to us.”

In his remarks at the book launch, Fr Ennio thanked the late Fr Larry Nemer SVD for editing the text of the book and gave special thanks to Fr Thien Nguyen SVD for his generous contribution to working with the photos and with the printers to ensure a beautiful publication.

Mission Secretary Fr Viet Nguyen SVD said that Fr Ennio had requested that proceeds from the sale of the book go to the SVD’s overseas mission work.

History of Yobai in Pictures is available for $20 from the SVD office in Marsfield. Fr Ennio’s previous book, Sixty Years of Priestly and Missionary Life: The History of a Journey is available for $10 per copy. Or, both books can be bought together for $25. To obtain copies, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone 02 9868 2666.

PHOTO: Fr Ennio Mantovani SVD cuts the ribbon at the launch of his new book, History of Yobai in Pictures.