Odin parish honors
Father Don Debes on his
40th anniversary of ordination
By PAULINE OBERLE
Special to the Register
Father Don Debes, OFM, Cap., celebrated his 40th anniversary of his ordination with a Mass of Thanksgiving at Holy Family Church in Odin on Aug. 29.
Celebrating with Father Debes was Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM, Cap., of Denver and Father Matthew Gross, OFM, Cap., of Hays.
Father Don is a native of the Odin parish and is the son of John and Helen Debes, deceased.
A dinner and reception was held at the Immaculate Conception Parish Center in Claflin for family, Capuchins friars, friends and Odin parishioners.
Father Don was ordained a Capuchin priest at St. Fidelis Church in Victoria on Aug. 29, 1970. He said his first Mass at Holy Family Church in Odin on Aug. 30, 1970.
Father Debes started his studies at the Capuchin high school seminary in Victoria, graduation in May, 1962. He attended two years of college at Herman, PA, followed by a year of Noviciate at Annapolis, MD., then two more years of philosophy at Herman, graduating in 1967. He attended four years of theology at Capuchin College, Washington, DC. He was ordained a deacon in Immaculate Conception Shrine in Washington, DC in 1970.
In 1971, Father Don left Kansas to begin his missionary work in the Trust Territory of Papua and New Guinea. He traveled with Father Gary Stakem, OFM, Cap. who was the superior of the Capuchins in the missions at that time. He did a 10-week orientation course with other new Catholic missionaries in Port Moresby. His first parish assignment was to the mountainous parish of Ialibu. In 1973 he was sent to Erave Parish and taught in the diocesan Catechist Training Center in the Pidgin language.
On Sept. 16, 1975, the Trust Territory of Papua New Guinea became the Independent State of Papua New Guinea.
In 1976 he began work in the Kagua parish and organized the translation of the Gospels into the Kewa language. The entire Bible was never printed, but they printed the Sunday readings and used them. In 1984, he became the pastor of Kagua and remained there until July 1992 when he filled in at the minor seminary at Madang for nine months for the rector who went on leave. In 1993, he was back in Ialibu parish until January 1995 when he transferred to the minor seminary at Madang as Rector. In June of 2000, he transferred back to the Erave as parish priest, with part of the Kagua parish added to his list of village churches.
In 2003, he became the temporary chaplain of the diocesan Catholic high school at Tari. In January 2005, he went to Pangia as the parish priest. While there, he worked with the people with HIV. He learned to check blood for the disease and to help them medically and economically and to re-settle them back to their villages.
He tried organizing self-help plans, such a gardening, small livestock farming, and cottage industries with some success. The drug problem is quite prevalent, especially marijuana, as it is the drug of choice since it grows easily.
In January, 2010, he began working in Mendi in the diocesan finance office.
June of this year marked the beginning of his 39th year of missionary work in New Guinea.