On Saturday, March 26 2011, Fr Joao Aparicio, the Superior of ITM Vice Province, and Sr Paola Battagiola, Provincial of the Salesian Sisters’ Province (TIN) were elected as the President and Vice president respectively of the Conference of Religious Major Superiors of Timor Leste (CSM-TL).
There are currently 47 Religious Congregations in Timor Leste, and the Salesian Family is certainly amongst the largest of these groups, something clearly recognised in the recent elections.
Fr Aparicio in his inaugural address indicated, however, that it was an unexpected election for him; he added that he is willing to hold the task for the benefit of the conference.
The active role of Religious in Timor Leste, a nation overwhelmingly Catholic in character, goes back to the arrival of the Dominicans in the 16th century, who accompanied the Portuguese traders of the time. Many religious are working in fields such as health, education, pastoral work, welfare and religious and theological formation in the local churches, now spread over three dioceses. The most recent Diocese erected in TL is Maliana Diocese in the far west, bordering on Indonesian West Timor. It was formed in January 2010 from the Dili Archdiocese. The Salesian presence is mainly in the country’s eastern section in Bacau Diocese, though the provincial centre, a parish, technical school and postnovitate are to be found in Dili.