In 2009, high school friends Sabrina Joseph and Nicholas Pudjiadi spent many nights during their six-month internship in Singapore envisioning how their life would pan out once they returned to their hometown, Jakarta.
They thought they would have careers in the hospitality industry but life had a different plan. Instead they co-founded the Catholic Fellowship Jakarta (CFJ), which provides Sunday services in English for Catholic youths in the capital.
Sabrina and Nick talked with My Jakarta about their passion for serving, what they hope to achieve with CFJ, and religious freedom in Indonesia.
How do you guys know each other?
Sabrina: I was born and raised in Jakarta until I left for Switzerland after high school to pursue a degree in hospitality. It was during this time that I was able to reconnect with my dear high school friend Nick who was interning at a different hotel in Singapore at the same time.
Nick: I’ve known Sabrina since my high school days in Jakarta International School (JIS). I am currently 26 years old. My greatest hope in life is to serve the Lord through my business ventures.
How did you come up with the idea of starting CFJ?
S: We felt that there was a need for a community for the Catholic youths in Jakarta as there was a serious lack of growth and enthusiasm among them. After serious contemplation, we decided to get in touch with the newly renovated Gereja Kristus Raja — a parish located in Central Jakarta — which happened to share our vision. The parish’s representative, Father Justin Sulistiadi, suggested we look at a document called Gaudium Et Spes (II Vatican Council, 1965), which inspired us to create an intercultural Catholic community. This was the birth of our collaboration.
What exactly is CFJ and what does it do?
S: We first started with the idea of holding an English mass for the Indonesian community once a week in a less conservative setting that still adheres to the Catholic tradition. With the increasing number of foreign investors and professionals being based in Jakarta, we felt that there was a demand for Catholic masses in English, especially one targeted toward the youth.
N: We also give volunteering opportunities to the youth as ushers during our masses and as members of the CFJ choir. To build the community outside of our weekly masses, we have bible study gatherings every month.
Tell us about your experience in starting up this fellowship. Were there any difficulties you faced along the way?
S: Well one thing that this whole experience taught me was how to deal with rejection. Due to our age and lack of experience, we were not taken seriously by numerous people and organizations who doubted our capabilities and commitment to the cause.
The whole process definitely helped me grow as a person, teaching me how to take it one step at a time and how to trust one another.
N: We… had to alter people’s perception of us in order to be taken more seriously. I hope through our perseverance, our results can speak for itself.
Can you elaborate on how this experience has changed your life?
S: I am still the same Sabrina, just more grateful of the blessings I have in life. Now that I am working in the non-profit sector, I have more respect for figures in non-profit organizations.
N: I am still Nick, but now I have realized that… I see myself getting closer to God and having more compassion for others.
In a country that is predominantly Muslim, have you ever been stigmatized for your beliefs?
S: Having lived here almost my entire life as a practicing Catholic, I can honestly say I have never been stigmatized for my beliefs.
N: So far, neither the CFJ community nor I personally have been stigmatized for our beliefs. However, it is undeniable that cases of religious discrimination against non-Muslims is something I have heard of and indirectly seen.
Sabrina and Nick were talking to Janice Winata