Ignatius Kilage, the first priest: Young men who went to school in the early times went on to become important people. Kulkane man, Ignatius Kilage, was the first man from the highlands to be ordained a priest in 1968 and later he was to become one of the most distinguished statesmen in Papua New Guinea. As the day of his ordination approached, Ignatius especially chose the date December 17th 1968 in memory of the burial date of Father Karl Morschheuser.
By: Mathias Kin – PNG History, Facts & Ideas.
The first priest.
This is a story of one the most important and iconic figures of Simbu captured in our history book “MY CHIMBU”.
The detailed life story of Sir Ignatius here is as told to me by the late Lady Regina Kilage sometime in 2006 at the Mt Wilhelm Hotel in Kundiawa.
The photo of him here is a 1987 election campaign picture when he contested for the Simbu Regional Seat under the National Party.
That was a year after Sir Iambakey Okuk had died. Ignatius Kilage came second to Naur man Peter Kuman.
As noted earlier, many of the young men who went to school in the early times went on to become important people.
Kulkane man, Ignatius Kilage, was the first man from the highlands to be ordained a priest in 1968 and later he was to become one of the most distinguished statesmen in Papua New Guinea.
As the day of his ordination approached, Ignatius especially chose the date December 17th 1968 in memory of the burial date of Father Karl Morschheuser.
Father Morschheuser was killed a day before that at Womatne by Ignatius’ tribesmen and he chose the date as a symbol to show his people that “…even though they had killed a European priest from far away, one of their own sons will rise to carry forth his work…”
In further fulfilling this dream, Father Ignatius returned to his people in Chimbu to start his pastoral work and served his first mass at the Dengalagu Church.Between 1969 and 1973, Father Ignatius served as a priest in various parts of the province, including Wangoi, Koge, Neregaima and Koglai.
Kilage as he was known in his childhood was born on the 31st of July 1943 to mother Susana Waugla and father Steven Onguglo in Bongugl village of the Kengalku tribe in the Gembogl area. He was baptized at an early age in Mingende Catholic Church and given the name Ignatius.
Ignatius Kilage was one of the first Chimbu people to attend formal schooling at Kambu Primary School near Mingende in 1949.
After that he went on to Patima High School in the Western Highlands, where he spent four years, and then he went on for another two years to a senior high school in Madang.
As a young boy growing up in Chimbu, he was so touched by the work of the early missionaries and especially the death of the two missionaries in his area that he also decided to become a missionary.
In 1962, he went to Ulapia Seminary in Rabaul, where he spent two years, and then he went on to the Bomana Seminary for a further four years.
His classmates at the Seminary were John Momis, Leo Hannet, Alexis Sare and To-Warpin, who would later become an arch bishop.
A few classes behind them was Father Louis Ambane.
In the early 1970s he sought and obtained release from his vows from Pope Paul VI.
In 1972 he was a commissioner on the Commission of Inquiry into Land Matters under the chairmanship of Sinaka Goava.
In 1973 he served as the Catholic Education Secretary. In 1974 he was appointed as a Public Service Commissioner for Dispute and Tribunals.
Ignatius Kilage married Regina Moro in Port Moresby in January 1975 and they had their first daughter Gloria in November 1975.
After that, they had one other girl and two boys.
After Independence in October 1975, Ignatius Kilage was appointed the first Chief Ombudsmen of Papua New Guinea.
He served in that capacity for nine years.
In 1985 the Chimbu Provincial Government was suspended for misappropriation of funds and Ignatius Kilage was appointed as a special Administrator of the province lasting eighteen months.
In 1987 he stood for the Chimbu Regional Seat as a National Party candidate.
This was a year after National Party stalwart and Chimbu leader Iambakey Okuk had died. He came second to Peter Kuman who was a People’s Democratic Movement candidate.
In 1988, his friend Bob Sinclair gave him a job as the director of the Lae International Hotel.
Towards the end of 1988, he was awarded a Doctorate in Theology from the Papua New Guinea University of Technology.
In December of that year, Sir Ignatius Kilage was appointed the first Governor General from the highlands and the fourth for Papua New Guinea.
On December 31, 1989, while still Governor General he died of lung cancer at his 4 Mile family home in Port Moresby.
A true PNG statesman. His story can be retold in the generations to come.
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