Fr General Arturo Sosa SJ has appointed Fr Joaquim Francisco da Silva Sarmento SJ as the new Regional Superior of the Jesuit Independent Region of Timor-Leste. He will take over from Fr Mark Raper SJ who has served as Acting Regional Superior for more than six years while concurrently serving as President of the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific.
Fr Sarmento was born on July 12, 1966 in Soibada, where the first Jesuit Mission in Timor was founded over a century ago, into a large brood of 16 children. One of his sisters is a Canossian sister and one of his brothers is a diocesan priest.
He joined the Society of Jesus in Girisonta, Central Java on July 5, 1988, and spent his early Jesuit formation years in Indonesia, when Timor-Leste was still incorporated into the Indonesian Jesuit Province. He was sent to the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome for his theology studies and was ordained to the priesthood in Yogyakarta, Indonesia on July 14, 1999.
After his ordination, he was missioned to replace Fr Tarcisius Dewanto SJ in the Minor Seminary Nossa Senhora de Fatima in Balide, Dili. At the time, Timor-Leste was devastated by the conflict following the referendum for self-determination. Fr Dewanto, who had been ordained together with Fr Sarmento almost two months before, was martyred in Suai on September 6, 1999. Fr Sarmento’s mission, originally meant for only several months, was prolonged and it was more than a year before he was able to return to Rome for his two-year licentiate programme in Spirituality. He did his tertianship in Salamanca, Spain from 2005 to 2006, and professed his Final Vows on October 27, 2007 in the Chapel of Our Lady of Aitara in Soibada.
Since then, Fr Sarmento has always been involved with formation work and spiritual direction and retreat giving. He is well respected in the country as a formator and a spiritual father. He has directed retreats to various groups of clergy, seminarians, and religious men and women.
In addition, he was the Socius to the Major Superior for many years. In 2008, the Region of Timor-Leste opened its first novitiate in Lahane and Fr Sarmento became its first novice master. He held this office until early 2016 when he was appointed Delegate to the Regional Superior and Superior of the Taibesi community.
Last year, Fr Sarmento became the first East Timorese to participate in a Jesuit General Congregation. He had been elected by the Jesuits in the region to be its official delegate to the General Congregation 36. He is also the first East Timorese to hold the office of Regional Superior of the Society of Jesus in Timor-Leste.
Fr Sarmento will assume office on April 27, the Feast of Our Lady of Montserrat.