I was in Kosrae for a week, just to give a speech on FSM Law Day that took less than an hour. What was I going to do with all that time on my hands, I wondered? Kosrae is a small place with only 6,000 residents. Chuuk and Pohnpei are bustling cities by comparison, with their population, their traffic, their “glitter.”
Somewhere between 2000 and 1500 BC, around the time that Abraham was moving out of the Chaldees to his new home in what was later to be Palestine, another movement was taking place. Sailing canoes from the west arrived bringing the first people to settle in Micronesia. In fact, these newcomers could have been the first to settle anywhere in Oceania–other than the Papuans, that is, who had paddled the short distance to nearby Melanesia thousands of years earlier.
How long had the dispute been going on? None of us could remember exactly, but we knew that for some years now there had been two mayors of Tol (the largest municipality in Faichuk, the west part of Chuuk Lagoon). Maybe the split between the two sides of Tol occurred after the death of Susumu Aizawa in 2006. He had been the undisputed leader of Tol while he was alive–-as much for the reputation he acquired as a pitcher in the Japanese baseball league as for his success in business and expertise in traditional history.
Dan Berrigan may have acquired his fame as a peace activist, but I first heard of him as an inspiring high school teacher and budding poet–but that was in 1956 long before most Americans knew where Vietnam was. A couple of my new friends, teenagers who had entered the Jesuits just as I had, boasted about Dan as their teacher at Brooklyn Prep.
“Here are your favorite enemies,” someone said before the photo above was snapped. Right he was. The two are my favorite duelists: Tony DeBrum and Peter Christian. One of them is a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize for the work he has done on calling attention to climate change in this part of the world. The other is a former student who is now President of FSM. Both sharpened their debating skills at Xavier High School a few decades ago, and have practiced on me over the years.
I don’t know much about the political issues surrounding Obamacare. But when I read that an additional 13 million Americans have medical insurance as a result, I feel thrilled inside. That’s not coverage for everyone, but at least it’s a good start.
Last Sunday we had just finished the Pohnpeian mass at our neighboring parish, when Deacon Saulus Olpet, the leader of the Pohnpeian Catholic community on Guam and an old friend, told me that his wife had just been released from the hospital. She had been in the new hospital recently opened in our section of the island. She was brought in with signs of a flu and remained in the hospital for 36 hours before her release. The man standing next to him, another Pohnpeian, looked at me and asked “You know how much the deacon was charged?” When I told him I had no idea, he answered, wide-eyed with amazement: “Nine thousand dollars.”
Less than a month ago, on January 18, we gathered in a church in Kaneohe, Hawaii, to be with Taka Alphons and Pat Billington as they solemnized their marriage after 30 years of life together. It was clearly a touching moment for them, with joy radiating from their faces, and for all of their friends who were there to cheer them on. We already knew that Taka and Pat would leave Hawaii two days later for California where Taka was scheduled to have a heart transplant.
People sometimes think that religious things come easy to those of us who are priests and sisters. But the truth is that we have to learn how to pray. People may think that prayer, which can be so boring and dry for them, is a garden of delights for the “pros”–those whose name is prefixed by the title Father or Sister. But even those of us who have been trying to pray for many years would never claim this.