Paul spent much of his adult life in Yap doing parish ministry, but with so little fanfare that many Yapese wouldn’t have been able to tell you much more about him other than that he was a priest. He was quiet, something of a church mouse, unless he was riled. But if you made friends with him, you had a friend for life. For most of his life he smoked a pipe. Sometimes the only way you could tell he was around was the curl of pipe smoke from his room.
What’s the possibility that small island societies like FSM and the Marshalls can grow their economy enough to make their countries self-supporting? That’s a question that many of us have been debating for years. It’s a question that haunts the leaders of these countries as they move closer to the end of the Compact funding in 2023.
This film opens with a man and his 20-year-old son out in a small boat fishing off Kosrae. It closes with the man fishing, this time alone. What has happened to the son? That’s the story behind this unusual visual tale filmed by Nathan Fitch, who served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kosrae not long ago.
I was sitting in the back of a village church waiting to say mass when a teenage girl asked how old I was. When I told her that I was 76, she scrunched her eyes in disbelief, looked at me again, and then said “I thought you were much older. You look at least 90.”
I really did feel like 90 a couple days earlier after three one-on-one games with a basketball buddy from the Philippines. I felt at least that old many times during this trip to Pohnpei as I tried to remember the names that wouldn’t come, as friends came up to offer their good wishes. But, whether 76 or 90, I couldn’t help but be rejuvenated by the return to my old stomping grounds. At times, I felt as if I were 24 again–my age when I first arrived here in 1963.
Giff Johnson’s latest work is a call to serious planning and more. The author summons leaders to recognize that life has changed in the Marshalls and the status quo is the road to disaster. There was a time when this might not have been true–when people who wanted to kick back and live a simple island life could quietly opt out of school and retire to the family land to provide for themselves as their ancestors had done for generations in an island society that offered the resources, physical and social, to support its population.
What is the mission of the church today, and how can we best carry it out in the islands today? Those were the driving questions behind the diocesan workshop that was held in Chuuk towards the end of July. Following their retreat, most of the local priests attended, but many others were also on hand–about 80 people in all. They didn’t sit silently and just listen, either. Joe Saimon from Pohnpei, Santi Asanuma from Palau, Deacon Joseph Albert from Chuuk, and Deacon Burdensio Andreas from Pohnpei were just some of the many who contributed to the active discussion in the workshop. At the end of the week, we did some minor editing on the old vision statement for the church in Micronesia before we adopted it. We can hope that it will help us focus on our task in the years ahead.
Here we are in Chuuk once again with the diocesan priests gathered in the chapel preparing for our liturgy. Fr. Arthur Leger and I, along with two other Jesuits from Manila, are directing a week-long retreat for diocesan priests from the Carolines. The 15 clergy making the retreat range from the veterans, Bishop Amando Samo and Fr. Nick Rahoy, ordained a few months apart back in 1977, to Robert Ifamalik, who was just ordained on Pohnpei last month. They have come from Palau, Yap and Pohnpei to join their brethren in Chuuk for the event.
Where’s Fran? The answer to that blog-site question is, happily…on Guam. I have a long-term assignment on the island to assist the archbishop and work with the migrant communities. For a week now I’ve been settling in at my new home in the Dededo parish of Santa Barbara where the three diocesan priests have been very welcoming. Here I have a room and a car and, best of all, real work to do!