“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.
At a Christmas party thrown by the archdiocese on December 30, I was surprised when a number of people approached me holding copies of a booklet that had just been published and asked for my signature. It seems that the pastors and the heads of schools had received wrapped copies of the book at the party. For me the luncheon quickly turned into a book signing event.
“Where America’s day begins,” is how they used to describe Guam years ago. That’s what I once thought, too, during my early visits to the island in the 1970s. Guam always seemed like a marvelous shopping mall to those of us coming from Chuuk, Pohnpei, Yap and less developed islands. We could find everything there we couldn’t access in the smaller islands–air-conditioned movie theaters, fast food places, good restaurants that offered the tomatoes and lettuce and other delights we yearned for back on our own islands.
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.