As the youngest of Fran Hezel’s four brothers, I am taking the owed prerogative of commandeering Fran’s blogsite for this occasion. Yes, he owes it to me, because all these years it’s he who has won all the attention.
Today, January 29, 2014, is Fran’s 75th birthday, and I want to capture for all of us and from all of us a sense of our deepest appreciation for Fran’s personal and professional dedication and contributions—to family; friends; Jesuit brothers; academic, ecclesiastical, and social service professionals. For now, we have captured Fran for his birthday celebration on Sanibel Island, Florida, with three of the four brothers and our wives. Here, as ever, our long conversations—on-point or multi-tangential—cover wide grounds of family current and past, politics, church, Pope Francis, social justice, novels and other reading, and faith. A lot on faith. We talked theology, belief, and faith for much of this morning. Fran might be one reason I maintain faith today, in part because he allows people like me to explore the dimensions of one’s own faith. Fran has the perspective that faith is—far more than doctrine, dogma, and ritual—a calling of the Spirit to explore the unfathomable.
Fran’s priestly calling emerged early in his life. One of the brothers recalled him as a 12-year-old practicing saying Mass in our living room at home. He has devoted nearly two-thirds of his life to his people—the Micronesians and the many various people who gather around the study and support of Micronesia and the Jesuit “mission” there. The early mission was to convert and strengthen souls in Catholic Christianity. Fran’s mission goes a step further: to build faith within the multiple communities of Micronesia, to grow and disseminate knowledge about Micronesia, and to assist in developing Micronesian community and confidence that comes through knowledge and faith.
Today we’re happy to have Fran for this celebration, and we’re also wishing him peacefulness in his current role with his work and family back east. But we know his heart lies with his pastoral and academic and cultural work in Micronesia, and we Hezel family hope we will have to share him again with all of you in Pohnpei, Chuuk, Guam, and the other places he has called home.
And to Fran: with love we wish you a happy 75th birthday and many more years of health and your inimitable style of contribution to your family, community, and church.
Please join me in wishing Fran a Happy Birthday by adding your wishes below via Facebook, or by sending him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.