On Sunday, February 4, Fr. Julio Angkel was given his episcopal ring along with his crozier and mitre in a two-hour ceremony held in the cathedral on Weno, Chuuk. He has been appointed assistant to Bishop Amando at this time and replacement for him when he retires.
The celebrant of the mass of episcopal ordination was Peter Loy Chong, a good friend of Bishop Julio’s from seminary days, who is now archbishop of Fiji. But there were a number of other bishops on the altar for the occasion. They included Archbishop Martin Krebs, the Vatican representative to the Pacific, together with Bishop Paul Mea of Kiribati and Bishop Ryan Jimenez of Saipan. With them on the altar were two dozen priests from the area and many more deacons.
Anyone who knows the Pacific would not be surprised to hear that the celebration of the event extended from Friday to Monday, four days in all. Nearly three hundred came from Pohnpei for the occasion, including three Protestant ministers. Over a hundred from Guam were also on hand, as well as a scattering of guests from Palau and Yap.
The singing from the various parish groups rocked the auditorium in which the celebrations were held on Sunday and Monday afternoon. While the singing groups swayed in unison to the music, individuals rose to dance to the rhythm, or spray perfume on the singers, or fling handfuls of candy or food packets on the group, or stick bills in the collar of the song leaders. In other words, the celebration had all the exuberance of an island event. Rows of people in lavalavas two-stepped their way toward the front of the hall, chanting as they carried a litter with the new bishop himself seated atop. Later, Pohnpeians rolled out the sakau and performed their own stick dances to celebrate the occasion.
Dances, songs, palpable spirit, food and more food followed the church ceremonies. All were there in great supply for the ordination, as we might expect. Those of us who had come from abroad to serve in the islands for nearly a lifetime couldn’t help but be moved. Wasn’t that our old friend Julio, whose priestly ordination 35 years ago we remembered as if it happened yesterday, now wearing the ring and mitre of a bishop?