Christmas, 2018

Advent, the four weeks before Christmas, is traditionally a time of waiting. Kids everywhere know full well what this means, as their parents shop and decorate in preparation for the big day.

For me, waiting has defined the whole year… Waiting for the arrival of grant funds so that we can complete our video documentary on a major historical event on Pohnpei a century ago… Waiting for the local support we’re seeking to begin work on a new film on the homeless people on Guam, some 800 people without shelter… Waiting for the completion of the new website that will offer public access to the treasures of the MicSem library, now housed in Chuuk.

Waiting, notwithstanding my age, for new creative work opportunities to turn up. At a recent talk I gave at a Rotary Club meeting here, one fellow asked: “Why not just retire and enjoy your golden years?” A reasonable question, I suppose, but my answer was that retirement just doesn’t suit my temperament.

Waiting for mass to begin–and there have been so many of them this past year. A couple months ago, I scored a personal record of five masses one busy Saturday, each of them with a different theme and homily.

But I’ve always suspected that, whatever our great designs might be, the most important work we priests do is in our chance encounters with others–in the office, in the confessional, around the dinner table. I’m happy to say that there have been plenty of these during the past year. Perhaps it’s these that have really been the heart of this past year.

As we old-timers wait, we try to do a little more than find a comfortable position in our lounge chair. For me there have been a few highlights in the past year… In April we completed our video documentary on the first settlement of the Marianas, “Before We Began Counting Years”… Then, in May, a brief history of the local College of Micronesia-FSM was published on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the college in April… Later in the year I helped organize two week-long workshops in Chuuk for the church in the Carolines.

Those weren’t the only highlights of the year. In November, while in the Philippines to officiate at the wedding of the eldest daughter of a couple I married in Chuuk 30 years earlier, we enjoyed a series of reunions with old friends from earlier years. Who says that the past is lost forever! The recapture of the past continued with a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend in Hawaii with others who have played such a large role in my life over the past 20 years.

With the year ending, I continue to wait–for more projects maybe, but certainly for more opportunities to serve. Meanwhile, all of us wait for the peace and goodwill promised us at this season. God knows, we need it badly in this age above all.

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About the author

Francis X. Hezel, SJ
Francis X. Hezel, SJ

Francis X. Hezel, SJ, is a Jesuit priest who has lived and worked in Micronesia since 1963. At different times he has served as high school teacher, school administrator, pastor, and regional superior to the Jesuits of Micronesia. He spent thirty years directing the Micronesian Seminar, a non-profit, non-governmental organization based in Pohnpei, Micronesia. He has written and spoken widely about social change and its impact on island societies. He has also written several books on Micronesian history, including The First Taint of Civilization, Strangers in Their Own Land, and The New Shape of Old Island Cultures. His most recent book, Making Sense of Micronesia: The Logic of Pacific Island Culture, is available through University of Hawaii Press.

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