Next weekend our parish, Santa Barbara in Dededo, is scheduling a special mass and a luncheon to celebrate my 50th anniversary to the priesthood. For those of you who weren’t even born then, three of us (Dave Casey, Joe Godfrey and I, all Canisius High ‘56 grads) were ordained at the Canisius College chapel on June 13, 1969.
That was “the dawning of the Age of Aquarius,” as the song put it. Exciting and challenging times in the US, and much the same in the islands that have been my home for most of the fifty years since.
The parties have already begun over the past week. There was a gathering of Chuukese from Fefan Island last Thursday, followed by dinner with some of my basketball buddies and other friends from the Philippines.
Saturday evening saw dinner with another small group of Chuukese friends that featured a song. It recalled my arrival in Chuuk with a head of hair and a face that didn’t scare off animals and children. If the face has become wizened and the hair (or what’s left of it) has grayed, the song charitably blamed my work load in the mision.
Then, on Sunday afternoon, Chuukese and Pohnpeians filled the church for their own mass celebrating all that has happened during the last half century. They sang wonderful songs that reminded me of so many liturgical celebrations in the past. I thanked them for their patience with me as I stumbled over the language and bumbled with the culture, and for their support over the years. Believe me, all of this was heartfelt.
The day ended with another small gathering–a few priests and parish workers–to celebrate the Confirmations that were held the same day.
All of this was a thrilling reminder for me of gifts received and friends made over the years. But there’s more to come next Saturday.