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.
This film opens with a man and his 20-year-old son out in a small boat fishing off Kosrae. It closes with the man fishing, this time alone. What has happened to the son? That’s the story behind this unusual visual tale filmed by Nathan Fitch, who served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kosrae not long ago.
I was sitting in the back of a village church waiting to say mass when a teenage girl asked how old I was. When I told her that I was 76, she scrunched her eyes in disbelief, looked at me again, and then said “I thought you were much older. You look at least 90.”
I really did feel like 90 a couple days earlier after three one-on-one games with a basketball buddy from the Philippines. I felt at least that old many times during this trip to Pohnpei as I tried to remember the names that wouldn’t come, as friends came up to offer their good wishes. But, whether 76 or 90, I couldn’t help but be rejuvenated by the return to my old stomping grounds. At times, I felt as if I were 24 again–my age when I first arrived here in 1963.
Here we are in Chuuk once again with the diocesan priests gathered in the chapel preparing for our liturgy. Fr. Arthur Leger and I, along with two other Jesuits from Manila, are directing a week-long retreat for diocesan priests from the Carolines. The 15 clergy making the retreat range from the veterans, Bishop Amando Samo and Fr. Nick Rahoy, ordained a few months apart back in 1977, to Robert Ifamalik, who was just ordained on Pohnpei last month. They have come from Palau, Yap and Pohnpei to join their brethren in Chuuk for the event.
Where’s Fran? The answer to that blog-site question is, happily…on Guam. I have a long-term assignment on the island to assist the archbishop and work with the migrant communities. For a week now I’ve been settling in at my new home in the Dededo parish of Santa Barbara where the three diocesan priests have been very welcoming. Here I have a room and a car and, best of all, real work to do!
This photo posted on my Facebook needs a little explanation. So let me explain. I was in Washington for two days in response to a request to help find a way to bring together Pacific Island representatives in Washington to engage in a discussion of issues that are important to them. After all, Micronesia has three ambassadors in DC (FSM, Palau and the Marshalls) not to mention the other Pacific Island embassies within the Beltway. But there are also three members of US Congress from the islands–Guam, CNMI and American Samoa. Why not try to get them together to meet occasionally on Pacific matters?
I broke into a run as I tried to make a traffic light on Fordham Road and had just made it to the curb when I went sprawling to the sidewalk. Hitting the ground like that was getting to be an altogether too common experience for me–just another quirk brought on by age, I guess.