“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.
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!
Just three days after Christmas, three travelers from the east (at least if you think of Spain as lying to the east) brought to Guam a gift–the skull of a Jesuit priest who had been killed on the island 330 years earlier. The priest, Fr. Manuel Solorzano, was one of the twelve Jesuits who lost their lives in what have come to be known as the “Spanish-Chamorro Wars.”
The skull was a reminder of the worst of times, some would say. People died in unprecedented numbers from disease and violence, the culture was radically transformed, and for the first time islanders lived under a foreign flag. Read More
We just missed it, but I was in the mountains in upstate New York with my “extended family” of 60+ relatives at the time. July 31 was the feast of St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. So, even if this comes a bit late, let me exercise my bragging rights and share with you a reflection or two on the religious order that I have belonged to for the past 58 years. Read More
Dr. Joe Flear’s visit to New York for a couple of days seemed to trigger a series of reunions. Joe (standing second from the left in the photo) worked in Yap for several years during the 1980s before he moved to Pohnpei to teach at the medical school there. Since 2000 he has been teaching and doing clinical instruction at the Fiji School of Medicine.The evening of his arrival, he joined a couple of us for dinner Read More
If you’re looking for the presence of a Micronesian religious community in the US, you’ll have to go to the Midwest to find it. But if you visit during December, be prepared for temperatures hovering around zero. When I woke up this morning, the thermometer registered five degrees, but everyone says it’s even colder at night. This place makes New York City seem like Miami Beach. Read More