I’m in Saipan for a few days, nominally to consult with the bishop here on his pastoral planning but also to break out of the confines of Guam for a change of pace. And a great change of pace it is, truth to tell! The bed in the rectory is beyond comfortable, so for the past two days I’ve been huddled in it for hours, day and night. But only until I am restored to full energy, I tell myself, as I sniffle and cough myself to sleep.
Saipan was a happening place this past week, even apart from the election campaigns that are in full swing. A team of archaeologists under Mike Carson and Hsaio-chun Hung has been working on an excavation site at Laulau Bay. The pit in which they were digging is one of the oldest settlement sites on the island. We watched them bring buckets of dirt to be sifted through a fine screen. We saw small bits of red pottery, sometimes even a sharpened stone cutting tool or two, and a curious looking stone ear pendant that looked like a miniature fishhook.
July 31, the feast of St. Ignatius, was the first of the two. On that morning, just a few days after celebrating my cousin Ken’s 50th anniversary of priesthood on Saipan, I landed at Newark to begin a couple weeks of visiting friends and family in the US. I spent the whole day at the province infirmary, Murray-Weigel, where a growing number of my peers are to be found. Fr. Dick Hoar, who spent years in Palau, has just moved there from Buffalo this past year. Joe Billotti and Jim Gould, who both spent years in the Marshalls, are among the more active residents. We shared stories as we sipped coffee together that morning. Read More
I was in Kosrae for a week, just to give a speech on FSM Law Day that took less than an hour. What was I going to do with all that time on my hands, I wondered? Kosrae is a small place with only 6,000 residents. Chuuk and Pohnpei are bustling cities by comparison, with their population, their traffic, their “glitter.”
“Here are your favorite enemies,” someone said before the photo above was snapped. Right he was. The two are my favorite duelists: Tony DeBrum and Peter Christian. One of them is a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize for the work he has done on calling attention to climate change in this part of the world. The other is a former student who is now President of FSM. Both sharpened their debating skills at Xavier High School a few decades ago, and have practiced on me over the years.
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.
What is the mission of the church today, and how can we best carry it out in the islands today? Those were the driving questions behind the diocesan workshop that was held in Chuuk towards the end of July. Following their retreat, most of the local priests attended, but many others were also on hand–about 80 people in all. They didn’t sit silently and just listen, either. Joe Saimon from Pohnpei, Santi Asanuma from Palau, Deacon Joseph Albert from Chuuk, and Deacon Burdensio Andreas from Pohnpei were just some of the many who contributed to the active discussion in the workshop. At the end of the week, we did some minor editing on the old vision statement for the church in Micronesia before we adopted it. We can hope that it will help us focus on our task in the years ahead.