Our visit to Nagasaki was soul-stirring for me. The place is distinguished by suffering and, even more touchingly, by the noble response to this suffering. It’s as if the sweet smell of sanctity (as they would have put it back in the old days) is everywhere. The city and its surroundings are the site of a couple massacres. There was the well-known devastation wrought by the atomic bomb in 1945 that took over 70,000 lives–nearly 150,000 if you include those lost in the explosion in Hiroshima just a few days earlier. Then there was the other lesser-known wave of killings that began about 400 years ago with the persecution of Christians, concentrated mostly in the area of Nagasaki. The estimated number of Japanese Christians killed over the years is 250,000.
I just finished a week-long trip to Japan arranged by Shoiji Sato, the former Japanese ambassador to FSM and now the head of APIC. The main purpose was to do a presentation that might remind people of the era in which Japan governed Micronesia. It was a magical time in many ways: the introduction of public schools, the growth of an economy that was able to pay government costs, the spread of power lines and bicycles throughout the towns.
Thousands of years before latte stones and hollowed lusong rocks began appearing, a group of seafarers first settled in the Marianas. Others soon followed. We see the traces of these first settlers in a few coastal villages–places like Achugao on Saipan, Unai Chulu on Tinian, and Ritidian on Guam.
The birthday party for the 25th anniversary is over. It was celebrated on Pohnpei for nearly the full week after Easter. Photos have been posted, good wishes exchanged, and the convocation and gala dinner are a happy memory now. All that remains now is to move forward step by step to achieve the dreams that were shared at the birthday celebration.
When we were kids, we would sometimes find ourselves standing at the door of the church in the evening and peering inside. The church looked like a large, gloomy cavern. If we entered, we found ourselves stumbling over pews and often startled by large statues we didn’t know were there. Once in a while, we would be taken by surprise when we heard a snuffle or a wheeze–a signal that someone was praying in one of the pews. The church at night was a spooky place for us kids. The one familiar landmark, I remember, was the flicker of the distant sanctuary lamp in the front of the church.
How often do you get a chance to spend a morning with thirty-some bright young islanders, many of them holding good government positions and destined to hold more important posts in the future? They are island leaders in the making–and the program held for them this past week on Guam was termed the Executive Leadership Development Program. These young people gathered from six different governments, including the various parts of Micronesia and American Samoa.
On Sunday, February 4, Fr. Julio Angkel was given his episcopal ring along with his crozier and mitre in a two-hour ceremony held in the cathedral on Weno, Chuuk. He has been appointed assistant to Bishop Amando at this time and replacement for him when he retires.
The other night when I was invited to lead prayers at a Chuukese wake, I thought I knew what to expect. First of all, the viewing was not for a single person, but for two young men–first cousins, as it happens, who died violent deaths. The two youths, one of them just 18 and the other in his early 20s, died of gunshot wounds to the head, after another young man, who was hit in the face with a slingshot, caught up with them and killed them both. Who started the trouble? The shooter said that one of the Chuukese did. Who knows? Maybe the court will clarify all this in the course of time. But that evening my job was not to determine responsibility for the crime; it was to comfort the families of these two young men.