Farewell to Rosa Mormad

Founding Members of the Widows Club: Pat and Rosa

She was one of the pioneers of the “new Xavier” in the early 70s when she arrived from the Philippines. Since the school’s founding 20 years earlier, nearly all on the staff had been Jesuits. Upon Rosa’s arrival in 1972, she was still one of a very small number of staff who didn’t have “SJ” at the end of their names.

Rosa came to work in the treasurer’s office, but before too long she was engaged to James Mormad, a Yapese alumnus who had arrived within a year or two of her. Their engagement was not always smooth sailing, as I recall. One day I saw James scampering up a hill nearby that we only climbed when we were in desperate need of fresh water from a pond during the droughts that were so frequent in those times. When I asked him why, he said that he was looking for a place where he could scream to vent his frustration without being heard. And that was before the marriage!

Yet, the two had a remarkably stable relationship–or so it seemed from my office down the hall. Within a few years Rosa had delivered three children that the rest of the faculty took delight in teasing and badgering. The truth is that the three children were the pets of the faculty.

But the nest that Rosa and James formed was only part of a much bigger family at Xavier. Ketson Johnson, a Pohnpeian, had come to teach along with his wife Marilyn. Taka Alphons, another Pohnpeian alumnus, also joined the staff. Then along came Mike Hamelai and his wife Senrita. The school may have been broke much of the time, but the Mormad family and their colleagues found ways to have fun and revive our drooping spirits.

After James had served a few years as principal, the family moved off to Yap for a time, and then to Pohnpei to work with the FSM government. Finally, it was off to Hawaii where Rosa and James both found jobs and acquired a nice home in Mililani.

Rosa was nothing if not serious, and she was never tongue-tied when it came to talk about family, government, or church–and any number of other subjects, for that matter. I would always welcome visits to Hawaii as an opportunity to catch up with her and the family.

Those years were not without their trials–especially the loss of Jay, their first son, and then James a few years later. Soon, with her other son and daughter grown up, Rosa was living on her own for the first time in many years.

But, I discovered, Rosa wasn’t really on her own after all. She turned more and more to the church community in Mililani for support and companionship. Then there was her friend, Pat Billington, who had been married to Taka Alphons. On my visits, I always looked forward to meeting with her and Pat for dinner and a long discussion on theology and spirituality. These Widows Club meetings, as I called them, were welcome times.

Rosa took her life, her family and her work seriously. And so many of us are all the better because of it. Her name should be inscribed somewhere at Xavier High School as one of the pioneers of the second generation there. That she certainly was.

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About the author

Francis X. Hezel, SJ
Francis X. Hezel, SJ

Francis X. Hezel, SJ, is a Jesuit priest who has lived and worked in Micronesia since 1963. At different times he has served as high school teacher, school administrator, pastor, and regional superior to the Jesuits of Micronesia. He spent thirty years directing the Micronesian Seminar, a non-profit, non-governmental organization based in Pohnpei, Micronesia. He has written and spoken widely about social change and its impact on island societies. He has also written several books on Micronesian history, including The First Taint of Civilization, Strangers in Their Own Land, and The New Shape of Old Island Cultures. His most recent book, Making Sense of Micronesia: The Logic of Pacific Island Culture, is available through University of Hawaii Press.

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