Author - Francis X. Hezel, SJ

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And I Thought Lent Was Tough!
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Christmas 2019
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What’s going on these days?
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Final Stop: Salem, Oregon
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By the Time I Get to Phoenix…(as the song goes)
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Lake Woebegone and Surroundings
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Two Dinners and a Lunch in Washington
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The Survivors: Ordination Class of 1969

And I Thought Lent Was Tough!

Lent, I would tell our parishioners, was supposed to be a slow, deliberate walk through the desert for forty days. We Catholics were expected to tone down our lifestyle: giving up gourmet meals, cutting down on meat, possibly doing without dessert, and making other little sacrifices in the spirit of the season. For me it was trying to do without the gin and tonic that I enjoyed in the evening. All for a good reason, of course, but that still didn’t make the days go by any faster. Lent was always an endurance test as we plodded along through the barren landscape.

Well, my friends, the season of Lent pales in comparison with the quarantine imposed on us now that the first cases of COVID-19 have been reported on Guam. Even as the virus was capturing the attention of the world, the tourist havens on the island were becoming unusually quiet. We could walk into what had once been a crowded restaurant and have the place pretty much to ourselves.

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Christmas 2019

One of the keynotes of this past year was a home visit during the summer. It was highlighted by a week with a family that has grown closer over the years, even if the members of this broad group are scattered throughout the northeast.     

Where exactly is home? I sometimes ask myself. Surely not Buffalo, where I haven’t lived for the past sixty years, even though the city holds warm memories from long ago and is still the residence of some family and good friends. Not even Chuuk and Pohnpei, places that offer other rich memories and bonds. Nor Guam, where I currently work. As a Jesuit friend of mine, who passed away early this year, used to say of the island in which he spent much of his life: “We have here no lasting city.”

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What’s going on these days?

What’s going on these days?

A fair question, and one that a friend of mine asked me the other day. If you were to look at the photos on my Facebook page, the answer might be: group hugs and lots of food.

In fact, though, that is only part of the answer. There’s surely nothing wrong with friendship and food, but while waiting for the next group meal, we have to find something useful to do. (That insistence is part of my Teutonic DNA, I suppose.) Of course, I have masses and other parish responsibilities here in Dededo. Besides that, there is the obligatory 30-45 minutes of exercise each day–at the village basketball court if the kids happen to feel kind to old-timers, or on the treadmill in front of the mammoth TV screen watching a sports event or an ancient movie.

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Final Stop: Salem, Oregon

Brenda Umulap, married to Pius from Pulusuk, arranged for me to give a talk to about 30 health workers associated with Salem Health, which covers hospitals and clinics in the area. The talk was focused on island culture, especially those things that might affect health matters. We began at 8:30 a.m. and finished at about 11 a.m.?a real tribute to the endurance of the listeners.

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Lake Woebegone and Surroundings

Three hours west of Minneapolis is a small town named Milan with a listed population of 360 on the sign. The sign needs to be updated. At least 400 Chuukese from the single island of Romanum have been added to the population. Bob Ryan, a man who has done as much as anyone else to welcome and settle the Chuukese migrants, met me at the airport and drove me to Milan to visit the people there. 

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