Author - Francis X. Hezel, SJ

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Wear your mask if you must, but don’t let it stifle you!
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Healing Hearts, Mending Divisions
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The Mischievous Kid from Eauripik
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Trapped Inside
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Under Tight Wraps
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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?

Wear your mask if you must, but don’t let it stifle you!

The face mask that we wear in these days of the COVID-19 pandemic is still every bit as strange to me as it was two months ago when we began wearing it. 

Part of the reason is what a mask signified when I was growing up. The masked men in the old Westerns I watched were bandits–the bad guys riding into town to take what they could and run. They were the bank robbers, disguising their voices along with their faces, as they demanded all the money in the safe. Of course, there was also that other masked man, The Lone Ranger, who had other reasons for wanting to hide his identity. But most of those in disguise were up to no good, and we kids watching the old black-and-white movies knew it.

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Healing Hearts, Mending Divisions

Last year sometime I had just finished a short talk at a Rotary Club meeting on the film we were making on the homeless people here on the island. (The film is finished but can’t be released until this lock down is ended.) One of the men raised his hand to ask a question. “You’ve lived a long life and have done a lot. Why don’t you just settle back and enjoy retirement?”

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The Mischievous Kid from Eauripik

Attending Xavier High School in the early 1970s was John Hagileiram’s introduction to the wider world. For those of us who got to know this friendly young man with the mischievous twinkle in his eye, it was our only introduction to Eauripik–a tiny islet with a population of barely a hundred that made that rest of the Outer Islands of Yap look like downtown.

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Trapped Inside

I’m free, as of today. Free, that is, of the two weeks of self-quarantine imposed after I reportedly had contact with someone who tested positive for the virus. Free from the daily calls from Public Health to inquire whether I’ve been observing restrictions, and whether I am showing any symptoms.

Now I’m free to drive to the supermarket (providing I’m wearing my mask, of course). But that’s about it! Where else can a person go these days!

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Under Tight Wraps

Bishop Mike Byrnes looked hollow-eyed and weary on our clergy Zoom teleconference last Friday. He looked the way all of us felt, I remember thinking to myself.

The lock-down prompted by the Coronavirus seems to be getting more stringent each week. The basketball court in our village has now been padlocked, so another outlet is denied. No more shooting baskets by myself on a dreary afternoon. At the supermarket lines are marked on the floor for checkout so that customers keep six feet from one another.

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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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