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.?
Somewhere between 2000 and 1500 BC, around the time that Abraham was moving out of the Chaldees to his new home in what was later to be Palestine, another movement was taking place. Sailing canoes from the west arrived bringing the first people to settle in Micronesia. In fact, these newcomers could have been the first to settle anywhere in Oceania?other than the Papuans, that is, who had paddled the short distance to nearby Melanesia thousands of years earlier.
How long had the dispute been going on? None of us could remember exactly, but we knew that for some years now there had been two mayors of Tol (the largest municipality in Faichuk, the west part of Chuuk Lagoon). Maybe the split between the two sides of Tol occurred after the death of Susumu Aizawa in 2006. He had been the undisputed leader of Tol while he was alive?-as much for the reputation he acquired as a pitcher in the Japanese baseball league as for his success in business and expertise in traditional history.
At a Christmas party thrown by the archdiocese on December 30, I was surprised when a number of people approached me holding copies of a booklet that had just been published and asked for my signature. It seems that the pastors and the heads of schools had received wrapped copies of the book at the party. For me the luncheon quickly turned into a book signing event.
?Where America?s day begins,? is how they used to describe Guam years ago. That?s what I once thought, too, during my early visits to the island in the 1970s. Guam always seemed like a marvelous shopping mall to those of us coming from Chuuk, Pohnpei, Yap and less developed islands. We could find everything there we couldn?t access in the smaller islands?air-conditioned movie theaters, fast food places, good restaurants that offered the tomatoes and lettuce and other delights we yearned for back on our own islands.
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.
Here we are in Chuuk once again with the diocesan priests gathered in the chapel preparing for our liturgy. Fr. Arthur Leger and I, along with two other Jesuits from Manila, are directing a week-long retreat for diocesan priests from the Carolines. The 15 clergy making the retreat range from the veterans, Bishop Amando Samo and Fr. Nick Rahoy, ordained a few months apart back in 1977, to Robert Ifamalik, who was just ordained on Pohnpei last month. They have come from Palau, Yap and Pohnpei to join their brethren in Chuuk for the event.