So…Where’s Fran?

Oceanside, New York, where I?m temporarily working in St. Anthony?s Parish

Right now the answer to the question posed in the title of this posting is Oceanside, New York, where I?m temporarily working in St. Anthony?s Parish.? The people here are largely from New York City, most of them of Italian descent and some of them experiencing the financial problems that other Americans are facing these days in a time of almost-recession.

In many ways, the people of Oceanside are not very different from the Micronesians who have come to the US to seek what they could not find in their own country?a job that offers a decent salary, a good education for their kids, a new opportunity in a new place. ?Some of them can remember their grandparents telling them about what they had to go through when they first arrived in the US.? ?Italians belong in Italy,? seemed to be the cry at that time.? ?Irish belong in Ireland. Poles belong in Poland. America is for Americans.?

But over the past few generations they proved to themselves and to the doubters that they could find a real home here.? As they did so, of course, they also redefined America and enlarged the vocabulary of this culture to include new words like pizza, pasta and bocci.? I mention this because this once immigrant community represents what Pacific islanders are just beginning to do on a more modest scale.

The challenge their grandparents and great-grandparents faced was to ignore the outcry of those who thought they should have never been admitted to the country in the first place and go with building a home for themselves.? They did, even as they formed communities of their own to provide support for one another.? It all reminds me of what I’ve seen as I?ve visited one small Micronesian community after another on the west coast, in the midwest, and in Florida.? As I’ve told many people along the way and have tried to show in the two videos on migrants that MicSem has produced, the new island migrants can be proud of what they?ve achieved.? Now the job is to build on that.

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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.