A Micronesian Monastery in Cow Country
If you?re looking for the presence of a Micronesian religious community in the US, you?ll have to go to the Midwest to find it. But if you visit during December, be prepared for temperatures hovering around zero. When I woke up this morning, the thermometer registered five degrees, but everyone says it?s even colder at night. This place makes New York City seem like Miami Beach.
There may be a chill in the air outside, but there is none at all in the spirit of this community. The place radiates welcome, just as you would expect of a Micronesian home. The community in this case is a Benedictine monastery in Liberty, Missouri, with five Micronesian nuns. Sr. Agnes Helgenberger, who as a Mercedarian Sister spent years teaching in Tol before returning to work in her own Pohnpei, now is the prioress of this small community. Her ?monastery? is a large farmhouse in a rural area, about ten miles from town, surrounded by grazing cows and small ponds.
In her community there are two veterans: Anita Helgenberger, who works for the diocese reviewing financial reports and instructing parishes on how to do them; and Angela Nuokus, once an MA sister teaching on Pohnpei and now overseeing the Thrift Shop and the Food Pantry. These two projects are mainstays in the ministry that these sisters perform. They serve the poor and the needy (including some of the Micronesians who have moved into the area, by the way). The community also includes two young Chuukese women: Iowalyn Kandito, granddaughter of an old friend of mine from Patta, and Karsy James, a postulant with strong family ties to Faichuk.
I was with the community for a week to direct their retreat. They?re wonderful people with great spirit, fine hospitality, and a dedication that is remarkable. After the retreat I did a couple of masses for the Chuukese in the vicinity. The first was in St. Joseph, MO. The name might not mean a lot to most of you, but for those familiar with Pohnpei, it is the present home of the legendary J D Lowe, who left Pohnpei to retire there a few years ago. It also houses a huge meat processing plant (Triumph) where most of the Chuukese in the area have found work.
The sisters provide services for the Micronesian communities in the general area of Kansas City; they provide retreats, set up liturgies, help with marriage problems, act as a contact point with the Diocese of the Carolines, and do whatever else they can to help their island people who are trying to adapt to life in the US. They intend to do even more in the future.
You Micronesians in the US, do you need spiritual assistance? Give some thought to calling on these women.? And if you?re looking for a charity to help this Christmas, please consider them. You can contact them at: Queen of Angels Monastery, 23615 NE 100th St. Liberty, MO 64068. The phone number is: 816-750-4618. You?ll find their website here: www.libertyosb.org.