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.
For me this is a wonderful reunion. These priests are old friends?mentors in language and culture, basketball buddies, people I?ve chatted with over coffee more mornings than I can count. Now they?re gathered together, just as we Jesuits were last month, to try to deepen their relationship with the Lord who called them to his service. But they?re also enjoying this opportunity to reconnect with one another.
Thirty years ago there were only four diocesan priests among a multitude of Jesuits (40 of us working in the region). But even back then we Jesuits were running our pre-seminary program on Guam, training those who would replace us. Somehow it worked out. Now diocesan priests in the region outnumber Jesuits and are responsible for nearly all the parishes in the diocese. Meanwhile, the pre-seminary, which is now relocated in Chuuk, houses several new candidates for the priesthood.
Next week Chuuk is hosting a diocesan workshop that will have about 60 people attending. We hope to do what we have done so many times before over the years?revitalize our sense of mission and agree on a new vision of what we would like the church of Micronesia to be in the future. In the past we had such luminaries as Bill McGarry, Jack Curran, Felix Yaoch and Apollo Thall to help with the task. In their absence it falls to the rest of us to do the best we can. We hope we can count on all of you who may be reading this. We?ll all be better off if the workshop succeeds.