Back to School Retreats in Dededo and Palau

The combined staff of the Catholic schools in Palau, in front of the church in Melekeok.

The beginning of August is back-to-school time in the islands. So schools everywhere are gathering teachers and preparing for the coming school year. For me it meant directing a short retreat for the faculty and staff of Santa Barbara School here on Guam, and then making a short visit to Palau to work with staff in the two mission schools there: Mindszenty High School and Maris Stella.

The schools I worked with for the first four days of the month don?t seem to need much help, truthfully. Santa Barbara School, which is a next door neighbor to the parish in which I?m working, is something of magnet school for the area. Every year the school does two full-length musical productions??Madagascar? was the latest offering and (for me at least) a spellbinder. The shows involve many more than a handful of students. Whole classes have a role in the productions, and parents attend the performances in good numbers to cheer on their children. At the end of the evening, I could tell people truthfully that I really enjoyed the show!

As for Palau, there are two Catholic schools, Mindszenty High School and Maris Stells, both of which have a proud history. The schools have had troubled times recently, but that seems to be well behind them now. Teachers and staff are well motivated and hang together very well. Besides, there was no problem getting the teachers on the retreat to articulate feelings?this was Palau, after all!? The only problem was in finding a way to end the sessions on schedule.

The retreat was just a device for getting the school year off to a good start. It was to remind staff of that they have a mission, aside from teaching the basic school subjects. It?s to inculcate deep values in their students that are both Christian and human. But even as they do so, they have to remember that they must become a community among themselves.

In some ways, I was preaching to the choir. Both places have many deeply motivated teachers and a staff and faculty that already sees itself as a family. It?s a great start. All I could do really was remind the staff of what they had already done and point them to continue to hope in the One who had made it possible for them to do so much in the past.

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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.