Lake Woebegone and Surroundings

Three hours west of Minneapolis is a small town named Milan with a listed population of 360 on the sign. The sign needs to be updated. At least 400 Chuukese from the single island of Romanum have been added to the population. Bob Ryan, a man who has done as much as anyone else to welcome and settle the Chuukese migrants, met me at the airport and drove me to Milan to visit the people there. 

Bob and I met with the leaders of the Chuukese Catholic community. There was no mass the following morning but lots of confessions before the small gathering for the blessing of an outrigger canoe under construction. The canoe, being built by two skilled outer-islanders, was intended as a tribute to the island culture and a learning tool for the good people who have opened their homes and hearts to the migrants over the years. The canoe may never touch the water, though. It was meant to be sailed on the open sea, not one of the 10,000 lakes for which Minnesota is famous.

The remainder of my time in Garrison Keillor country was spent with some good friends.

Tim Smit and Sheraldine welcomed me at their home in suburban St. Paul. Tim had authored a history textbook during his time at MicSem before meeting his wife on Guam. I had the good fortune to do their wedding a few years ago. We celebrated that and other blessings at a mass in their home.?

Tim and She.

Nick Goetzfridt and his wife Shanti, old friends from Guam, stopped over for a few hours. Their daughter was married within the past year and their son might be on his way to finding a wife. This leaves Nick and Shanti free to return to Guam if he can find something to do there. (Photo caption: Nick and his guest)

Nick and me.

The final day in Minnesota was spent with Marty and Jeanne Doyle, and with their children?Nora, Desmond and Arthur. Apart from the talk time, one highlight of the visit was? playing basketball with little Arthur in the court at the back of their house. Don?t be deceived by the photo, however. That almost dunk was at a rim that had been lowered from ten feet to seven.

The surprise of the visit was learning how close Marty had been, when he was still a Jesuit, to a permanent assignment in Micronesia. It never happened, of course, but it seems he?s done just fine since then.

Marty Doyle and family.

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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.