Christmas 2020

Birthday party with the Dominican Sisters

You’ve heard enough about COVID and political warfare, one as toxic as the other and both of them shrouding much of the past year. I won’t mention them again. Instead, what if I just repeat a line that I often use at the close of these Christmas letters when I wish you… peace and a heart open to all.

That’s not just a pious wish. It’s a passionate pursuit of mine and a lifetime goal in my ministry from the very start—and that, my friends, is a long time ago!  Please permit me to track a few of the big steps along the way.

When I arrived at Xavier High School in 1963 to begin my lifelong association with the islands, the motto of the school was “Ut omnes unum sint” (“That all might be one”). The “all” included boys of different islands, cultures and languages. But I thought of the link as extending all the way to Buffalo.

Theology in Maryland in the late 1960s, thanks to Vatican II, offered a new pathway for us Catholics to number all, including those of different beliefs, in that “company of saints.”  Meanwhile, the popular music we were listening to rang with cries for brotherhood, sisterhood, and loving one another.

My return to Xavier High School in 1969 and appointment as principal three years later offered me a chance to try to create a family of both the faculty and the students. Crazy things happened during those years and we had our ups and downs, but the family spirit in the school was undeniable.

Heading the Micronesian Seminar for the next thirty years was an opportunity to reach out a little further–not just to educate high school boys and girls, but adults as well. Not just people in our island nation of FSM, but those in that whole broad area we call Micronesia. The core of my own plea was always something like this: Don’t we share common concerns? If we do, then shouldn’t we be working together?

Finally, there is the ministry on Guam for the past several years. My fond hope from the very start was to see an end to the division that was tearing apart the church on this island. But beyond that, to do what I could to ensure that all—Guamanians, Filipinos, Micronesian migrants and everyone else—felt at home on this island. What’s the point of all the religious devotions, after all, if it doesn’t result in a bigger heart, one capable of including everyone?

So there we are. No need to include the usual ending to this letter, except to say that my heart and prayers go out to you this holiday season. Please remember me also.

Christmas blessings,

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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.