Angken Rapun: Deacon and Friend
About 50 years ago–it must have been in the early 1970s–I first met Angken Rapun on Tol, the westernmost island in Chuuk. Angken was hard to miss. He was a rugged, good-looking young man who told me he had played football on Guam during his high school days. That was easy to believe, given his size. In 1968, not long after his return to Chuuk, he married Kintina. They had several children–most of them as well-built as their dad–and the couple would have celebrated their golden wedding anniversary next year if Angken had lived.
Now and then I would bump into Angken during my pastoral visits to Tol during the 70s and 80s. One of his sons reminded me just the other night of the time and he and I got lost while trying to take a shortcut over the mountain on our return from a distant village. Angken Angken eventually was ordained a deacon and celebrated the 25th anniversary of his ordination just a few yeas ago.
Angken, who had spent a few of his early years on this island, always seemed comfortable on Guam. So he and his family moved here some years ago to minister to the Chuukese community in Dededo. It was only when I settled here six years ago that Angken became an important figure in my life, just as he had become central in the life of the Chuukese Catholic community here on Guam. Angken assisted at mass, preached, instructed couples preparing for church marriage, conducted funeral services, and did whatever was needed to support his fellow church members. Meanwhile, Kintina herself took on a variety of other ministries; she taught religious education classes, read at Mass, and helped organize and run women’s groups.
Angken may have been rough-and-ready when he was young, but diabetes took its toll on his body as he aged. In the last few years of his life, he had increased difficulty walking and soon had to be assisted as he climbed the altar steps to assist at church services. When he came down with a fever the weekend before last, no one thought too much of it. Then, a few nights later, I was called to his house one evening to pray over him. Even then, I was confident that he would be shuffling up to the altar again the following weekend. I had no idea that when I said goodbye to him that evening, I would never see him again.
Angken passed away less than two hours later. I lost a good friend, and the church lost a dedicated servant–one who could sound harsh at times, but was always looking out for the good of his people. May he rest in peace.