Christmas, 2022

The Brothers Five

Dear Friends,

Did you really ask “So, how was your year?” Or was that just my wishful thinking? Well,
in either case, let me offer a few clues.

My trip to the mainland in July had more wonderful moments than I can describe. The highlights were a week in the mountains with my brothers and their wives, with special cheers to George and Sally and to Rich and Jan, who celebrated their golden wedding anniversaries this year. Then there was the time with my adoptive families: in Florida with the Aubuchons, who have welcomed me to family events for the past 25 years; and in southern California with my Filipino friends from 30 years ago. Lots of years, and lots of love and friendship shared.

But not all the news was good. Palau suffered a clerical wipe-out this year with the death of two of its local priests and a Palauan Jesuit brother, along with the hospitalization of the last surviving local priest as he awaits a liver transplant. Reinforcements soon arrived in the person of three Jesuit priests and a diocesan priest. When I visited Palau to do a baptism not long ago, I had an opportunity to encourage old Palauan friends and the newly assigned priests alike as they worked to rebuild the church leadership.

Then there was the short trip to Chuuk to prepare the old MicSem library materials for shipment to Yap where they will be housed in a specially built library. My task was to sort through a dozen file cabinets—kind of like flipping through 40 years of MicSem work, the golden era of my life. How did I manage to write all those papers, attend all those meetings, speak at all those conference, produce all those videos? Must be the Teutonic genes, I guess. Then in the afternoon it was out to the court for a basketball game or two. After all, there is the image to be maintained of the guy from long ago who haunts the place and supposedly never grows old!

Did I mention marriages in my letter last year? I still have a list of 47 couples to be married The process, which involves paperwork and then more paperwork, is never fast. There’s no such thing as a shotgun marriage for Chuukese on Guam. So, for me at the age of 83, it’s a race against time to finish the list before the lights go out.

But there are the visits to all the homebound that we make in the weeks before Christmas. It’s a chance to bring a smile to the face of those confined to their homes and to assure them that they are not forgotten—neither by God nor those who are supposed to represent him. Then, at the end of Advent, we invite everyone to join in a communal penance service so they can ask forgiveness of one another as they seek forgiveness from their heavenly father.

In many ways, this season is the crown jewel of the year. My hope and prayer is that it will be that for you and your family as well.

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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.