Sunday, January 27, 2013

Involuntary Solidarity

Not a ton to report from the last week. I was battling a cold and then malaria. I had joked about how I was expecting to get malaria within my first couple weeks back in country, but it still came as a slight surprise.

There can be some upsides to being sick. One is that I’ve been very tired. There are many times when I’ve wished that my mind would quiet down. When I’m very tired, this happens somewhat easily.

The second reading in Mass this past Sunday was the passage from Corinthians about the many members of the body of Christ.  I didn’t feel well during the Mass, and even contemplated not receiving the Eucharist because of my upset stomach and some worries about keeping the host down. But in the homily Fr. Cyril mentioned how when one part of the body is hurt, the whole body feels pain, and then I realized that of course the body of Christ includes the sick, and so I went up to receive Christ during Communion.

I thought, too, of Christ appearing to Paul and asking, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (The Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul was also this week) So much pain and so much joy are felt simultaneously in the body of Christ. How many others throughout the world are members of the body of Christ, yet have suffered from sickness far more than me throughout this last week? Both the elderly and those at end of life, and those countless numbers of children and others who come down with diseases like malaria but don’t have the same access to medicines that I do.

So sickness may be involuntary solidarity, but I’ll take it, and try to offer my life up to God with Christ.


PS: I may not yet be back to 100%, but I am feeling better now

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Video of Professions

My fellow volunteer/lay missionary Steve Nelson was able to produce and upload a video providing a synopsis of the professions that I just mentioned in my previous post. All of the filming takes place either on the school grounds at St. Fidelis or in our school chapel. For my commentary/explanation on the professions, please see the previous post.

Clearly, the video is highly recommended!

Solemn Profession - Papua New Guinea

Capuchin Professions

So once again, over the next two years I’ll be teaching at St. Fidelis Seminary in Madang Province. The school is run by Capuchin Franciscan friars and I live with the Capuchins in their friary by the school. The Capuchins emerged as a 16th century reform of the Franciscan order (which started several hundred years earlier with St. Francis of Assisi).

A friar is distinct from a monk in that a monk is usually tied to a specific geographical place, while friars move around frequently. Like monks, friars take the three vows based on the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience. In the Gospels (hence, “evangelical”) Christians have long seen Jesus as recommending a stricter adherence to these practices to some without mandating them for every Christian. Capuchin Franciscans and other similar communities usually make a temporary, first profession of these vows at some point for a specific period of time (often a year), and then renew their vows for a number of times until they and the community feel they are ready to make a final or solemn profession of these vows.

I arrived at St. Fidelis during the school break, but a number of the PNG friars in temporary vows who normally live elsewhere in the country were staying at the school for a spiritual retreat over the last week. For two of the friars, this retreat was building up to their solemn profession of the vows this past Saturday.

I’ve enjoyed getting to know some of the national friars over the last week, easing back into my usage of pidgin. On Friday night there was a mumu (large, traditional meal cooked in a pit with steam) at the school with hundreds of people from these two friars’ home places who had come to celebrate. On Saturday, the professions took place within the context of a Mass. A special singing group had come from Megiar to provide music for the liturgy.

I thought the liturgy was wonderful and beautiful. At the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in South Bend, Fr. Rocca would always encourage Sunday worshippers to participate with “full heart and voice.” I can’t discern people’s hearts any better than the next person, but I can say that many Papua New Guineans at least participate with full voice, and for that I’m so grateful. The liturgical music successfully complemented the variety of prayers and postures present within the one prayer of the Mass, and the Bamboo band, along with the procession in traditional dress, left no doubt as to our location.

Now, the school grounds are quieter. I finally have some clarity as to what I’ll be teaching over the next year, and plan to work on some lesson preparation over the next two weeks

You can pray that I prepare spiritually, too, becoming ready to always model our faith even as I try to explain it in a formal setting. Thanksgiving to God, too, for the beauty of this country, its people, and their celebrations. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013


Greetings from beautiful Madang!

After a night in Honolulu, 5 days with the wonderful Dave, Liz and “Joshy” Lohmeyer outside of Adelaide, Australia I made my way up to Papua New Guinea.

I felt a sense of gratitude as the plane landed in Port Moresby. At times I’ve wondered whether I’ve created a misleadingly optimistic view of PNG in my mind. Life is life, no matter where you are. There are highs and lows, joys and frustrations, moments of clarity and moments of confusion. But for the first couple days at least, I’ve felt joy at even the mundane elements of life here. It may not last, but for the moment, I’m trying to lift the joy up to God in thanksgiving. I may not have returned to the routine but I have at least returned to the familiar. I may not have "come home" in even the fullest geographical sense, but I at least return to a home. 

Just short of 11 years ago, I first came to PNG, spending an unexpected night in Port Moresby (as I did this time as well) and then coming here to Madang province. Of all the dreams and aspirations I may have had at the time, I don’t think I imagined myself coming back here to teach at a Catholic seminary. God’s ways are truly awesome and unknowable! 

May the Lord bless and keep you all.