I returned to Valoka last Sunday, but this time I traveled with the Caritas Sisters, their candidates, the dormitory ladies, and Father Casper a Salesian Father who is originally from India, but resides now in Rabaul. We started from the school at 6 am with the dorm ladies altogether in the back of a truck decorated with pink balloons. The Sisters, Father, the candidates and I followed behind in the school bus.
We sang along the way. What a beautiful sight we were that Sunday morning. Again, we traveled down that beautifully awful pothole road at about 10 miles an hour.
We made it to the church where we were warmly welcomed by the MSC Sisters with refreshments before mass. The mass was celebrated by Fr Casper and Father Joseph, a priest from Uganda who has a very welcoming positive personality- very warm. The church was packed and both the church choir and the dorm ladies sang their assigned music. The church choir sang a beautiful rendition of “I believe”. I was told that it is an African version, which would make sense having an African parish priest.
The night before, the Assembly of God (AOG) Church was celebrating their 50th anniversary in Kimbe. They were celebrating in a park nearby on microphones loud enough to hear from my place. I had to be part of the action, so I went to listen to their music. When I arrived, I was immediately surrounded by my AOG Caritas students- a welcoming sight to see. The preacher was white and preached in Pidgin, but I’ve heard several in my lifetime to know what he was saying, even though I didn’t understand every word. But I was thinking- why can’t our priests preach like that. Then surprise, surprise, God seemed to answer my question, because when Fr Casper said the homily on Sunday morning, he really engaged the congregation and especially the students. He also preached in Pidgin, but again, though I didn’t understand every word, I understood the message. Our dorm students danced up the aisle for the offertory. Very nice!
After mass, the young people and parents gathered around and a few groups danced to music in honor of their guests - and again I had a front row seat along with the Sisters and students. After the dance celebration, Sr Florentina and Fr Casper spoke on living a religious vocation. An interesting concept during their speeches and expressed by the parents who stayed to listen, especially for large families, was to ‘sacrifice’ one of their sons and daughters to the religious life. So that was a word or question I had stuck in the back of my mind and I’ll address that word later in this blog. Now back to the fun stuff.
After the vocation talk, we went inside where we were served a delicious buffet of food made by the MSC Sisters and the friendly conversation continued inside while the dancing including our ladies continued outside. Our students were enjoying themselves.
After lunch, it was time to say goodbye- our students left - riding in the back of the truck - this time without the pink balloons. We followed close behind, saying our Thank you’s and goodbyes to the MSC Sisters and Fr Joseph and the remaining congregation.
Fr Casper stayed with us on Monday and celebrated the 6:30 am mass in our chapel. Then our classes were reduced to 30 minutes so we could end the day with an inspirational talk by Fr Casper.
He also had a separate meeting with the teaching staff on the proper way to discipline- Salesian style. The secret is punishment vs consequences and the positive approach to discipline. A very interesting concept. Instead of yelling at students for doing something against the rules, you almost apologize for having to discipline them. ‘I’m sorry, my daughter, but you leave me no choice but to discipline you, I so wish I didn’t have to do it, but sorry, you leave me no choice.’ Something like that - I think I’m a natural at that, but it will take practice.
That night, I talked to Fr Casper about the word ‘sacrifice’ mentioned earlier. He said he didn’t like that word either, but thought of it more as discernment of God’s calling and/or God’s grace to be chosen for the religious life. The ‘sacrifice’ is not having a family of your own, but gaining so much more in the long run. I also mentioned my visit to the AOG church the night before and asking why we don’t have priests that preach like they do, but then he came along and preached like they did and with positive enthusiasm. He said that homilies are not stressed in the Seminary the way it should be, but he is trying wherever he is assigned to teach others to open up. Everyone enjoyed his positive personality and wished he could become our school priest. But, sadly, he left early Tuesday morning for Port Moresby for a meeting, then back to Rabaul. We all hope he visits us again soon.
On a sad note, my two fellow missionaries, Ron and Karen, left Kimbe and returned to the United States. My ‘wontoks’ (we speak the same language) and community left me behind. A new Bishop will be announced soon, therefore, Bishop Bill is letting all his staff go in anticipation of the new Bishop wanting to pick his own staff. Because I teach at Caritas, I’m not considered part of his staff, but my mission is still his responsibility. Thank goodness, because I like it here and I’m not ready to leave yet. I feel sort of numb since they left and now my only ‘wontok’ is Bishop Bill.
The good news is that another Lay-Mission-Helper teacher will arrive next year (hopefully in January - depending on visa). Her name is Maria Luisa Garcia. She is currently in formation classes in Los Angeles and will be commissioned on her birthday (Dec 9, 2018) as I was commissioned last year on my birthday (Dec 10). She is exactly one day older than me... how is that for a coincidence! I am looking forward to having another ‘wontok’ here soon.
My school year is winding down fast. One more week of instruction, one week of final exams and the last week I’ll call ‘play-week’ a week of closing school activities. A class party, a school Christmas event and competition and a recognition day as the last day for students. (Nov 30). The last day for staff is December 7. Then my sister, Debbie comes to PNG for Christmas on Dec 16 and that will be another blog altogether. Stay tuned.
I thank you again for your prayers and support. You are in my prayers. Happy Thanksgiving. Please feel free to comment and leave a message. God bless you all.