Monday, March 22, 2021

My Journey to the South Coast Part III

The morning of the Diaconate Ordination we were devastated by the news that Bishop Bill passed away the night before of Covid. It was ironic that on the program for Brother Boniface's ordination, Bishop Bill's favorite song in pidgin was printed on the back of the program. (Maria, Oh mama...). God is good. I was looking forward to visiting Bishop Bill in Pennsylvania when I visited my hometown in Ohio. I planned on taking him to visit my hometown.  Shucks, another opportunity lost... How sad. 

The Diaconate Ordination of Brother Boniface was held on another beautiful morning, Thursday, January 25th, and it was so beautiful to watch. 

I sat right behind his parents and family. I didn't have my camera because electricity was limited and my battery was too low. It was in the priest house being charged, but I wish I could have taken a picture of the back of Boniface’s mother and two sisters who were dressed in beautiful bilas made of the various natural materials of plants and flowers representing their village. I was able to take a picture of Bonaface’s mother, but a picture of all three was another lost opportunity.  Shucks.

That Friday we left after mass and breakfast- back on the boats, back to the village of Turuk. Again, it took us all day as we stopped again at various island villages along the way for the villages to welcome the Bishop and his entourage.  We were again welcomed with food, sing-sings and introductions from the villagers themselves.  It seemed these villages already knew Fr Lucas from previous visits because the children welcomed him with exuberant anticipation.  

We made it to Turuk at sundown, just in time to walk to the river for a wash-wash before going back to the convent for the night. The next morning we were to travel at 3 am back to Nut (pronounced Noot), but we didn't actually get on the road till around 6:30 am (PNG time). We then traveled again by boat back to Garu and then another one and a half hours back to the Diocese of Kimbe. 

Overall, the experience was a rare opportunity to peek into the land of the unexpected, a paradise so remote that I felt so lucky to have this amazing opportunity to experience and to meet the wonderful villagers along the way and explore their lifestyle so unlike my own. I will truly miss these moments, but they will live in my memory and my heart forever.  

On Wednesday January 27, we celebrated a requiem mass for Bishop Bill, then celebrated a kai-kai dinner for the first anniversary of Bishop John Bosco Aurums installation. 

The next week, I visited my 'home' village of Vavua and  stayed with Fr Bennet.  I will miss my adopted 'home village' and I thank the villagers, especially the children for their welcome hospitality. I only had one day that I could actually go into the water, but then was met with rain every day that lasted the entire day. Despite the rain, I will always have Vavua in my heart forever as I prepare to return home.

Now I am packing and making my final plans for departure on March 3, leaving PNG behind.  It is so hard to say goodbye. (Note – flight was cancelled and rescheduled for March 10th)

Please continue to pray for me as I pray for you. Feel free to leave comments below.   Goodbye for now from Kimbe, PNG. See you soon at home in the US. 

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

My Journey to the South Coast Part II

 On Monday morning, half of our Diocesen family left for the village of Valanguo while I stayed in Turuk and accompanied the Bishop to the Island village of Magiem. This is the island where the Bishop was born and attended his primary school years. I felt honored to be invited.  The village warmly welcomed their won-tok and their Bishop home. His island is the first island of three almost identical islands with a clear passage between each island. From a distance, they look like triplets and some call them chocolate bar islands.  A week later when returning to Turuk, I saw the triplets in the distance and they actually did look like a chocolate bar - three equal mounds of island (chocolate). 

While on the village of Magiem (the Bishop's island), a welcome mass was celebrated by the Bishop along with a memorial mass for a Sr Mary Rose, a religious Sister from Australia who was killed in that village in November 1964. There is a church named after her with a plaque commemorating her and dedicated by Bishop Bill placed inside the church. She was killed while teaching class and her students honored her memory by dancing a dance that afternoon that Sr. Mary Rose taught them those many years ago.

Tuesday, we said goodbye to Turuk and the FMI Sisters who were going their own separate ways. We once again got into our boats and took off for the village of Valanguo.  I felt especially lucky to sit next to Sr Gabriel, MSC who grew up on the south coast and who served as a personal tour guide of the islands we were passing. It was nice to hear her stories of how her class had picnics on that island, or how her family grew a garden on that island or how her class would take field trips to that beautiful island over there. Again - what a beautiful paradise.  

It took us the entire day as we were welcomed at several island villages along the way where the Bishop was welcomed, food was prepared and a sing-sing was part of a welcome celebration for the Bishop and his entourage. It felt nice to be a small part of this celebration- something not very many people have the opportunity to experience and it was nice to be part of the diocesen family. The Bishop made it a point to introduce his entourage.

Fr Lucas, a Polish priest, caught the attention of the children who enjoyed him as a source of entertainment.  He told them stories, showed them how to play a few games, showed them how to stand on their heads, and made them laugh and enjoy his company. It was a little funny watching some of the real little ones who watched in total fascination, but you could almost see their little minds working away as they didn't really know how to respond- whether to laugh with the others or to cry in fright at the white man doing his best to entertain them. 

We finally made it in the evening to Valanguo. In the last stretch, we traveled through a passage made up of mangrove trees to reach the village. Our boat ran out of gas just before we reached the parish, so we had to wait awhile until petrol was found before we could finally reach the parish. 

The parish itself was located on an island.  The women were to stay about 15 minutes away on the mainland in a secondary school dormitory.  In my opinion, it was too far away from the parish itself. The accommodations were very rustic, and even though there was a bathroom, water was extremely limited at the school and at the parish as well. The water situation was not planned well and was challenging for all concerned. I walked to a well where the water was murky and not trusted for anything more than flushing the toilet. Yuck. 

The one redeeming quality was a beautiful wash-wash river located in an actual cave that we visited for some fresh water. Everyone had a great time exploring the area, diving into the water and swimming in the cool clean water.  I don't swim, but my Diocese family made sure I also had a tour of the river cave by riding on the shoulders of Brother Peter. I hung on for dear life while touring the beauty of the cave on his shoulders, but it was well worth it. Amazing! 

(To be continued...Diaconate Ordination)

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

My Journey to the South Coast Part I

I was invited by Bishop John Bosco Aurum to visit the South Coast to attend a priest and a Diaconate ordination and I enthusiastically accepted.  We began our journey on January 14 and what a trip it was. The South coast is on the opposite side of the West New Britain island. If there was a freeway connecting both sides, it would probably have taken us only a few hours, but, this being PNG, the only road connecting Kimbe to Turuk was too muddy to travel. There is an actual video of passengers pulling their vehicles through muddy rivers. Everything and everyone is shown completely caked in mud. That is something the Bishop did not want us to experience (Thank goodness).  So we traveled by vehicles from the Diocese to Garu (an hour and a half on unpaved roads) took boats to the village of Nut (pronounced noot), got in another set of vehicles and traveled across the province on unpaved roads (still muddy in spots), but supposedly not as bad as the one from Kimbe to the village of Turuk. It took four and a half hours to reach our destination.  

From Garu, we traveled on 4 boats, with between 10- 12 persons or so per boat and off we went. The last time I traveled from Garu was on my very first weekend in Kimbe (approx. 3 years ago) when we traveled with Bishop Bill, my fellow missionaries, Karen and Ron and others. On that trip, it was beautiful for the first few hours, but when the seas got rough and turned from pleasant to a rocky, wet e-ride, I found myself yelling a silent scream 'Get me off this thing!' Above the loud splashy waves crashing against the boat and me, I could have screamed out loud and no one would have heard me anyway. We did make it to the village of Kaliai, but were very wet and very uncomfortable.  We were warmly welcomed by the villagers and all was good again.  We stayed a few days and experienced a confirmation in Bariai. (Read one of my first blogs for more details). 

On this trip, I traveled with the religious and friends from the Diocese and it felt like I was traveling with family. The boat trip was beautiful and thankfully calm and uneventful as we traveled past the picturesque Pacific island villages. We waved back at villagers who were waving their greetings and watched the children swim or wash-wash in the water until we reached the village of Nut. On the road between Nut and Turuk, the road was challenging, but thankfully, not as bad as the supposed muddy conditions of the main road that starts in Kimbe. Thank goodness we didn't have to get out and pull a vehicle through the mud. 

Turuk Parish is built on top of a mountain with the village of Kandrian below where the main bush stores are located.  The rivers are also located below and they could rival any swimming pool found in the US. The river water was extremely pure and just like in Pomio, each part is designated for certain wash-wash activities.  One part is designated to wash-wash clothes, another to wash-wash dishes and pots and pans, another is for swimming, while another is to wash-wash the body and finally there is the actual spring where fresh water spurts out as it enters the pool and is reserved for the most delicious drinking water (cold and refreshing).

The men stayed in the priest house located on top of another hill with its own million dollar view. The women stayed in the convent where we shared accommodations with the Religious Sisters from the FMI, MSC and Caritas Communities along with 5 Caritas candidates. The Bishop's sister and niece and Mrs Babino and I made up the remaining women experiencing this trip. We made up a warm and supportive community as we waited for the ordination to begin. 

From the convent, we could look out over the ocean where many islands speckled the landscape, each populated with their own villages. A number of canoes were seen on the water and for some, it was their main mode of transportation.  It was an absolutely gorgeous view. PNG is rich in natural resources and is often called paradise. 

The ordination took place on a beautiful Saturday morning, January 16 and because it was to be celebrated outside in a nicely decorated pavilion right next door to the convent, we had prime seats on the second floor balcony of the convent.  We watched together as the Mass began. The clergy were escorted by the village warriors. 

A hut representing the Deacon's home was constructed on the other side of the field -about a football field away from the pavilion.  Deacon Sylvester was called from inside his hut. His family and village warriors, who tapped their drums and blew their conchs, escorted him to the stage where the ordination mass continued. Two priests came down to welcome him to the stage, but before they could begin, Deacon Sylvester had to take off all his bilas (ceremonial attire) and then he was ready to be ordained.

The Mass was followed by kai-kai (lunch) followed by a fitting celebration complete with presentations of gifts, dancing and sing-sings in honor of our new priest - Fr Sylvester.  The next day (Sunday), the newly ordained Fr Sylvester celebrated his first mass called a Thanksgiving mass. Again, the mass was followed by kai-kai, and more presentations, dances and sing-sings. 

(To be continued...)

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Last Holiday In PNG

My last day of work and my mission was on Dec 11th. The students were abruptly dismissed roughly two weeks before because of Covid, but the staff still had to report to do report cards and other end of the year reports. It was so abrupt that I was unable to give my final exam. I left for my vacation to the Diocese of Rabaul in another Province and then traveled to a bush village of Pomio where I was invited to celebrate Fr. Paul's 25 year jubilee.  

Pomio is known as Paradise for the order of Man and that is so true. It is absolutely beautiful here. We are in a very remote area and the only way to get here is by boat or walking. There is a road with no vehicles of any kind. (bicycles- but I haven't seen one yet). Dinghies with motors and canoes are on the bay, but only if there is money for fuel. To get to the small town of Palmalmal - you either walk for 3 hours or take the dinghy and be there in 15 minutes across the bay. But either way, to get to the actual village, you have to climb a steep mountain. 

Luckily, Fr. Paul's house is located closer to the beach, but to attend the various customs or ceremonies in the village, we had to climb that mountain.  Some, especially children, are used to it - so they can run up and down and usually the women have their dishes or laundry on their heads and/or carrying small children to take to the river to wash. Plus, there is, at times, no water coming from the faucets, so to get water, everything comes from the river. I am trying to drink from the boiled water, but that can be difficult, too. I just pray a lot and take my malaria pills. And the best part (so far), my legs are healthy- no infections. To climb the mountain, I have to inch my way up and down and one time it poured while up in the village- it was so hard climbing down - I had a walking stick and had to hold on to someone's hand - but managed to get down without falling- thank God. I guess if I stayed here, I would get used to it, but yikes!

One of the custom ceremonies I was privileged to attend was the initiation of young boys into their tribe. One of Sr. Bernadette's natural born sisters adopted a young boy (3 years old) from Pomio who went through the initiation (he was circumcised). Afterwards, a few men dressed up like dancing bushes or flowers called Tumbuams come out with taro stems and whip family members and friends of these young boys so they can share the pain of what these young boys had to endure. Sort of hard to watch, but couldn't look away. Other customs were of various dances to commemorate the people who died in their village. 

Another interesting custom ceremony was the initiation of the older young men into their tribe (17-20 year-olds). They spent the previous week in a private place in the mountains and had to carry their secret items with tribal meanings to their village and they had to make sure it was dark and that no women were around to see them. They did this around 6pm when it is dark outside and they make whooping sounds and various bird calls that tell the women to stay in their houses and to be quiet as the young men proceed up the mountain to their village.  It was rather eerie but fascinating to hear the sounds and witness the overall experience.

Christmas here is celebrated on that day as the birthday of Jesus.  No decorations, no cookies, no Santa, no presents, no Christmas trees. One of my traditions at home is to go around on Christmas Eve and see Christmas decorations, so one of Fr. Paul's brothers had a small crystal Christmas tree that changed colors and one strand of lights. I purposely walked to his place after Mass on Christmas Eve to see his small display just to fulfill my tradition. The manger in the church was also nicely decorated.  But that was about it. People were now able to concentrate on their custom ceremonies.  

Fr. Paul's 25th Jubilee of his ordination was celebrated on Sunday December 27th - Feast Day of the Holy Family.  But his actual ordination day was January 2nd and both days were celebrated with a Mass, dances, gift presentations and lunch.  

Dec 27th was celebrated in the parish of Malakur and on Jan 2nd was celebrated in the village of Ngaval - the village on top of the mountain.  The view on top of the mountain in that remote village is a million-dollar view of the bay below. It is situated between the mountain on one side and the beach and bay view on the other side. Remote, but just beautiful! 

So far, 2021 is good - I am in Pomio - paradise,  my football team (The Ohio State Buckeyes) will play Alabama for the National Championship on January 11th and after the way they played in the playoff - it should be an amazing game. My professional football team (Cleveland Browns) are in the playoffs for the first time in 18 years and Biden will be president on January 20th. The virus is the only negative so far. Prayers are needed that I can return home safely. I plan to return home sometime before February 14th, the day my visa expires. 

I wish all of you a happy and blessed New Year. I will keep you in my prayers, please keep me in yours. God bless.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

A Tale of Two Bishop Installations

I attended the installation of the Archbishop of Rabaul at the end of September/beginning of October (Rochus Josef Tatamai, MSC). I couldn't help compare it with the installation of Bishop John Bosco Aurum in Kimbe. (To read more details about the Kimbe Bishop installation, read my blog on the Episcopal ordination.) The differences were truly remarkable.

The installation in Rabaul was a really beautiful experience and very spiritual. The songs sung, the ceremony and the entrance/recessional processions with a parade of priests and religious were heartfelt and appropriate for such a joyous occasion, but in my humble opinion, the one in Kimbe was so much more alive - the choirs (yes, more than one singing together), the various warriors dancing up the aisle, angels flying the bible to the alter (yes, flying), tossing the soon-to- be Bishop into the air three times and again, the sights and sounds were just so glorious to watch, not to mention the perfect weather under a dancing sun. So, as you can see, both installations were God's true Blessing and were executed in two different ways, but ultimately the end result was the installation of new Bishops.

The celebrations afterward were beautiful in both locations with the people dressed in a variety of bilas (natural decorations - flowers, leaves, etc) all to express their joy of having a new Bishop as they were both one of their own, born and raised on New Britain Island (one in the east and the other in the west) in Papua New Guinea. 

The Diocese of Kimbe was well represented with about 150 people who either flew, took boats or traveled on the treacherous highway connecting the two Dioceses to attend. We dressed in our own purple merriblouses one day and a multicolor one that represented our Diocese on another day as we joined the celebratory activities.

I flew out a week earlier to visit Kavieng, New Ireland Province. I was invited to visit Sr Mary Agnes who used to live in Kimbe and her MSC Sisters. They were wonderful and gracious hostesses and showed me around Kavieng. Across the street was a brand new ultramodern Provincial government building made by the Chinese and opened on their Independence Day (September 16, 2020). It was nicely built but so modern compared to the buildings surrounding it.  I was honored to be able to tour the building with them - the first time for all of us. I took them all out for a lobster/crab dinner as a thank you for their hospitality - something I cannot get in Kimbe and something they seldom have for themselves.  

Sr Mary Agnes and I traveled up a pothole free highway to spend the night in Namatanai where we met up with our other travel companions.  The next morning we traveled by boat (dinghy) to Rabaul for the installation. After the installation, I traveled back by boat with my fellow parishioners from the Diocese of Kimbe to Ulinoma and then by car back to Kimbe.

We, as a Diocese, were able to visit with Karl Hesse, M.S.C., Archbishop Emeritus who still resides in Rabaul.  We sang him a few songs and he reminisced on how the Diocese of Kimbe became separated from the Diocese of Rabaul. Some of you veteran missionaries who worked in ENB might remember him. He had high praise and good memories of the LMH missionaries who worked with him in the past. 

When I got back to Kimbe, I again had to fight off another leg infection. I was out of school until it healed with my leg elevated and mostly in bed. I was on intense antibiotics as I waited impatiently for it to heal.  

Now as I'm coming to the end of my mission with approximately 3 months to go, I'm trying to soak up as many sights and sounds, culture and experience as possible as I know this time will fly by much too quickly. Again, please keep me in your prayers, especially with COVID 19 still playing havoc in our country (I hope I can return early next year). I, as always, continue to pray for all of you. 

God bless...

Thursday, July 9, 2020

My Journey to the Bush of PNG

Expect the unexpected is the latest slogan for PNG and traveling to the bush is one unexpected breathe-taking beauty of a ride through a land still somewhat primitive, but what a gorgeous country! 

It was a Wednesday afternoon and I was traveling with our new Bishop, John Bosco Auram, and team from Kimbe to the bush villages of Ulamona and Mantanakunai. The road was surprisingly smoother than expected, not many potholes to slow us down, but each twist and turn revealed a luscious landscape of a variety of tropical trees lining the road and covering the fields and mountains along the way. We crossed bridges over fresh blue- green cold water rivers and at one point, saw a spectacular view of the ocean sparkling in the distance. There was a sense of wonder and discovery in the unspoiled wilderness we passed along the way.  We arrived in Ulamona to songs of welcome for the new Bishop who did his pastoral work as a deacon back in 1999 and they honored him as if welcoming back one of their own.

The next day after mass, we took a dinghy for a two hour trip across the sea to Mantanakunai- where the Bishop was again welcomed with song by the villagers who carried him to his place of honor. We were there to open a new parish in the bush village of Matanakunai (which was a sub-parish of Ulamona.) 
The bush conjures up an image of a wild, uncultivated and rustic land and certainly, Mantanakunai did not disappoint.   Matanakunai is situated right on the water with palm trees swaying in the breeze and vegetation blooming everywhere right on the border of East and West New Britain Provinces. It shares politics with East New Britain while the parish itself is under the Diocese of Kimbe. Was it rustic? I’ll let you decide- - no electricity (a generator powered the stage and church area), pit toilets (yikes - take a deep breath of fresh air before...) 😃 and bush houses that look more like cabins- no real furniture, no kitchen, no bathroom (pit toilet) , no glass in the windows, but it looked sturdy enough to withstand the numerous rain storms that often frequent a tropical paradise like Matanakunai. 

The village would be any artists dream with its unspoiled landscape and friendly people. The surroundings are equal to a tropical resort reminding me of what some northern countries have to recreate inside greenhouses or indoor botanical gardens that can only provide a glimpse into the natural beauty that inhabits such a place. 

Mitchel, a friend I met in Kimbe and lives in Ulamona found me and I asked her to accompany me to Mantanakunai and I’m so glad she agreed. She introduced me to the bush life. One example was the wash-wash in the pristine, but cold river only a few minutes walk from the village. I was totally unprepared for the splash of cold water being poured over me as the (all female) audience on shore looked on - some were amused at my shock and I’m sure for some it was their first time seeing a white meri (woman) experiencing such a wash-wash in the bush. Camping is what comes to mind, but I don’t think I ever had to wash- wash in a river before. Refreshing? - haha- well - okay, I’ll admit - it was refreshing, (after the initial shock wore off...) but brrrrrr - the water was just too cold, even on a humid day.

The opening of the new parish began with mass on both Friday (to honor the Bishop) and Saturday to install the new parish, Fr Cleofas as the parish priest, as well as the Catechists and the parishioners. There was an undeniable sense of something exceptional about to happen when the drums started beating and all made way for the warriors, both women and men, dressed in bilas (adornment of their bodies with leaves, feathers and other bush material and natural paint) spears in hand as they danced, escorting the Bible into the church. 
Lunch followed by celebrations and gifts began in the afternoon of both days with both East and West New Britain well represented by tribes and clans from both provinces as each group dressed in their own unique bilas and danced their ceremonial dances. Gifts included pigs (poor things), food items like taro, money and other honorable contributions. Friday was to honor our new Bishop while Saturday honored the new Parish priest Fr Cleofas. The stage was the main focal point of each afternoon and it looked newly built as it was dedicated on the 13 of June to the St. Mary’s Assumption Parish. There was an area already roped off and designated for the new church that will be built as well as a new priest house (I hope it has a real bathroom).
The church will be surrounded by a tropical landscape of beautiful palm trees swaying in the wind built along dirt roads that lead back to Kimbe or onward to Rabaul. The mountains seen from the village are part of the jungles where many of its people have already moved down into the village area to work or go to school. 

Returning across the water back to Ulamona on Saturday was amazing. My dinghy left at sundown.  As we watched the sun melt into the water, a ray of pure blue streaked across the sky. Mitchel called it the Ray of Divine Mercy and I never saw something so spectacular. It was in the shape of a rainbow but was only a deep beautiful color of blue. After the sun disappeared, a pitch dark night displayed an amazing array of stars that were reflected off the water as we followed the shoreline. We arrived back to Ulamona with an unbelievable star lineup taking place before us. 

The same room I occupied two nights earlier in the convent awaited my return, and even though there was no electricity, no hot water, a wet and chipped cement floor and fixtures and no real shower, there was a real toilet that flushed and a faucet to wash my hands and to me, it might as well of been the Ritz.

A volcano stands overlooking Ulamona as an ominous reminder of its three eruptions during the past year (2019) that evacuated the entire village- only now people are brave enough to return and rebuild their lives. I was told that the first and second eruptions created a new smaller volcano standing right next to the original while the third eruption mostly flowed underneath both volcanos birthed a baby peak. I prayed that they all remained asleep while we visited the area. 

Sunday mass began with a confirmation class of around 500 youths. The last confirmation took place 4 years earlier. This was one of the Bishop’s first confirmations since his installation and luckily he was comfortable enough to delegate the task to two of his senior priests. With 500 youths, it could have been a very long mass. Again that afternoon was filled with lunch, followed by a celebration that included singing, dancing and gift presentations. 

In the past, Ulanoma welcomed both the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC) priests and religious sisters who operated a saw-mill providing the surrounding villages lumber for many years. Unfortunately, the mill burned and all was eventually abandoned. But the church remains and it was almost a replica of the old cathedral in Kimbe.  The missionaries are long gone, but they left behind their buildings and their faith that the villagers embrace and will pass on to the new generation. 

Overall, traveling to the bush was an amazing experience- something truly unexpected.  I want to end my blog on a cute note. I walk to school and it’s about a thirty minute walk. On the corner of the main road and the long road leading to Ruango Junior High is a house with a lot of little children who wave to me every morning and again in the afternoon when I return home. I must have blown them a kiss at one point because now they throw those kisses back at me. It always makes my day in such a cute way. 

Please know that I continue to pray for you as I hope you continue to pray for me. I am discerning whether I should leave at the end of the year or stay for one more year. Please pray with me for God to reveal how long I should stay here in PNG. God bless all of you and - please leave comments. Bye until next time...

Monday, May 11, 2020

My Experience with COVID-19 in PNG

I decided to stay in mission in Kimbe, Papua New Guinea during the COVID-19 pandemic.  I prayed about staying or leaving, and I chose to stay in mission knowing full well of all the complications that came with making that decision. My new assignment this year is to teach Grade 9 English at Ruango Junior High School in the Diocese of Kimbe, PNG. 

After I decided to stay, the country followed the example of other countries by going on lockdown and closing all schools. Schools were canceled for about five weeks and reopened on May 4 for grades 7 and up. Lower grades will resume sometime in the near future. Classes opened on a trial basis and will be closely monitored throughout the month of May. If there are any new cases, schools might be closed again.

Lockdown looks a bit different here in PNG than what I see on TV of what’s happening in the United States and other parts of the world. We still have daily and Sunday Mass in the church in the Diocese of Kimbe. Bishop John Bosco felt confident that his parishioners would defend him if anything should happen to him. The stores shortened their hours and their shelves are stocked with most essentials, however, products coming from other countries are in somewhat short supply. People are required to wash their hands before entering stores and the sale of alcohol is prohibited. The central market is slowly opening but with limited hours. A curfew was put in place from 7pm till 5 am every night, but now the curfew starts at 9pm.  
Unlike many other countries, Papua New Guinea has not felt the full effects of COVID-19. There are only eight reported cases as of today and they all eventually tested negative and also as of today - there are 0 deaths. Some say it’s because PNG is a Christian country that prays together and God has answered their prayers of preventing this virus from entering PNG. Others are saying that it is only a matter of time before it’s PNG ‘s turn to feel the full effects of this dreaded disease, while still others say that it’s the hot climate that kills the virus before it can spread to others. Only time will tell which theory is true or who knows, maybe it’s a combination of all three. Whatever you believe, please continue to pray for a cure and erase COVID -19 pandemic from the world.

School did start on Monday, May 4 with only 79 students out of 190 in Grade 9 in attendance. We had a short orientation for them about Covid-19 and dismissed them at 10:30 am. Tuesday through Friday, we only had around 100 students and we don’t know what to expect for the next few weeks. Will all students show up or will we continue to have low attendance - which would be nice for the sake of the teachers. As far as face masks are concerned, on Monday, only half of the students and staff wore face masks, but by Friday, only about a handful of students wore them. We have water jugs instead of sinks for students to wash their hands and that is a major problem- the health department told us it was a violation of one of the COVID-19 codes, so male students had to dig ditches to install a water line and hopefully soon we will have sinks installed as well. As we begin this ‘new normal’ of school life up until the State of Emergency is finally lifted and everything turns back to ‘normal’ - whatever that will mean, it is a new and most interesting experience for both students and staff alike. 

Church has never really changed except the grand attempt to practice social distancing, prohibit shaking of hands during blessings and greetings and not taking holy communion on the tongue, etc. It is sort of bittersweet to watch St. Bartholomew, my church in Long Beach, California hold their mass on the internet. It’s nice for me being so far away, but my heart aches for my fellow parishioners denied the opportunity to share in the experience, especially during Holy Week and Easter Sunday- and every Sunday for that matter. 

My Holy Week and Easter here in ‘my’ village of Vavua was not celebrated as gloriously as it was celebrated last year (see my blog about my Easter experience last year, 2019) but we did celebrate the vigil mass on Saturday evening in Vavua. I was able to attend the last mass on Easter Sunday which was beautifully celebrated in the village of KoiMumu, a sub parish of Vavua. To avoid social distancing inside the village church, the mass was celebrated at a specially built grotto in the bush right on the beach. The grotto was originally built to celebrate the arrival of the Statue of the Lady of Fatima as it was brought in a boat across the water back in 2015. It was escorted by a flotilla of boats as it made its way to the specially made grotto built in her honor. I can only imagine how beautiful that sight must have been to see and experience. 

So now PNG is trying to slowly lift its lockdown restrictions - joining with other countries to try to keep this virus away as the world fights for an eventual cure- let us all pray together and to embrace only the positive parts of the ‘new normal’ (for me - I like the idea of washing hands and would not mind if this was done on a permanent basis). Social distancing, however, is really not part of the PNG culture and hopefully, will be one restriction that comes to an end. 

Please continue to pray for me as I continue my mission here in PNG and I will pray for you in return as America and the rest of the world begins to lift the many forced restrictions and as a cure is ultimately found to end COVID-19. 

Until next time- God Bless...

Special Note:  I have had a special honor by one of my previous co- workers, Mrs, Mangmial. She asked me to help name her newborn son. I told her my name is Danita and I was named after my Dad, Daniel. My parents were expecting a big boy, but boy were they surprised when they had twin daughters instead. My twin sister is Debra (or Debbie). I was especially honored when she named her son Junior Daniel Mangmial. Pray with me that he grows up healthy and successfully. 

My Journey to the South Coast Part III

The morning of the Diaconate Ordination we were devastated by the news that Bishop Bill passed away the night before of Covid. It was ironic...