At the end of October, I finally got a serious hike in with my friend, Fr. Marcin Wrobel, our Scripture lecturer. From CTI, one can see a mountain rising out of the flatlands to the north. Marcin celebrates mass regularly with a community near the base and he was kind enough to organize a hike for us one Sunday.
We picked up some parishioners, parked the car at a family compound, and started the walk. The bottom of the mountain has a police shooting range, so there was a checkpoint:
The way up was a gravel road to a large radio tower. I, in a brilliant parenting move, forbade Annie from bringing her shoes because she wanted to go barefoot (and often hikes better barefoot). Well, the road hurt her feet so our going was a little slow.
The view from the top was great:
Sadly, my camera ran out of power. . .
It took us about an hour to go up the road. We then spent about four hours bush-whacking through the top of the mountain. There was no trail, we were just hiking in front, behind, through, and atop the rock formations pictured earlier. There was one natural rock bridge framing a great view that was simply breathtaking. Marcin said that he plans on returning and building a hermitage.
Annie did great – until she cut her foot on a rock – but even then, she walked until we started going down and one of our guides was kind enough to carry her. I had been feeling epicly stressed by my work at CTI and an afternoon on a mountain gave me the peace and energy to make it through the next week.
I see this as a warm-up for Marcin and I doing the Kokoda Tract next year. I will need some serious conditioning . . .
On 11/11, our little flufferhead turned 3. In the morning, he opened presents:
After explaining that he could not eat chips for breakfast, we had Toby’s second choice – rice pudding. Then we went to Church. After Church we drive to the home of our friends, April and Marco (Salvation Army missionaries) and their baby daughter Haddassah, we were joined by Ruth and her son Trevor, and then they followed us to a private beach south of Moresby, Saro Beach.
We had a great potluck lunch on a peaceful beach. The Zimmermans spent lots of time swimming.
It was a great day – one of our most successful family outings. We’ll definitely come back. Pyramid Point calls . . .
Tobiah had a great time.
CTI’s graduation took place last Saturday. First there was a mass at 8:30:
The main celebrant, Fr. Gianni, is the provincial of the Franciscans in PNG and the Solomons. This year was his 25th anniversary of his priestly ordination, of which 24 have been spent in PNG, primarily bringing the sacraments to the people of Aitape, a remote diocese on the north coast. He encouraged the students to be aware of their ignorance. After their schooling, they might they have it all figured out, but God is a mystery beyond human comprehension. God is not found in books, but in service to the people, especially the poor and marginalized, whose faith runs deeper than that of the priests.
The graduation ceremony took place in our auditorium, Gastgeber Hall. I planned the ceremony and rehearsed it with the students. There was a brief hiccup when the opening song was sung after the procession and not during, but the President said that it was the smoothest CTI graduation he has been part of. Our main speaker was the chair of the University of PNG’s political science department, Dr. David Lea. He spoke about the Catholic synthesis of faith and reason, how Islam on the whole never achieved the same synthesis, and the importance of understanding and dialoguing with people of other faiths, especially Islam. He noted that PNG has a tradition of peaceful religious plurality and this needs to continue.
I announced which students earned the Diploma in Religious Studies, Advanced Diploma in Religious Studies, Advanced Diploma in Theology, and Bachelor of Theology, as well as which students made the Dean’s List and who wrote theology research papers (both new this year). Next year the awards will change to Diploma in Philosophy or Philosophical Studies and then three different Theology awards, depending on the achievement of the student.
After the awards, I gave my own exhortation to the students:
“Theology graduates, you have made it through the desert and the Promised Land awaits. The desert the Isrealites traveled through was a time of formation; they left the land of slavery in Egypt and were formed through suffering and correction into the people of God. Bomana is a lot like the desert – it is hot and dry and the food is not very good. Here, you have been formed into Christian men tru. Now before you lies the real challenge: in the years to come will you stay true to your education and current identity?
“What did the Isrealites find in the Promised Land – gutpela sindaun, bel isi [prosperity and peace]? No. Joshua and Judges record that in the Promised Land the Israelites faced an unending struggle to stay true to their formation. Would they remain the people of God or would they seek the women and wealth of the pagan nations and lose their identity? Likewise for you graduates, today the true struggle begins. What came before was only training.
“Today, as it was for the Israelites at the end of the book of Deuteronomy, a choice lies before you – between life and death, good and evil. If you feel called to the pleasures and challenges of family life, if you wish to make money to support your family and community, if you wish to advance the common good through politics, then choose married life and live as a husband and father according to the Christian identity you forged here. The Church needs dedicated, educated laity. It is a good life. It is my life. If you feel called to a more perfect imitation of Jesus, if you wish to bring the means of grace to the people, if you feel called to sacrifice the goods of this world for the sake of the Kingdom of the Heaven, then choose the priestly life. The Church desperately needs dedicated, educated priests. It is a good life, and the one you have been preparing for.
“What is it to choose death? Death is living a lie. Death is allowing outside forces to control you, such that you end up with a life that you cannot fully embrace. If you feel called to the priesthood, but you allow others to choose family life for you, then you may live the rest of your life in regret. If you feel called to family life, but you allow the expectations of others to choose priesthood for you, then you may live the rest of your life in regret.
“Death is serving two masters. If you desire a wife and wealth, then do not be a priest. You cannot have both – new wine and old wineskins. Life is choosing one path decisively. Death is to try to have both and to end up with neither. Death is losing the Christian life you formed here and going back to slavery to sin. Whether as a layman or as a priest, life is retaining the Christian identity you forged at CTI, Good Shepherd, Fidelis, Holy Name of Mary, Sacred Heart . . .
“Today, choose life, so that you might live. So that the Church in Melanesia might flourish. And remake that choice every day of your life.”
[Slightly edited from what I said. All the theology graduates are men intending to be Catholic priests.]
After the ceremony, Toby, Taby, Annie, and I climbed a local mountain with our new friends April and Jerry Borg (April will teach English next year at CTI). Rebecca went to the celebration for Mendi and Enga students.
Thus concluded my first year at CTI – one of the hardest periods of my life in terms of workloads, obstacles, and new skills to learn, but thus far also one of my most fruitful. Please pray for me and my family, that all that we planned may come to a good harvest, that we have a restful break, and that I finally am able to finish chapter 4 of the dissertation!
Pictures by April Borg and Anastasia.
Martin Maka is a seminarian finishing his studies at Good Shepherd. He is from the diocese of Lae on the east coast. Martin has a keen interest in Phenomenology, an approach to philosophy developed in Germany in the early 1900’s. Martin wrote a research paper in which he used concepts from phenomenology to critique cargo cults in PNG. His main argument is that cargo cults conflate the intentionalities proper to dreaming, praying, wishing, and economic planning. Pray that Martin is able to go on for further studies so that he can become one of PNG’s first philosophers!
Thomas Posul is from the diocese of Mendi, in the heart of the Highlands. In 2016, he successfully completed the BA in Religious Studies program at Good Shepherd. Brandon was the director of the program. Thomas wrote a social research paper on the participation of white-collar laity in the masses in Mendi. Bishop Lippert decided that Thomas’s success showed that he the potential for advanced studies and Thomas is now doing his theology studies for the priesthood at the Urbaniana University in Rome. Please pray for Thomas’s continued success and that he will make it to the priesthood.
Fredrick Sebie, from the Archdiocese of Madang, on the north coast, studied at Good Shepherd 2013-2016. He did especially well in his philosophy studies. He developed a keen interest in social and economic thought, especially in the ideas of Karl Marx and Catholic Social Teaching. Brandon recommended to his bishop, Steve Reichert, that Fredrick should be sent to Rome, where he could pursue his intellectual interests. In 2017, Frederick was sent to the Urbaniana University in Rome to do his theological studies for the priest hood. Here he is with two other PNG seminiarians in Italy. Please pray for continued academic success for Fredrick.
CTI celebrated the Queen’s Birthday back on 12 June. Brandon was acting President at the time. CTI hosted Catholic students from University of PNG for a mass and a day of sports and fellowship. Here is a brief reflection that Brandon gave:
“Today we are celebrating Queen Elizabeth II. In her person, the Queen unites together the peoples of the Commonwealth countries. Through their relation to the Queen, the peoples of very diverse places – such as Canada, England, Tanzania, Australia, India, Papua New Guinea – are related to each other. Through the Queen, these diverse peoples are united as one commonwealth. In reality this unity is weak and the Queen has very little power, however, we can still understand the Queen as an image of Jesus Christ.
“Through Jesus, the Christians of all cultures, all languages, and all nations are united together into one holy people. Christian unity is far deeper and far more real than the political unity created by the Queen. Through our relationship with Jesus, we are all one family. Christians from America, Australia, Poland, New Zealand, India, Tanzania, Peru, Wabag, Wewak, Moresby, Alotau, Kimbe, Rabaul, Bougainville, Honiara are brothers and sisters. Through Jesus we are one family-line and our spiritual connection runs deeper than connections based on politics, language, even blood. For these are earthly things, which like the Queen will pass away; but Christ and the people he has made for Himself are everlasting.
“Today, through sports and fellowship we celebrate the political unity brought to PNG through British laws and military might, but, more importantly, we also celebrate the spiritual unity brought to PNG through the Gospel and the power of Christ.”
The Queen’s birthday marks five years in Papua New Guinea for us. We came in June of 2013. I tried playing soccer in the equatorial sun while suffering from jetlag and culture shock. In this event, I played for the first time since my foot injury. Let’s just say that there’s been no improvement . . .
Since she was about four, Annie has been waiting to participate in the eucharist.
A few weekends before her birthday, we heard the announcement that the seminarians were holding a first communion class. She faithfully attended and got instruction in a mix of tok pisin and English. We followed up at home with books recommended by Mater Amabilis, like Kendra Tierney’s Little Book About Confession.
The first sacrament of the weekend was her first confession. The 19 kids started by cleaning the church, then got some last instructions on how to eat a host properly. Her confessor was Fr. Jacek, a family friend.
Anastasia received her first communion on the Feast of Corpus Christi. The morning started with a procession to three different outdoor altars.
She sang the responsorial psalm with four other girls.
Afterwards we had a party for her and house blessing. Fr. Joseph prayed over our family and sprinkled holy water on the whole house, even the laundry room.
It was a very good time – perhaps the most pleasant since we’ve come back to PNG. Lots of neighbors came to eat cookies, including two fellow communicants, Rebecca and Aaron. The grownups enjoyed looking at our photobooks, which were good conversation starters. CTI’s president tried reading Fox in Socks to Tabitha and started crying and laughing because he couldn’t get the tongue twisters. Tobiah played blocks with the other little boys. Towards the end, Annie spontaneously organized the older children to sing songs with her, including “Jesus Loves the Little Children” in Motu, the local tribal language. Fr. Joseph danced along with “Father Abraham.”
It was a joyful day.
Thank-you for your prayers and friendship.
Ever since we first visited in November last year, Annie and Tabitha were dreaming about having their birthday party at Adventure Park, just down the road from CTI. So last month we did!
Annie is seven, a reader, dancer, music player, and
motormouth would-be leader.
Tabitha is four, strong, dexterous, sweet, and stubborn.
We invited our neighbors, co-workers, and some of Annie’s school friends. We walked around and saw the lakes, a few of the zoo animals, and the many other picknickers. Then we had lunch, complete with homemade cake.
Then came the main event of the day: waterslides!
The last event of the day was the crocodile feeding.
Thanks for coming and celebrating our girls with us! They are very special to us, and I hope they always know that.
We’re back to Ordinary Time now, but here’s a review of what we were up to during the 50 days of festivity.
Let’s start with the Easter Vigil. Here is the Easter fire. For scale, that is the priest with the Easter candle to the bottom right.
Annie and I sat on the balcony at Holy Spirit Seminary’s church for the Vigil Mass, which gave us a good view.
We also went to the Easter Sunday mass the next day.
The next weekend, Divine Mercy Sunday weekend, we went to the beach for the first time! Fr. Jacek and Fr. Marcin, the Rector and Vice-Rector of Holy Spirit Seminary, showed us a favorite swimming place at Lea Lea Beach.
Fr. Jacek and Fr. Marcin also gave us another gift- a cat! Her name is Mia. Tabitha is slightly obsessed.
Finally, we had some visitors from Jiwaka, which made us happy. Dr. Scott from Kujdjip Nazarene Hospital was in Moresby for some meetings and came by to catch up and play a boardgame.
And our beloved former neighbor, Bubu Anna, whose house our children played at daily, came to POM for a graduation in her family.
Our final exciting occurrence during eastertide was the girls’ birthday party, but that will have to wait for the next post!
We will start our tour in the kitchen.
There’s a little antechamber which we refer to as the scullery, where the refrigerator, cabinets, and the sink are.Here is the front door of the house.This is looking to the left of the front door.
This is looking to the right of the front door.
Coming back inside, if you come in the front door and go straight, you end up in the kitchen bathroom.
If you come in the front door, pass the wall of bilums, and turn right, you end up in the living room.
Going down the hallway, if you turn right at the first door, you’re in Annie’s room. This is a funny room because it used to be a second kitchen, before they knocked down walls and turned it into a single-family dwelling. The builders wanted to keep the cabinets, because they were in good shape, so they made the counter wider, stuck a bedrail and a ladder on it, and now it’s something like a captain’s bed. Annie enjoys having the chapter books right above her to read to herself before lights out.
If you turn right at the second door, you’re in Tabitha and Tobiah’s room.
If you turn at the first door on your left, you’re in the laundry room.
This is the view to the left of the laundry room door:
Whereas in Jiwaka the main landscaping concern was drainage ditches, here the main concern seems to be eliminating hiding places for snakes. Most of our neighbors have packed, swept earthen yards. Maybe we can grow a lawn…
Coming back inside, if you were to go in the second door on the left, you would be in the second bathroom.
Going straight down the hallway brings you to the master bedroom.
Turning around and looking backwards down the hall from the master bedroom:
We have many geckos in the house, at least one in each room, for which I am thankful, because they eat mosquitos and cockroaches and are pretty cute to boot. I thought this nocturnal visitor was cute too:
The last room in the house is the study, which is connected to the master bedroom. Right now the study is used more for playing boardgames, because we can lock the door and the children won’t lose the pieces.
So that’s our new home for the next three years! Come visit us sometime.
Hi! So. Moving is crazy. You probably already knew this. Here is some of what we’ve been up to in our new place, in photodump form.
We lived in temporary housing for about 5 weeks and are in our second week of living in our new house. Photo tour coming soon. Here we are eating our first meal in our new house — Aussie-style meat pies.
The builders left a sand pile behind from making cement. A good way to get introduced to the neighborhood kids.
The little shovels I brought from the US are a hit.
We bought Tabitha a ukelele so she wouldn’t feel too left out. Bring on the sibling jam sessions, now that we have our own space.
We’ve finally been able to unpack all the way, after about 5 months. We rediscovered some Christmas presents!
We’ve been getting to know the students – Brandon is teaching the first-year class Intro to Philosophy and I am slowly matching faces to the names on library cards. We at least know all the students who were at Good Shepherd, plus some SVDs who did pastoral work at Fatima.
We’ve been getting to know our way around Port Moresby more, figuring out where to buy vegetables (Boroko market) and the like. This past saturday we saw King Lear at the Moresby Arts Theater with about 40 students, and the saturday before that our family went to the Port Moresby Nature Park.
We enjoyed the multiple walk-in aviaries. Tobiah was enchanted. “Birds! Birds Eat!”
And they all got their faces painted.
We’ve climbed a few local hills within walking distance of the seminary.
Here’s the view of CTI from on top: the church spire is in the center of the picture, with some student dorms to the right. To the left a little farther away are the classrooms and library.
Unfortunately on his second time up this little mountain, a huge rock fell on Brandon’s foot. He didn’t break anything, thank the Lord, but 8 days later he continues to be on crutches with a swollen and painful foot. Pray for us — it is hard to be a monopod Dean or a monopod daddy.
More later, including house tour!