Saturday, July 31, 2010

Summing Up ... Winding Down ... Signing Off

The outline of the MAST program for 2010 rendered in Bro. Tim's "Chalkboard 8.0"

Summing Up . . .

Rooted in Christ: "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believe in him may not die but have eternal life." John 3:16. The vertical axis of the cross reminds us of God's desire to be in relationship with his people going back to the covenant with Abraham. In the mystery of the incarnation and the resurrection, we encounter God's love made flesh for all eternity. As St. Athanasius said more than 1500 years ago: Christ became man so that man might become God.

The horizontal axis of the cross calls us beyond selfishness to personal conversion and a life in communion with our brothers and sisters. "We love because God loved us first. We cannot love God, whom we cannot see, if we do not love our brothers and sisters, whom we have seen." 1John 4:20

Radiating to Eternity: The life that we live now ripples through time and eternity. Faith and knowledge must complement each other if we are to live in truth. Morality, what it takes to live a good life, and discipline, the cost of real freedom, express our commitment to the truth of Christ in our daily life: "He who said 'I am the way,' shapes us anew in his own image." St. Gregory of Nyssa; "All the way to heaven is heaven, for he said 'I am the way.'" St. Therese of Lisieux

Winding Down . . .

Before heading home to the US, we "kidnapped" Bishop Chris for some forced relaxation at Palm Cove in far northern Queensland, Australia. Since everything is reversed in Australia, people go north in July to escape the winter!

Rest and relaxation, time to share both prayer and good food, and some quality family time for the Cardone brothers made our few days in this beautiful place worthwhile in so many ways.

Signing Off . . .

The adventure is over. The bags are unpacked. Yet so many memories and impressions linger from the wonderful experience of the past seven weeks. We hope that you have enjoyed sharing them with us, and we thank you for your support and prayers.

How do we bring it all to a conclusion? I think that these words from the Jesuit theologian Teilhard de Chardin that I discovered while reading one rainy afternoon in Uhu put things in the right perspective for all of us on the value of "Solomon time:"

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.

We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We would like to skip the intermediate stages.

We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new.

And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability-- and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you; your ideas mature gradually-- let them grow, let them shape themselves, without undo haste. Don't try to force them on, as though you could be today what time (that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will) will make of you tomorrow.

Only God can say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be.

Give our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.


May the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit be glorified in all places through the Immaculate Virgin Mary!

May all our journeys bring us closer to to the Lord and to each other. Thanks for taking to the road with us. Blessings on your own journeys.
Fr. Tom & Bro. Tim

A Place of Peace

Fanualama, which means "Place of Peace," is the name of Diocese of Auki's residential property. Besides Bishop Chris's house, the campus includes a conference room, a rest house for the priests of the diocese, a convent for the Dominican Sisters, houses for some of the diocesan workers, and the chapel of Our Lady of Fanualama, Our Lady of Peace. Fanualama is indeed a tranquil place, although it can be very lively at times thanks to the many young children of the diocesan workers who live and pray alongside the bishop, priests and sisters.

The Chapel of Our Lady of Fanualama is at the center of the little community. Mass is celebrated each morning, and in the evening young and old gather for evening prayer and rosary. The Dominican sisters have taught the youngest children all the prayers, and they can even sing the Ave Maria in Latin.

Three Dominicans: One of the other visitors to Fanualama during our stay was Sr. Judith Lawson, the new Prioress of the Dominican Sisters of Australia and the Solomon Islands who was making her first visit to the Solomons. With Sr. Judy and Bishop Chris is Sr. Jenny, the superior of the community of three young sisters in the St. Rose of Lima Convent at Fanualama.

Good News In Education

St. John the Evangelist School in Dala is part of the good news of Catholic education in the Solomons. The school was founded by the Marists in the 1950s. Like all the schools in the Solomons, St. John's became part of the government education system at the time of independence in 1978. As we have noted, government supervision of the schools has been a disaster, and in recent years the churches have assumed responsibility for running schools once again.

In February 2009, St. John's at Dala became the first Catholic school in the Diocese of Auki. In January 2010 a community of three Marists returned to bring a distinctly Catholic environment to the school. Remarkable things have happened in the past two years. The high school has added four new classrooms and a science center, all built by local Dala craftsmen. A grotto to Our Lady of Lourdes has been restored and art work has been added around the school grounds. Responding to the school's new motto of "Faith & Responsibility," both attendance and behavior have improved significantly, and higher achievement has followed. The students at St. John's are looking forward to great things!

Two Marianists and a Marist: Bro. Philip is from Malaita and is pleased to be pioneering Catholic education on his home island. The similarities between the Marists and the Marianists, both known officially as the Society of Mary, are many, going back to the foundation of both congregations at the same time in post-revolutionary France. Like Fr. Chaminade, Fr. Colon, the founder of the Marists, had a missionary heart. While Fr. Chaminade's mission was to re-Christianize his homeland, Fr. Colon answered the call for missionaries to go to Oceania, the last area of the world to receive the Gospel. Both Marianists and Marists have always seen education as one of the most effective means of evangelization. The martyr St. Peter Chanel is the best known of the courageous and faithful Marists who left their homes in Europe to bring Christianity to the islands of the Pacific.

How to "Motu"

The traditional Solomon Island method of cooking is known as "motu." First stones are heated in a fire. Using paddles and large wooden tongs, the stones are arranged in a circle. Peeled root vegetables (yams, sweet potatoes, cassava, or taro, the local favorite) are placed in the circle of hot stones.
The potatoes are covered with a layer of hot stones forming an oven.

Finally, banana leaves are layered over the whole thing in alternating directions to seal the motu oven. The leaves preserve the heat and also add some moisture to the process, resulting in potatoes that are both steamed and roasted.

After several hours, the stones have cooled, the process is reversed and the roasted potatoes can be removed. The final results are delicious -- soft and moist on the inside and delightfully smoky and crisp on the outside. Fish wrapped in banana leaves is also cooked on the stones, as are the local "puddings," a polenta-like dish made by grinding potatoes with coconut milk and steaming them among the "motu."

If it seems like these ladies are doing a lot of work for a simple meal, consider that before they can begin this cooking process, they have to dig up the potatoes, cut and carry the firewood, gather banana leaves, build a fire and move all those stones several times. Think of this the next time you stand impatiently in front of the microwave waiting for 2 minutes to pass!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Lilesiana Sunday

We spent our last Sunday in the Solomons (July 18) at Lilesiana, a village of 1200 people adjacent to Auki. The LangaLanga people who live in the village are fishermen and boat builders, and the village is built above a shallow inlet like a tropical Venice. Many people paddled to Mass in small wooden dugout canoes.

Besides the sea, the people of Lilesiana love music and laughter, and a visit to the community is always filled with joy and song. The Mass was no exception; a beaming Fr. Tom was literally dancing at the altar during part of the Mass.

Fr. Tom and a band of altar servers. The bearded man in the background is Abraham, the village catechist. Because there are no priests residing in most villages, the faith communities are led by laymen like Abraham who lead daily prayers and instruct the children in the faith.

Local "wildflowers" decorated the altar.

To Jesus through Mary: Bro. Tim and some young supporters of the Marianists

The choir at Lilesiana led by Stephen and his brother Stanley
Small World Note #3: When we turned on the radio Sunday morning to get the news, the song playing was "Change of Heart," performed by Mr. Alex Basile and the students of Kellenberg Memorial High School. The CDs by the Kellenberg musicians are very popular here. "Cover" versions of their songs are performed in many different churches, and the songs are often requested on the national radio station's gospel music programs.

Auki Town

The Auki Wharf bustles with people, trucks and ships.

Auki town with a population of 4,000, is the 3rd largest town in the Solomons after Honiara and Gizo. The town centers on the wharf where ships and barges arrive almost every day loaded with passengers and cargo, and the adjacent market. People flock to the market for fresh produce, the daily catch of fish and the latest news. About dozen shops offer rice, the favorite food of the Solomons and a variety of cheap Chinese goods and secondhand clothing. Auki is the capital of the island province, of Malaita; government offices provide most of the employment in the town. The only paved road on the island begins at the wharf and extends about 10 km to the airport. Electric lines run along the main road as far as the hospital, about 3km. Mobile phone service is available, but the villages in the hills surrounding the town are still communicating using drums and conch shells. Schools and churches make up the rest of the services in the town.

Kilufi Hospital, the only hospital on the island, serves a population of 150,000 people with only 2 doctors. The dedicated staff of nurses does the best they can, but only the most basic medical services are provided and medicine is always in short supply. When sick or injured patients can get to the hospital, they must bring their own food and bedding. In the fall, a team of volunteer surgeons from the US will visit Auki with a mobile operating room, the first such visit in many years.

The newest and largest building in the town is the prison, a monument to misguided foreign aid. The state-of-the-art prison, constructed across from the decaying structures of the Auki primary school, was built by the Australian government as part of their program of promoting law and order. The prison cost 70 million Solomon dollars, enough money to build almost 200 news school buildings. The prisoners have a higher standard of living than almost everyone else on the island. One more irony: the first "prisoner," a youth arrested for stealing, escaped within hours by shimmying up a light post, climbing out on the arc of the lamp, and dropping over the razor wire fence to freedom!

The Auki Market

The churches are the most vibrant and active institutions in Auki. After the shops and the government buildings, the road is lined with churches: the Anglicans, the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Assembly of God, the South Seas Evangelical Church, the Seventh Day Adventists. The Cathedral of St. Augustine (below) center of is the Catholic life for the town and the diocese.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Parting Shots from Uhu

Simon Says "Do This": Fr. Tom created something of a craze among the children with this simple game. Every child over 3 is now able to say "Do-dis." It took a while for some kids to get the gist of the game, but night and day they never got tired of playing. Fr. Tom used the game as the theme for his last homily in the packed Uhu church-- Jesus says "do this."

The choir for the closing Mass at Uhu. Besides the guitar, accompaniment was provided by conch shell and traditional wooden drums made by hollowing out a log. All the songs were sung in the people's local language using a melodies and a distinctive style of harmony that was brought by some of the earliest Marist missionaries 100 years ago.

St. Peter, along with St. Paul the patron of the church, surrounded by some of the beautiful local flowers and leaves. The pink hibiscus blossoms are very common, but the tiny white orchids seen above St. Peter's left shoulder are very rare and grow in the bush. Solomon Islanders are just beginning to cultivate these and other unusual orchids for sale and export.