Micronesians upset over sudden recall of Jesuit priest | Pacific Beat

Micronesians upset over sudden recall of Jesuit priest

Micronesians upset over sudden recall of Jesuit priest

Updated 11 October 2013, 11:10 AEDT

A petition in Micronesia has failed to stop the recall to New York of Father Francis Hezel, a Jesuit priest who many consider to be the conscience of the region.

Father Hezel has spent more than 50 years in Micronesia and through education and community involvement helped shape the future for several former U-S territories in the North Pacific.

Chuukese educator, Vid Raatior who is now at the University of Hawaii says the people of Micronesia were not given the chance to farewell Father Hezel

Presenter:Brian Abbott

Speaker:Vid Raatior, a Chuukese educator, University of Hawaii

RAATIOR: I think you would simply need to look at the petition to get a good glimpse of the feelings of the Micronesian people about Father Francis Hezel, a Jesuit, author, historian, a very beloved Jesuit priest, an educator, someone who has contributed a tonne of work to help the Micronesian people, especially our history, in helping us making sense of the social changes that are happening to us as a people. That has been his work since he was sent out there over 50 years ago, and continues to be his work and I think that's the painful part of this whole episode, run in with the Jesuit Order is that his own personal success as a Jesuit priest, as an educator is now conflicting with the communal aspect of the order, in other words, he is more successful than the Jesuit Order combined and that apparently is not a good thing, even though the people still want him there and he is still doing a lot of good, so that's the saddest part of what's happening with this gentleman.

ABBOTT: So Father Hezel is the man who has written the history of Micronesia?

RAATIOR: He has written a number of books on the history of Micronesia, has been an educator, has taught many of the leaders of our governments throughout Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Palau and he has contributed a tonne of work to that. He has received some honorary doctorate degrees from local universities, such as the University of Guam, and has been a consultant to scholars, anthropologists, educators and our own leaders and that's the value of his work as a Jesuit priest, and as an educator, as a scholar, as an ambassador of the Jesuit Order.

ABBOTT: You've started a petition, you've got more than 1200 signatures. Is that likely to prevent him from moving back to New York as the order wants?

RAATIOR: No unfortunately, it seems the head of the New York Province of the Society of Jesus, otherwise known as the Provincial has made up his mind that Father Hezel needs to be sent back and basically needs to be silenced, because he's being sent back to New York, where he's not going to do any further work with the countries.

Perhaps, silence is a bit strong, but for all practical purposes, that's what he's being asked to do.

ABBOTT: You talk about him being silenced. Is he radical in anyway?

RAATIOR: No, he's not radical at all, that's the intriguing thing about this whole episode. It's not radical at all. In fact, he's, if anything, is a very beloved Jesuit and beloved on all fronts. And he has asked a very good questions of leaders and so he's raised excellent questions that challenge us as a people, but that challenges all sides of any issues. I think, if anything, Father Hezel's work has been shedding light on the changes that are happening to us, good or bad, for us to make up our own mind on where we stand as human beings as as people and as far as I'm concerned, that's the work that the Jesuits and the church should be doing and are doing through him, not so much to push an agenda on people, but to help them process agendas that are being pushed on them through technology, or through colonialism or through whatever changes that these countries are experiencing and that's what he's been doing. And so he's not radicalising the people as in the people, we the Micronesians ourselves have been blessed by his ability to help us ask or answer questions that he's posed to us.

ABBOTT: Now, he's been in Micronesia for more than 50 years. It's possibly about time he retired, is it. Does he want to retire or is he the sort of person who would never retire?

RAATIOR: Hes' nowhere near retirement, maybe his age, but the man still plays basketball. In fact, one of the things that he's known for among the basketball players is his ability to get out there on the basketball court and play with the best that Micronesians can bring. He still runs, he still very much healthy and that has not, never been and continues not to be the reason for. Health is not the issue at all.

ABBOTT: How will the Micronesian people say goodbye to him?

RAATIOR: Unfortunately, we haven't said goodbye to him, because he has been given a one-way ticket and my understanding is that he was sent back last week, back to New York, and so we've not had a chance to say goodbye to him.

I think the petition, if anyone goes onto the change.org website and look at the petition that I circulated, people have expressed the sincerity of their feelings for him and so I suppose that, in a way for people to kind of say goodbye to him and tell him how much they've appreciated the work that he's done for over 50 years.

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