Top Ten Stories of the Year: Joys and Sorrows of 2018

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The top ten stories of 2018 for the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa is marked with the joys and sorrows that we have experienced as a Church community – from the devastation of Super Typhoon Yutu and the passing of Bishop-Emeritus Tomas Camacho to the joy of 5 new permanent deacons and the gift of the Sacrament of Matrimony to some of the couples in the diocese.

As we come to the end of the year, North Star brings you some of the stories and events that have shaped our faith experience in 2018. In prayerfully reflecting on these events, may we close this year with grateful heart so that we can welcome the New Year with renewed faith and hope.

1. Super Typhoon Yutu

Two months ago, the record-setting Super Typhoon Yutu had winds strong enough to make concrete houses quake, tore the roofs and boards off thousands of homes and local parishes, uprooted trees impossible to be moved without heavy equipment, and left hundreds of members of the community displaced. It was an event that proved our will isn’t God’s will, but that His will is always in our favor including what we think might not be.

How can the Spirit, especially in this time of Christmas, remain alive in our tiny islands when something happens and affects the lives of over 50,000 inhabitants? It is only possible through God, and it is a mystery beyond our human understanding.

The faith of the faithful who lived and survived the devastation of Super Typhoon Yutu was shaken and tested once again but in this aftermath of the typhoon the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa once again renewed its commitment to join in the recovery effort and more importantly, to provide spiritual help to our people in this trying time.

 “Let us turn to God and let us help one another!” This was the message of Bishop Ryan Jimenez in his pastoral letter released within days after category 5 Super Typhoon Yutu hit the islands of Saipan and Tinian.

Indeed, many faithful immediately turned to God and went back to attending Masses in the midst of the loss that they have suffered. Many also have reached out to help their neighbors.

“The celebration of Christmas, with this current condition of recovering and rebuilding, is a reminder to become humble and that Christ is calling us to simplicity of life. Simplicity meaning to go back to the essential things in our lives: to people who are important and places, circumstances, and events that are important to us. This leads us to simplicity and humility,” said Father Allan, OAR, as a message to everyone during this time.

2. First Shepherd of Saipan, Passed Away

On Monday, March 5, 2018 at around 7 in the morning, Bishop Emeritus Tomas A. Camacho has passed away peacefully and has returned to the House of the Father confidently fulfilling his mission as the first shepherd of the Northern Marianas.

In his official statement, Bishop Ryan P. Jimenez, D.D., expressed his ‘deep sorrow’ upon hearing the news of Bishop Tomas’ death who patiently endured long bout of illness. “At the age of 84, he returned to the Lord whom he had served so well throughout his years as our bishop in the Northern Marianas. He has left us, but he will always be remembered for his warm smile and his dedicated service to our church and to the whole of the CNMI”, says Bishop Ryan.

In a solemn Funeral Mass presided by His Excellency Ryan P. Jimenez, the faithful of the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa, bid farewell to their first bishop. The liturgy was concelebrated by Archbishop Michael J. Byrnes of Guam as well the priests of the diocese and the visiting clergy from Guam and the Caroline Islands.

The entire funeral liturgy from the transfer of the body in a back of a truck from the hospital to the Responso and public viewing in the cathedral and the Mass and burial was marked with simplicity and dignity as specified in the will of Bishop Tomas.

3. Bishop Ryan Ordained Five Permanent Deacons for Saipan

On a bright Saturday morning in the Octave of Easter, Mt. Carmel Cathedral was packed with the family and friends of the deacon candidates as well as many of the faithful who came to witness this rare event in the life of the diocese.

“What an Easter gift!” exclaimed Bishop Ryan at the beginning of the Mass of Ordination to the Permanent Diaconate of five men: Estanislao Kogure Benavente, Jeffrey Melvin Tenorio Camacho, Rosiky Bernadino Flores Camacho, Thomas Schweiger and Antonio Yarobwemal.

After outlining their task, Bishop Ryan advised them to serve the people with love and with joy. “When you serve, find that joy in serving the Lord”, he said. “We are all called to serve. We are all been given gifts to use for service following the example of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd.”

Deacon Estanislao Kogure Benavente is assigned to St. Jude, Deacon Jeffrey Melvin Tenorio Camacho is assigned to Mt. Carmel Cathedral, Deacon Rosiky Bernadino Flores Camacho is assigned to Santa Soledad in Kagman, Deacon Thomas Schweiger will be serving in Santa Remedios Parish in Tanapag and Deacon Antonio Yarobwemal will be assigned in San Antonio Parish.

4. Diocesan Group Wedding

 “For me, this event is definitely one of the top ten events of the year”, says Bishop Ryan, overjoyed by the presence of the couples dressed for the occasion and surrounded by their respective families and friends.

This year marked the second straight years that the Diocese held an annual Group wedding on the weekend of the Feast of the Holy Family. On December 30th last year, thirteen couples pronounced their marriage vows in front of Bishop Ryan. This year, five couples celebrated their wedding on December 29, 2018.

It was a simple yet solemn and dignified wedding celebration. Without any entourage, each couple walked the isle towards the sanctuary followed by the clergy and the bishop.

The group wedding was organized by the Diocesan Commission on Marriage and Family Life. On July of last year, Bishop Ryan met with the commission and expressed his desire to have an annual group wedding in the diocese. The main objective of this endeavor is to encourage couples who have been living together to receive the Sacrament of Matrimony. The commission also wished to break the common misconception among the faithful nowadays that Catholic Wedding means ‘big expense’.

5. Hundreds Turn Out for the Diocesan 5K Walkathon

It was a sight to behold on an early Saturday morning – a river of people in bright red shirts along the pathways and sidewalks of the Beach Road – as more than five hundred participants of the 2018 Health Ministry 5K Walkathon joined in the launching of the new Health Ministry program of the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa.

Parishioners of all ages, families with their young children on strollers and even non-Catholics showed up early at the parking lot of Kristo Rai Parish in Garapan where they started the walk towards Quartermaster Road and back.

“I am proud of our Diocese for such a great kickoff event!”, says Claire Seelinger, who is a parishioner of Kristo Rai. “Out on the trail, I felt that people were really trying to take advantage of the occasion to ‘push’ themselves.  Some running, some jogging, others were keeping up a brisk pace. It seemed that folks were really catching the vision to try to be healthy, and the choice of finish line snacks were excellent, too.”

It wasn’t only healthy but it was also a fun-filled event for everyone. Parishioners were delighted to see their respective parish priests as well as some of the religious sisters walked with them. Mount Carmel School students were also present, some of them as volunteers. CHCC nurses and Northern Marianas College nursing students were also available monitoring blood pressures and blood sugars for those who wanted.

6. Mount Carmel School Opens New School Year with Another Enrollment Boost

Marking a seventh year in a row of enrollment increases, Mount Carmel School opened doors for the new 2018-2019 school year with over 600 students, up from a historic low of 260 seven years ago. In addition to the enrollment increase, the school launched the year with some new additions, including new teachers, new courses, and new solar panels.

Regarding the enrollment increase, school president Galvin Deleon Guerrero credited the teachers.“When we launched our 2017-2020 Strategic Master Plan last year, one of our top priorities was improving instructional quality, and that’s exactly what our faculty have done.” He added, “Under the leadership of our principal, Frances Taimanao, and our vice principal, Barbara Merfalen, who bring a wealth of experience and expertise with them, our teachers have used assessment data to drive what they teach and how they teach. Using a blend of innovative techniques and tried and true methods, our teachers are helping our students shine.”

While the school’s enrollment increased, the school is still committed to keeping class sizes small in order to have an optimal learning environment. This is why the school hired several new teachers.

In addition to new teachers, the school is introducing new courses in creative writing and media communications and launching a number of new programs. The school’s information management system has been enhanced to include new human resource processes, such as digital time sheets. As reported recently, the school will also open the New Year with 548 solar panels.

7. Diocese Celebrates 90th Anniversary of Mercedarian Community’s Arrival in Saipan

Nourished by that same source from the living water, the Mercedarian Community of Saipan reminisced their 90th year of celebrating their arrival in the island of Saipan on March 4, 1928. In his homily Bishop Ryan emphasized the stimulus that impelled Mother Margarita to mission, expressed in her own words, “From these three glances, at Christ, at His Mother and at the Church, came forth the irresistible desire to become missionaries. . .” To go out and proclaim God’s message of mercy and love marked their humble beginnings as a community.

From one of the lists of the documents of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (CDF), Bishop Ryan shared that Salvation comes from Christ crucified alone and that salvation is not subjective but communal. Remembering the first community of sisters, the Bishop stated that the reason of the arrival is always grounded on their gaze at the cross of Christ. For this we have to give thanks but the Bishop led the community and the faithful present in the celebration to always take the challenge of asking ourselves when it comes to the concern of vocation both in the priesthood and the religious life. Are our young people still have the same gaze to continue the mission?  If not, where do we fail? Our young people in the island is definitely in need of guidance especially in the discernment of their call and in the formation of faith.

8. 2nd Annual Diocesan Sports Fest

After four intense and highly competitive days, the 2nd Annual Chalan Kanoa Sports Fest ends with San Jose, Tinian taking home both the Overall Championship Trophy and the Frisbee Championship Trophy with a total of 540 points. They beat their record from last year’s score, and set the record of the shortest time for the obstacle course as well.

It was Father Anthony Aguason’s first time to attend the Sports Fest and one of the biggest events in the diocese he’s been to since arriving on island about a month ago from the Archdiocese of Capiz, Philippines, where he had served as the Archdiocesan Youth Director.

“From the perspective of a priest, seeing all these youth gives me happiness because I believe that this annual sports fest is an opportunity that lets the young people know that the church cares for them– that they have a home and a family if life becomes boring or lonely.

“For next year, I’d want the Sports Fest to not only focus on building the physical well-being, camaraderie, and unity of the parishes, but to also include an activity that will connect everything to Christ. We must build the spiritual love for the church and love for the mission.  The future of the church lies in the youth who will soon become the leaders, so if we need to train them spiritually. Overall, the whole event was very nice. Again, I’m happy to see the young and spirited, and I enjoyed celebrating the mass before the start. I agree with Bishop Ryan praising the idea that before starting any activity, we should start with a prayer because it is the prayer that will sanctify our work. Prayer makes ordinary work extraordinary.”

9. Diocesan Youth Camp 2018: A Huge Success

When “unafraid and courageous” youths gathered for the Lord, you can expect a wonderful turnout.

Mount Carmel Grounds was filled with youthful vibe and energy as the more than 300 participants, volunteers and chaperones came for the 2018 Diocesan Youth Camp.

Participant have nothing but good things to say about the recently – concluded youth camp. Many were struck to hear from people who have personally experienced bullying and substance abuse themselves, and it resonated with them all the more. They had a lot of fun and enjoyed meeting and interacting with different youths of the parishes, particularly during the games and team-building activities.

“This year’s Youth Camp has been super splendid. It was creative and different. I never thought it would be like this because we always share each other’s way through only our church or parish or the nearest part of our community.

The event included games in the afternoon, and Q & A session with the Bishop, followed by Confession and Eucharistic Celebration at around 5pm. Each parish also showcased the talents of their youths in the mini-concert that followed.

10. 28 Candidates Completed RCIA on Easter Vigil

Accompanied by their godparents to the baptismal font at the sanctuary of Mt. Carmel Cathedral, three adults were solemnly baptized by Bishop Ryan during the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday. This was the culmination of their six-month long preparation in the RCIA (Rites of Christian Initiation for Adults) program of the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa.

Besides the three who received the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Communion), 25 other candidates also received either Confirmation or Holy Communion or both. These candidates came from all walks of life from different parishes in Saipan.

Guided and instructed by Sr. Nina Caccam,SJBP and Sr. Narci Peñaredonda, SJBP, these parishioners faithfully in the 22 week sessions in the last six months, despite their tight schedule in their work and their responsibilities in their respective families. It may be a long, challenging and precarious journey for most of them who has to literally juggle their schedules and at the same time learn and memorize the basic prayers and teachings of the Church but in the end, it was their deep desire to know and love God and to learn new things about the faith that motivated them to persevere. In fact, these are all part of their journey. RCIA is not just a way to fulfill requirements in order to receive the Sacraments but it is ultimately a journey of faith with God.

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