Sept. 23, 2020 – For over a century Saipan (the largest of the Northern Mariana Islands), and the neighboring island of Rota, enjoyed the presence of Jesuits ministering to the communities. With the departure of Fr. Ken Hezel, SJ, in 2019 that tradition looked to be coming to an end.
Instead the Spirit had other plans!
Earlier this year, Fr. Michael Linden, SJ, agreed to go to Saipan to be on the Diocesan staff. Fr. Linden arrived on July 30, after several days of travel from Amman, Jordan, through Chicago, to Guam and then Saipan. Bishop Ryan Jimenez has appointed Fr. Linden the Vicar for Religious Women and Diocesan Lay Personnel. He is also the Coordinator of the Deacon Program and Chair for the Commission on Evangelization and the Commission on Social Justice and Outreach.
Frs. Jason Downer, SJ, and Edward Quinnan, SJ, had received assignments to Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). Yet with the FSM borders closed, they could not reach their destination. Instead Bishop Ryan welcomed them to Saipan. Fr. Downer is a parochial vicar at San Antonio Parish, clustered with St. Jude. In addition, Bishop Ryan has appointed him to be the Director of Youth Ministry. Fr. Quinnan is the Superior of the Jesuits in Micronesia and Fiji. Much of his efforts at coordinating the diverse ministries will happen virtually. Bishop Ryan has asked him to assisted the Korean Catholic Community who are currently without a priest. They hope to have a priest from Korea arriving in December. Fr. Quinnan plans to begin a retreat ministry and the formation of retreat leaders. Toward that end Bishop Ryan has ask that he coordinate the furnishing of a house of prayer, which was the residence of the previous bishop.
Mr. Dickson Tiwelfil, SJ, completed his regency at Xavier High School, Chuuk and had been approved to begin Theology in Manila, preparatory to ordination. Yet the Philippines have restricted arrivals to residents. Mr. Tiwelfil instead made his way to Saipan where he attends class online, awaiting the opportunity to travel to Manila.
The members of the Jesuit Community arrived in time for the rescheduled Chrism Mass, scheduled for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross on September 14. Fr. Quinnan offered, “I have been to other Chrism masses where there were so many priests that I felt part of a crowd. In this liturgy with 14 priests around the altar, I felt part of a family. I appreciated the more intimate size of the community.”