Catholic Week at Mt. Carmel


The Maryknoll fathers were my partners when I did Human Development Training Schools in South America. The base communidad was an example of participatory decision-making at the community level. I always appreciated my Catholic colleagues for being practical and earthy, not the least of whom was my Carmelite nun sister in Venezuela.

Mt. Carmel Cathedral is such an imposing fixture in CK by the Sugar Dock that it is a directional marker for even those who have no strain of catholic faith in their blood stream. Catholic Week 2016 heralds the schools as “communities of faith, knowledge, and service.” Another term for the whole shebang is “vocation.” One decides with one’s whole being is about one thing, the religious vow of chastity, before it deteriorated into sexual abstinence. To be chaste is to be about one thing, be “vocated” in the legacy of faith, excellence, and success.

When Pope Francis of Argentina the Papal Encyclical, Laudato Si, catholic faith, knowledge, and service went into contemporary global climate change, on climate warming that preoccupied the Summit of Nations (COP21) in Paris not too long ago. It takes some doing to plod through the morass of imagery from the Patristic period to contemporary process theology of Vatican thought, but that is the strength of Rome, the ability to retell the “vocational” story in a formal and informal setting like Catholic Week.

I am only half a Catholic by virtue of my mother and her relations used to finger their Rosary beads since Spain introduced the practice, though mother married a Methodist cleric so she joined the reform movement, though as the saying goes, “scratch a Pinoy Prosti (short for Protestant, with no apologies for its intentional nickname use by both who think it is in reference of a denigrated career, and those who take it to affirm its gracious wonder) and you get a progressive Catholic.”

The Catholics know their symbols exemplified in Mt. Carmel’s celebration, starting the week with the Eucharist when on takes upon one’s self, body and soul, the Christ-role and function into human history. Then the whole gamut of Christianity translates into the stance of gratitude for life, l’achaim to the Jews, of self and society, community and history, grounded not in hairy-fairy abstractions but in the flesh and bones of those who serve the school, faculty and staff. Students write appreciation cards and letters.

Not shying away from the authoritative witness of scriptures, a Jeopardy Bible Game is designed (Wednesday), and dialogical to current governance, a Government Challenge Bowl (Thursday) for the middle and high school grades.

The students’ expenditure, personal and corporate, in fun and gaiety comes Friday at a school Field Day of grades 1 to 12, capped by the selection of Parents of the Year in a Family Night. All these in the open to invite non-Catholics to join at the cafeteria and the courtyard, the venue for all the activities.

Save the Alums who get their AlumKnight Dinner at a resort hotel, but then, they have deeper pockets and badges of honor from elsewhere to display.

It is not my intent to do PR for the Catholic Church and its institutions. They sometimes find me at odds with what I consider as cumbersome practices when simplicity can suffice. Of course, not usually regarded as a guardian of simplicity, I have not much eave to hang under.

Still, the Dominican monk Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of Wittenberg Cathedral 500 years ago that triggered what is now referred to as the Protestant Reformation. A half a millennium later, the Vatican is finally coming around to recognize its vitality and joining in the celebration.

Pope Francis has opened the door very wide open for dialogue, reconciliation, and even just vive le difference. And not just within Christendom. Progressive forces from other traditions, of the Hindus and the Buddhists, Seculars and Marxists, are joining into the common fray on how to handle the reality of too much atmospheric carbon monoxide to the detriment of climate and our daily living. A resident of Dong Bei northeast China in addition to Saipan and Honolulu, I am clear of how devastating a hovering cloud of pollution is on the health of a people.

Mt. Carmel is a place organized like display rooms and the students proudly wearing white-and-blue uniforms. Other schools on island, particularly those with religious affiliation, sometimes carry it too far with the bow tie and the necktie as part of the attire. But the intent is to show order, demonstrate intentionality in a common aspect as clothing.

The Vatican is used to playing central leadership roles, one time with characteristic European arrogance, but with a “third world” Pope in the Basilica, the leadership style is facilitative in mode and human services in direction. I am only too glad to identify with the Catholic half of my upbringing. Stop by MC (check with the office first when you come) this week.

Jaime R. Vergara | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Jaime Vergara previously taught at SVES in the CNMI. A peripatetic pedagogue, he last taught in China but makes Honolulu, Shenyang, and Saipan home. He can be reached at

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