April 12, 2010

Where Sisters of Mercy Minister: Chuuk (Federated States of Micronesia) (10)

Chuuk is one of four states of the Federated States of Micronesia.   It consists of 19 "high" islands inside the lagoon, 10 atolls (islands of coral that encircle a lagoon), and 225 "low" coralline islands many of which are outside the lagoon. 

 Archaeological evidence indicates that people have inhabited Chuuk for about 2,000 years.  The high islands contain many native fruit-bearing trees and plants such as breadfruit, coconuts, mango, banana, and taro.  These natural resources combined with its abundant and diverse marine life have provided a subsistence lifestyle for the Chuukese.

 In 1986, two women from Chuuk entered the Sisters of Mercy in Guam, which is part of the Institute of Sisters of Mercy of the Americas.  In 1994, those two sisters professed solemn vows at a ceremony held in Chuuk.  Two years later, one of those sisters, Grace Joseph, was joined by Mary Cabrini Taitano of Guam in establishing the first mission of Sisters of Mercy in Chuuk.

 The ministry of the Sisters of Mercy in Chuuk includes teaching at Saramen Chuuk Academy, working in the diocesan development office, visiting the sick, and visiting prisoners.  The Sisters of Mercy in Chuuk also have a women’s group called WEM—Women’s Empowerment Movement—for the local women in Chuuk, and facilitate Come and See programmes for women interested in becoming Sisters of Mercy.

Life in Chuuk is characterized by simple living in a way that is very connected to the earth.  Food preparation occurs on the ground, and the people sleep on mats on the ground.  While tourism (especially scuba diving) is the primary industry for the islands, small industries center around local markets where fresh produce and fish are sold.  Inhabitants of the outer islands engage in subsistence activity only.  Family life and community are very strong in cultural practices, and women show deference to male relatives by squatting on the male relative’s approach or walking on their knees as they move past a male relative.  Health services are very poor and many of the illnesses can be attributed to poor nutrition and the lack of health education.  As the economy continues to erode, numbers of inhabitants have emigrated to Guam, Japan, Saipan, and the United States.

For a further introduction to Chuuk, the Sisters of Mercy provide a short 10-minute video found at the bottom of the webpage /search/discover.  

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