Serving the Lord with Gladness in the Solomon Islands
My name is Nancy Yurek. My brother Bishop Chris Cardone, O.P. has been an American missionary in the Solomon Islands for nearly 25 years. His motto “Serve the Lord with Gladness,” exemplifies how he shepherds his flock to lead faith-filled lives.
The Solomon Islands is a poor country. It has a subsistence economy. Infant and maternal mortality rates are high due to illness, malaria and rudimentary health care. Educational resources are limited. Only about half of the children are educated. Yet what people lack is barely missed because they have strong bonds of family and faith.
I recently visited Bishop Chris’ Diocese of Auki. The seeds of faith sown by the first missionaries a century ago are now a diocese of 40,000 in 270 villages. Bishop Chris, 25 priests, nuns, and over 300 mostly married catechists lead vibrant ministries. Churches are filled to over-flowing. Music and dancing of young people joyfully punctuate liturgies. Children’s Sunday school programs are packed.
Who are these faith-filled people? Gaby, a young football star who placed sports aside to focus on school, runs several miles from his village before dawn to attend daily morning Mass. Five-year-old Wisue cannot read but prays the rosary with youthful exuberance. Libo is a self-taught artist and carpenter. His stunning paintings of saints, sacraments and other religious art adorn local churches. Sr. Loretta, a native nun, has a smile that lights up a room. She is one of the dozens of nuns who teach, provide health care and a myriad of other ministries.
The village of Lilisiana has one weekly Mass each Wednesday. The entire community attends in their finest attire to joyfully worship. Children arrive early, to eagerly await the start of Mass, anxious to fill the front rows. Teen musicians like Phillip, a gifted guitarist, lead the multitudes in song. Afterwards, everyone congregates in front of church to eat, sing and dance for hours like it’s Easter Sunday!
I saw that “Serve the Lord with Gladness” is much more than a motto. It’s a way of life in the Diocese of Auki in the Solomon Islands. Thank you for supporting this growing mission!