Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflection

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This week’s photo challenge from dailypost.wordpress.com is “Reflection,” an interesting topic to be sure:

Reflect: to consider where we’ve been in life, where we are now, and where we’re going.

It was a busy week, so I don’t feel like I did this topic much credit, but here are a few shots that I’ve taken in the last 6 months or so.   I find them ‘reflective’ in the sense of an inner conversation that the bring to me, but that may not be obvious to you.

The most recent of the photos is this one:

madonna reflection


This caught my attention the other morning.  At Christmas I was collecting some pretty Christmas cards that I intend to frame someday.  This one of the Madonna and Child has been sitting on my breakfast table for months when I noticed it’s reflection in my camera’s display.  I thought it was interesting as a reflected image ON the camera, rather than one taken THROUGH the camera.    What do you think?

Here’s another one that I like.  It’s taken over the bay adjacent to St. Fidelis Seminary on the north coast of Papua New Guinea, where I taught.  I did my best to capture the beauty and mystery of the clouded full moon over the water, but I lacked a proper tripod to really do it justice.  Still, it’s an image that I can lose myself in, both with memories of the past  and questions of the future.





Vianney Day in Halopa – Videos

A few weeks ago I wrote about a hike by the students and staff of St. Fidelis Seminary into the mountains to the village of Halopa.  This was to honor the feast of St. Jean Vianney, the patron saint of priests.  You can read that post here.

I promised then to post some video of that time with the villagers of Halopa.  I had to re-edit this after my first attempt to upload to Vimeo because I hit some size limit on the file.

I wanted to share as much of this as I could with you, to give you a sense of what it was like to be guests of the village and what the Mass, especially the music, was like.  I ended up splitting the video into two parts, which you will see embedded below.

Papua New Guineans are very proud of their culture, and the unique culture of their village.  You’ll see this expressed throughout.  Some people may roll their eyes at the dress of the people, and the processions during the Mass, but I’ve come to appreciate how important some of these things are to bridging the gap between very different cultures.

The hike up and down the mountain to Halopa was very tough, but the time spent in the village was really great. I’m happy to share it with you here.

Vianney Day – Halopa – Part 1


Vianney Day – Halopa – Part 1 from Steve Nelson on Vimeo.


Vianney Day – Halopa – Part 2

Vianney Day – Halopa – Part 2 from Steve Nelson on Vimeo.

Garamut – Call to Mass

Here’s a little bit of video that I wasn’t able to incorporate elsewhere.  I think you’ll find it interesting.

A garamut is a large slit-drum made from the trunk of a tree.  I think it’s used primarily in the coastal regions of PNG, but I’m not sure about that.   As I understand, these drums have traditionally played an important role in sending messages out to far flung villagers to announce important events, gatherings, rituals, etc.

Many of the churches use garamuts to call people to Mass, especially since church bells are hard to come by.  Some churches do have bells, brought in by missionaries, but the garamut is much more common.

In this short video, you can see how George, one of the seminarians at St. Fidelis, calls the students and staff to morning Mass.  The pattern he uses is unique to the area and the local villagers will recognize it and know that it’s for Mass at the seminary.

Other parishes that I’ve visited have their own unique patterns.  I’m also told that garamuts are used for other sorts of message, including announcing the death of local villagers.

With the ubiquitous presence of cell phones these days, I’m afraid that the use of the garamut is fading and being relegated to only ceremonial uses.  I hope they find a way to preserve this unique aspect of their culture.


Garamut from Steve Nelson on Vimeo.

Mango i go

Br. Jim and Br. Alois are back with another tree cutting job at St. Fidelis Seminary.  The friary’s cook, Marcus, started to be concerned about a large mango tree hovering over his family’s house.  Large trees, especially very old and very large mango trees, fall frequently and without warning in the thin soils along the PNG coast.

Br. Jim and Br. Alois decided to tackle the problem and to bring the tree down safely, before it fell down and caused real problems.

The tree, like almost every tree in PNG, was infested with my Formic nemeses – the infamous red/yellow coconut tree ants.  As Br. Alois put it, “There were millions and trillions and billions of ants.” He wasn’t too far off in my opinion.

And they were not happy when their towering demesne came crashing down.

Mango i go from Steve Nelson on Vimeo.

esteban bai i go long as graun bilong em

Ahem, I have an announcement!

We wrapped up the second term here at St. Fidelis Seminary and, after a great deal of prayer and discernment, I have decided to return to Oklahoma.

At least for the next 6 months, perhaps permanently.  If you’ve read some of my early posts, you’ll understand why it’s been heavy on my heart to return to Tulsa and my responsibilities there.

It was a hard decision, and now that I’m just a couple of days away from leaving, I’m both filled with excitement of returning home, and feeling sad about leaving the friars and students of St. Fidelis.

It’s quite hard to put this all into words, but I know that I’m going where I’m being led.

The Capuchins, especially the friars at St. Fidelis, have become like an extended family.  They also could not be more understanding and supportive of my decision.  I’m welcome to come back to PNG and St. Fidelis next year if the situation at home is such.

I have no idea what the next few months will bring.  It’s time to start looking for work again and to see what doors God will open for me.  So, if you have any ideas ….  🙂

A consolation for me these last couple of weeks has been Thomas Merton’s “Prayer of the Unknowing”.  Perhaps you’ve read it:


My Lord God,

I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following Your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please You does in fact please You. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that, if I do this, You will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore I will trust You always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death, I will not fear, for You are ever with me, and You will never leave me to face my perils alone.



OK, time for a lesson in Tok Pisin (i.e. Pidgin) before you go.  Parsing out the title of this post:

esteban bai i go long as graun bilong em

esteban (that’s me)

“i go” = goes

“bai” = future tense marker, so “bai i go” becomes “will go”, supposedly bai come from “by and by”

“long” = universal preposition the meaning of which comes from context.

“as graun” = we can thank the Australians for this one, literally meaning “ass ground” or “homeland”.  “home” would be written as “haus” (home or house).

“bilong em” = “that belongs to him/her/them”

So you can read this as “esteban will go to his homeland”

Thus endeth the lesson.