By: Universe Yamase
"My name is Fr. Kelly Yalmadau. I am from Falalop, Ulithi, Yap State. I was ordained a priest in 2009 for the Diocese of the Caroline Islands at the age of 27. After my ordination, I was appointed to be the pastor of Queen of Heaven Parish, which consists of the islands of Ulithi, Fais and Ngulu. After a year of pastoral ministry, I was asked by the bishop of the diocese, Bishop Amando Samo, D.D., to go for further studies at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. I am currently enrolled in the School of Canon Law at the Catholic University of America. I will be graduating in two years, Deo Volente, and go back to serve the people in Micronesia."
1) What is the reason behind you becoming a priest?
I was raised a very good Catholic by my uncle, Fr. Nick Rahoy. I was always at the church, either praying or serving Mass or helping out in whatever church activity that was going on. Every Sunday and other important feasts, I’d go on a small boat with Fr. Nick to the other islands to celebrate Mass and administer the other sacraments. I loved and enjoyed going around the islands serving the people of God, and wanted to do it for the rest of my life. So after my high school graduation in 1999, and with the encouragement of my family and the Church community back home, I decided to apply to the seminary and study to become a priest. After 10 years of priesthood formation and preparation, I was ordained a priest to do what I love and enjoy the most, i.e. to serve and minister to the people of God.
2) What are your plans once you graduate?
After I get my degree in Canon Law, I will go back to the Diocese of the Caroline Islands to join the diocesan bishop and the clergy in ministering to our local church community. I plan to establish a tribunal court in our diocese to deal with marriage cases (preparation, separations, annulments, divorces, etc) and other important legal matters in the Church.
3) Since you are from the outer island of Yap, is it hard to preach in Yap proper as a result of the caste system?
I’ve only preached and celebrated Mass in Yap a few times and I found the Yapese community to be very welcoming, hospitable and respectful.
4) Does the church pay for your tuition?
I am on a scholarship from the Catholic Home Missions that pays for my tuition, room and board. The Diocese of the Caroline Islands pays for my other needs.
5) As a priest, what do you struggle the most with? Why?
I do not know what my other brother priests struggle with the most. But for me personally, I struggle with the fact that I am not always with my family and friends, especially when they need and want me. I go where ever I am assigned to in the diocese.
6) Is it hard being a priest from a state still strong with tradition and culture? How does the church view conflicted customs, as an example the caste-system?
It is hard to be a priest or a preacher of the Word of God anywhere. The Yapese caste system is a very complex and complicated system and I don’t know too much about it to make a comment.
7) What are your thoughts about the detours to Sogloi, and whether that goes against the Catholic beliefs of being responsible Christians.
This is for Shaun Suliol and all the Sogloi visitors. Detours to the beautiful island of Sogloi are in themselves not in any way against any Catholic belief. What you do on your detours to Sogloi, on Sogloi and from Sogloi might be against some Church beliefs.
8) “Why do the catholic church need expensive things? Big expensive churches, expensive cars, expensive jewelry. Why not use that money to give to help the poor? The churches in chuuk also sell things. Jesus got mad when he went in a church and people were selling things in it. Why is the Catholic Church in Chuuk selling things? Where does that money go?”
As far as I know, the religious item store in the diocesan office belongs to the diocese and all the money they make there and from other fundraisers belong to the diocese. The bishop with his finance council has the final say in how and where that money or any other diocesan money is to be spent. As for churches, we need beautiful and decent places to worship God. I don’t think any of our churches is outrageously expensive. I do not know about expensive cars and jewelry.
9) Looking at our country, what do you think needs great attention?
Leadership! Leadership on all levels (local, government, church, etc). Our young nation needs more qualified leaders who will serve the people with honesty, integrity and justice.
10) There are numerous murder cases in Guam and Hawaii, and usually a person from FSM makes it on headlines. As a priest, how would you approach this issue?
The act of murder is wrong and sinful no matter where it is committed or who commits it. Those who are responsible for reporting and informing the public about important issues such as murder must do so with honesty, fairness and justice. Racism, Discrimination and stereotype must be avoided. As a priest, I preach and will continue to preach against the many faces of racism, discrimination and stereotype.
11) Many Micronesians are serving in US military? When they kill someone are they condemned forever?
First, allow me say SA HACHIGCHIG (thank you in Ulithian) to all the Micronesians who served, still serving and will serve in the US military for risking and sacrificing your lives for all of us. May God continue to bless you and guide you in your service! I’ll leave the condemnation part to God, the true Judge, to judge.
12) The Catholic Church has a really strong influence in the FSM. Why does the church not practice some of that influence to better help the people of FSM. For example, could the church not speak against political corruption? Could the church formally and publicly condemn wrongdoings and wrong-doers within a community?
The list of things that the Church could do in FSM is endless. One of the things that I think the Church leaders need to be more active in is in guiding and forming all the lay faithful to have the right criteria to exercise their political options with freedom and responsibility. Canon law (Church law) explicitly limits the participation of clerics in political exercise, unless the protection of the rights of the Church and the people or the promotion of the common good requires it. The Church could and should speak out against any corruption or wrongdoing, be it political or otherwise, that affects the rights, dignity and common good of the people.
13) Do people have to go to church to please God? Some people believe that you don’t have to go to church and can worship God anywhere. What do you think?
It is true that God is omnipresent, meaning He is present everywhere at the same time at all times. Knowing this fact, I don’t think we should limit ourselves to worshipping God in Church alone or at home alone. God must be praised both in the Church and outside the Church. Our communal celebrations at Church give us the spiritual nourishment (the Word of God and the Eucharist) we need to continue worshipping and living out the Gospel message wherever we go.
14) For future elections, should FSM make it a requirement for candidates from each four state to provide background information about themselves when running for government positions?
I think the people have the right to know certain background information on any candidate that will be representing them. It is the responsibility and duty of the candidate who wants to run for public/government office to make available those information to the public.
15) Politics seem to have found its way into churches and places of worship. Often times, politicians curry the favor of their fellow worshipers at church, during times of elections. In short, they campaign at churches. Is this wrong and should this be stopped?
Yes, this is wrong and must be stopped. The Church is NOT a place for political campaign. No clergy should campaign in church for a politician, and no politicians should be invited to campaign at church.
16) It seems like the church is extremely active in the FSM only on Sundays. Can't they have activities throughout the week to strengthen communities while spreading the Word of God?
As aforementioned, the list of what the Church could do in FSM is endless. The Gospel message must be preached and lived out not only on Sundays but everyday day of the week. The clergy along with the laity need to organize activities during the whole week that will help guide and inspire people to live out and spread the Word of God.
17) What message do you want to send out to the young Micronesians?
Find out what your vocation from God is and do it with all your heart, mind and soul. May God bless you all!