Canisius students are taking part in a Lenten Mission Drive to support two Jesuit educational missions in Micronesia: Xavier High School and Yap Catholic High School (YCHS).
Both Xavier High School and Yap Catholic High School are deeply connected to Canisius. Fr. Richard Zanoni, S.J. (pictured, left), who now serves as an assistant to the Canisius High School president, spent several years serving in Micronesia. Fr. Dennis Baker, S.J. ’98 (pictured, center) is finishing his term as president for Xavier High School while working remotely from Canisius and serving as Head of Loyola House for Canisius. Canisius Campus Minister Fr. Michael Corcoran, S.J. '76 (pictured, right) founded YCHS and spent several years there. Several other Canisius alumni, both Jesuits and laypersons, have also worked in the Jesuit schools in Micronesia.
Money raised during this year’s Canisius Lenten Mission Drive will be used at Xavier for graduation expenses and at YCHS for technology upgrades. Past Canisius drives have helped Xavier purchase a much-needed school bus and renovate a campus kitchen, and provided YCHS with funds for a roof construction project for the school's athletic facilities.
The Mission Drive also presents an opportunity for Canisius students to learn about the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), an independent country since 1986, in the western Pacific Ocean. Xavier High School is on the island of Weno in the Chuuk islands and YCHS is on the island of Yap. These schools are approximately 8,000 miles from Buffalo. By comparison, California is about 2,000 miles away.
The beautiful islands of both Chuuk and Yap are worldwide diving destinations. Chuuk Lagoon is considered the wreck-diving capitol of the world, with over 70 sunken Japanese ships, planes, and submarines. Yap is known for its manta ray diving, having established the first manta ray sanctuary in the world.
Although the Federated States of Micronesia is an independent country, it has many ties to the United States through a Compact of Free Association. FSM citizens can travel, study, and live in the U.S. indefinitely without a visa, and many proudly serve in the U.S. military. The FSM is served by the United States Postal Service and is one of the few countries to use U.S. currency.
Xavier High School, established in 1952, is a former Japanese communications center located on Mabuchi Hill, with a stunning view of the Chuuk lagoon. The Xavier campus includes the main administration building, eight classroom buildings, a dormitory for the boys, a stand-alone chapel, basketball and volleyball courts, faculty housing, several water catchment tanks, and dining facilities for both students and adults.
YCHS, founded in 2011, is in a jungle setting five miles outside of the main town. The YCHS campus includes four classroom buildings, a stand-alone chapel, administration building, library, science building, and a covered outdoor court for basketball and volleyball.
Although tuition at YCHS is only $700 per year, including summer session, more than half of the students receive scholarships or financial aid made available through fundraising. Minimum wage in Yap is less than $2.00 per hour, yet food and other imported goods are very expensive due to shipping costs. Many families live in simple, crowded homes with thatched roofs and grow a good part of the food they consume. Xavier’s tuition is $1,730 per year, but all education costs are subsidized through the generosity of many people outside of Micronesia. Chuuk is the most populous state in the FSM, but it is also the poorest. Most people live in severely substandard conditions, and subsist on fish, rice, and canned meat.
Xavier and YCHS are considered the best high schools in all of Micronesia. Both schools follow a rigorous, college-preparatory curriculum very similar to Canisius. Most graduates from both schools go on to college. They study in Japan, the Philippines, Guam, Hawaii, and the continental U.S. – including Jesuits schools such as St. Joseph’s, Creighton, Scranton, Canisius, Fordham, Fairfield, and Le Moyne.