At the height of World War II, four Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange were trapped behind enemy lines in the North Solomon Islands. The first-person journals they kept during their experience were recently discovered. Through meticulous effort, their writings have been arranged into a book that transports readers back 75 years, “Trapped in Paradise: Catholic Nuns in the South Pacific, 1940–1943.”
In September 1940, four sisters began their three-month journey from California to Buka, a tiny speck of an island northeast of Australia. Upon arrival, the sisters, who were teachers, began their challenging new ministry in an unfamiliar place. In December 1941, after receiving word of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the sisters were given the option to leave the island. But the sisters chose to stay and continue their work.
“Trapped in Paradise” tells the true account of the Sisters of St. Joseph’s first missionaries and their sometimes uncomfortable efforts to embrace a culture not their own, the perils of hiding in rugged jungle terrain, and of their high-risk rescue by the U.S. Navy. Between the lines, one can feel the teamwork, perseverance, fearlessness, and bold faith that these four women exhibited.
Included in the 300-page book are maps, photos, biographies of key individuals in the story, a glossary, and a book guide. “War Comes to Buka” by Father Joseph Lamarre, the sisters’ pastor, is also included. He provides his account of 30 months in a Japanese prison camp, describing what the sisters may have experienced had they not been rescued by submarine.
“Trapped in Paradise” is available for purchase on the Sisters of St. Joseph’s web site and on Amazon.com in print or as an e-book. A substantial part of the proceeds from sales of this book will support The Soldiers Project, a non-profit organization that provides free counseling services to post-9/11 veterans and their families.