All that truly matters

I threw on my Savers dark dust coat, stepped out into the rain, and headed for my Paddy Wagon. I must have looked like Wyatt Earp or Doc Holliday on the way to the O.K. Corral that morning, but I was not heading to a corral, not even the mule corral. By this date the Topside Molokai mules had been “on furlough” since the bridge on the Kalaupapa trail had collapsed at Christmas due to a landslide. I was actually on my way to our Kalaupapa “International” Airport to meet Bishop Larry and his 26 pilgrims. 

Though the skies had looked ominous as I left my house, the rain eased off as I arrived at the airport. Shortly thereafter a magnificent rainbow lit up the sky and heralded the coming of a beautiful day. Soon the first plane touched down five minutes ahead of schedule. Then the second one landed some minutes later than its due time. Finally, after a wait, the third plane arrived about one-half hour later. So it was time to huddle and to pray.

While the official feast day of St. Marianne Cope is observed on January 23, we here in Kalaupapa had decided to celebrate her feast on Saturday, January 19 to coincide with Bishop Larry’s pilgrimage. After the initial greetings, introductions and prayer, we climbed into three vans and hurried into town and to St. Francis Church where Mass had been scheduled for 9 a.m. Needless to say, Mass was celebrated on Kalaupapa time which was OK with all. 

Naturally Bishop Larry was the main celebrant and gave his usual uplifting homily. Father Lane Akiona, SS.CC. and Father Bill Petrie, SS.CC. and I concelebrated with him, assisted by Deacon Mike and Deacon Tom. Randall Watanuki took his place as altar server and some members of the St. John Vianney Choir from Kailua provided beautiful music and singing. 

After Mass it was time to board the vans again and make the pilgrimage over that famous rocky Damien Road to Kalawao and St. Damien’s Church, St. Philomena, as well as St. Damien’s grave and Brother Dutton’s grave. Then it was off to Judd Park and the landing where so many Hansen’s Disease patients had arrived from 1866 to 1932. After the obligatory picture-taking at the landing overlook, we hurried back to Kalaupapa town for a sumptuous meal provided by the Order of St. Lazarus and prepared by Deacon Mike and Leoda Shizuma and their lovely daughter, Michelle Naeole. 

A visit to the bookstore, to be greeted by Boogie and Sister Alicia Damien, was followed by a talk by Sister Barbara Jean at St. Marianne’s grave. Then it was off to the airport and into the bright blue skies of Kalaupapa for Bishop Larry and his pilgrims, while I returned to my house — minus my dust coat. It was indeed a day to remember. 

Aloha.

Anchor columnist Father Killilea is pastor of St. Francis Parish in Kalaupapa, Hawaii.


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