Outnumbered In Kalaupapa

Those of you who enjoy your morning coffee in front of the television, be it Folgers or Maxwell House, Kona Coffee or Purdy’s Natural Macadamia, may have watched men like Fox reporter Mike Tobin, “One Lucky Guy,” being out-talked and outwitted by four very intelligent and attractive young women on Fox’s “Outnumbered.” This morning show is informative and entertaining and I usually watch it because it adds “spice” to my morning coffee.

Now it must have felt something like this for two clerics, one a Jesuit, the other a Capuchin, when they accompanied 25 women on pilgrimage to Kalaupapa and Kalawao on January 22. These women were members of our Sacred Hearts Sisters who have leadership roles in our Sisters’ Provinces all over the globe. They had come to Hawaii, not to surf on the north shore at Sunset Beach or to swim and sunbathe on Waikiki Beach, but to plan for the future.

Damien Tours guide, Norman, was the bus driver for the day, Sacred Hearts Sister Helene conducted the tour and Franciscan Sister Alicia did her best to marshal the troops. Mass at St. Philomena’s Church (founded by St. Damien), was celebrated in Spanish by Jesuit priest, Father Javier, who also delivered the sermon in Spanish. I did not understand a word he said, but it sounded really good. He was very enthusiastic in his delivery and spoke almost as much with his hands as he did with his tongue. He must have enjoyed being outnumbered on this day by these lively ladies. I learned later that one of the Sisters had climbed over the tall wrought iron fence to get into Father Damien’s grave. Nothing restrains these Sisters!

This day was one of the highlights of the week for me. On Monday I had hosted three seminarians and had accompanied them to the Kauhako crater on the way home from Kalawao, the site of the original Hansen’s disease settlement. I did not faint on the way up or collapse on the way down. On Wednesday it had been my pleasure to accompany Archbishop Bernadito Auza, the Vatican’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations. He celebrated Mass at St. Philomena in English for which I will be eternally grateful. I am also grateful that he did not offer to hike to the crater. What a pleasant man he is. All power to the Filipinos!

It was 3 p.m. by the time the busload of happy pilgrims arrived back at Terminal One. They had enjoyed immensely their visit to the land of SS. Damien and Marianne and were now ready to take to the air, though perhaps feeling a little sad as we all do when we leave Kalaupapa with no expectancy to return. It was the culmination of a very special day for these 25 Sisters and their outnumbered brother priests. For us residents it was time to wave aloha and to look forward to the celebration of Mother Marianne’s feast the following day when I would be outnumbered —but that would be OK with me. 


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

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