Blessed Marianne Closer to Sainthood

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

Blessed Marianne Closer to Sainthood

The second miracle needed for Molokai’s Blessed Marianne Cope to be declared a saint was medically approved last week. The ruling marks a significant step toward her canonization.

The Vatican’s medical board pronounced that there is no medical explanation for the cure of a woman who had suffered from an illness previously believed terminal and incurable. The identity of the woman and other details have not yet been disclosed.

The announcement was made last week by the Catholic Diocese of Syracuse, NY, home of Blessed Marianne’s religious community, the Sisters of St. Francis. The next step in the verification of the miracle is the examination and approval of the Vatican’s theologians, who will decide if the healing was the result of prayer to Blessed Marianne.

If they do attribute the incident to Marianne’s intercession, the case will be evaluated by a board of cardinals and bishops. The pope will then make the final decision whether or not to approve the miracle, which could be followed by Blessed Marianne’s canonization.

The first miracle attributed to Marianne, which resulted in her beatification (given the title “blessed”), was approved by the Vatican in 2004. The case involved the medically unexplainable recovery of a dying New York girl after prayers were said to Blessed Marianne.

Blessed Marianne came to Hawaii in 1883 to establish nursing care for patients of Hansen’s disease. She worked in Kalaupapa – alongside St. Damien at the end of his life – for 30 of the 35 years she served in Hawaii, and died on the peninsula in 1918. 

Molokai Youth to Serve in the Holy Land

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

Molokai Youth to Serve in the Holy Land

Community Contributed

By Gaellen Quinn

Last fall, Sasha Ritte-Juario applied to do a Youth Year of Service at the Baha’i World Center in Haifa, Israel. She knew to get accepted was probably a long shot – every year, hundreds of Baha’i youth from around the world apply.  But with high hopes, she sent out her application and essay about her life and community service.

In December, the acceptance phone call came. Youth who are accepted to serve at the Baha’i World Center can be assigned, among other tasks, to work in administration in the world-famous Baha’i gardens (inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List – see more at or as guides for the more than half a million tourists who visit the Baha’i World Center each year. The youth are provided with room and board and a small monthly stipend, but are responsible for their own personal expenses and transportation to and from Israel. Sasha will leave for Israel on June 13.

Founded more than a century and a half ago, the Baha’i faith has spread around the globe. Members of the Baha’i faith live in more than 100,000 localities and come from nearly every nation, ethnic group, culture, profession and social economic background.

Baha’is believe that throughout history, God has revealed Himself to humanity through a series of divine messengers whose teachings guide and educate us and provide the basis for the advancement of human society. These messengers have included Abraham, Krishna, Zoroaster, Moses, Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad. Their religions come from the same source and are in essence successive chapters of one religion from God.

Baha’u’llah, the latest of these messengers brought new spiritual and social teachings for this time. He taught the oneness of God, the oneness of the human family and the oneness of religion.

The youth accepted to serve at the Baha’i World Center get a unique opportunity to experience this unity first-hand because they meet and work with others from many diverse cultures and backgrounds. At any one time, youth serving there can hail from Africa, India, Europe, Asia, North and South America or the islands of the Pacific.

Crane Action at St. Damien

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Community Contributed

What is going on behind that black fence across from the post office? Resurrection. Behind the construction fence at 115 Ala Malama, there is an intense construction effort underway to build the new St. Damien of Molokai Catholic Church. Since early January, Nordic PCL Construction has been hard at work constructing a new worship center for the Molokai Catholic Community on the recent ashes of the old St. Sophia plantation church, scheduled for completion in December. This week, concrete walls will be raised into place with a crane.

A Living Church

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

A Living Church

It was a solemnity and emotional groundbreaking ceremony as members of the Molokai Catholic Parish, community members and dignitaries bade farewell to the charred remains of St. Sophia Church to celebrate new beginnings. The blackened Crucifix and Stations of the Cross were laid to rest under the future alter of St. Damien Church, and parishioners gave their final blessing by throwing flowers.

The Bishop of Honolulu, Reverend Larry Silva told the story of how he was given a wooden cross carved from the wood of a monkey pod tree planted by St. Damien at Our Lady of Seven Sorrows.
“So it is we plant a seed today to grow not just into a building but into a living church. This isn’t just for the people here today but for generations to come.”

Foundations of Faith

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Foundations of Faith

After 16 years of planning, praying and waiting, the St. Damien Parish is finally seeing the first signs of construction on a new church, on the site of the former St. Sophia church in Kaunakakai. Last week, community members, parishioners and construction workers gathered to clear the ground and began erecting a dust fence to ensure safety of the construction area, according to Gil Hoopii, Senior Superintendent of Nordic PCL Construction, the company contracted to build the new church.

“It’s happening before our eyes and it’s almost like a miracle,” said Leoda Shizuma, council chair of St. Damien Parish.

In keeping with Father Clyde Guerreiro’s goal of holding a Christmas Eve service in the new church this year, the structure is expected to be completed by October, said Hoopii.

“I won’t be taking vacation for a while but it’s unbelievable – feels great,” said Guerreiro, dressed in overalls to help with the ground preparations.

As construction began, “All I could think about was praise be Jesus, Alleluia!” said Shizuma. “It’s been a long dream for a lot of people in our parish.”

Community members may stop by the next door Damien Center for construction updates in the coming months.

Father Damien’s St. Joseph Church Rescued

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Father Damien’s St. Joseph Church Rescued

Community Contributed

By Maria Sullivan, St. Damien Parishioner

St. Joseph Church at Kamalo is a State Historic site and one of the most visited on Molokai.  Each year more than 4,000 Hawaii residents, visitors and pilgrims visit the church, built in 1876 by Father Damien and the Kamalo community. Today, due to the grace and generosity of many people, this 134-year-old church is being saved, so it can continue to tell the story of Molokai, and of one of its most famous residents, Father Damien. 

In addition to his work with the Hansen disease patients on the Kalaupapa peninsula, Father Damien also served as pastor and church builder for the Catholic faithful who lived on topside Molokai.  Of the churches built by Father Damien, St. Joseph Church at Kamalo remains in the most original condition.  However, due to time, weather and termites the church was at risk of being lost. A windstorm this past April complicated matters by blowing off the cross and tearing a large, gaping hole in the church’s eight-sided steeple spire.

There are still substantial costs ahead to evaluate the structural integrity of the steeple, and to reinstall a new top spire. Father Guerreiro and the parish are hopeful that donors will come forward and join the parish in its effort to “Save the Steeple” at Father Damien’s historic St. Joseph Church.

Help Save the Steeple
Make your check payable to: “St. Joseph Church Fund”
Attn: Fr. Clyde Guerreiro
Saint Damien Parish-St. Joseph Church Fund
P.O. Box 1948
Kaunakakai, HI  96748
For more information about the church and project, contact Maria Sullivan, St. Damien Parishioner (808) 553-5181;

Rummaging for Treasure

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Rummaging for Treasure

“You never heard the story of the white elephants?” asked a puzzled Claire Iveson. “During the civil war, the Siamese kings sent Lincoln elephants for the war.”

have a good quality rummage sale – the whitest of the elephants.”

That included heaps of clothes, a few pairs of weather-beaten shoes, jewelry, books and kitchen goods, all of which were donated by parishioners in the week leading up to the sale.

Church Exceeds Campaign Goal

Monday, October 18th, 2010

As the Diocese of Honolulu wraps up its capital campaign to raise $30 million – which actually received $57 million in pledged funds – parishes around the state will begin to reap the benefits.

The diocese, a collective of Hawaii’s Catholic churches, launched the ambitious campaign in 2008, a time when the entire nation was - and still is - shoulder-deep in an economic slump. But with the help and participation of 66 Hawaii parishes, including Molokai’s St. Damien Catholic Parish, the results were nothing short of surprising.

“It was quite a big shock,” said Cynthia Lallo, director of development and stewardship of the diocese. “We’re amazed by what this group has accomplished.”

Parishioners Mourn Loss of Kalaupapa Priest

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

Parishioners Mourn Loss of Kalaupapa Priest

Father Felix Vandebroek, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Church in Kalaupapa, was found dead on Aug. 28 at the Sacred Hearts Center in Kaneohe. He was 82.

Originally from Belgium, Vandebroek served parishes in Hawaii for more than 50 years, and presided over the Hansen’s disease settlement at Kalaupapa for the last three. He had recently returned to Hawaii after a month-long stay in Belgium, where he was visiting family.

While resting at the center before returning to Molokai, Vandebroek wasn’t feeling well, said Father Chris Keahi, provincial superior of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Keahi knocked on Vandebroek’s door the night before he was supposed to return to Molokai, but the priest did not respond. He was found dead the following morning.

always nice to the people.”

Willing to Serve
Vandebroek was born in Belgium on Feb. 29, 1928. He entered the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts in 1949, and later moved to the Hawaiian Isles in 1956. Vandebroek’s ministry in Hawaii spanned across all islands except Lanai.

His longest assignment was at St. Raphael Church in Koloa, Kauai, for 24 years. He was later appointed to St. Francis of Assisi Church in Kalaupapa in 2007, and was formally installed by Bishop Larry Silva on May 10, 2008 – the feast day of St. Damien de Veuster. Vandebroek was the latest priest to follow in the footsteps of Damien, his fellow countryman, who was canonized in 2009 for his work with Hansen’s disease patients.

Keahi said although Kalaupapa was one of the most challenging ministries to preside over, Vandebroek went willingly.

“It was a little high for him coming from Hana,” Keahi said. “He lived somewhat of a lonely life, especially with no children. He loved children.”

Keahi said Vandebroek enjoyed helping the isolated community, and recalled him being a “warming, friendly and caring” person.

As Leoda Shizuma, council chair of St. Damien Parish, shuffled through photos of Vandebroek on her phone, she, too, remembered him fondly.

“He really had a sense of humor,” Shizuma said, as tears began to swell. “He had a connection with the local people.”

Shizuma had last seen Vandebroek at Kalaupapa in May for St. Damien’s feast day. She recalled his sermon, saying that when he spoke, she could feel the presence of Damien among them.

“He was so cute,” she added. “At the end of every service he would say, ‘Mass pau.’”

While Keahi has yet to find another priest for Kalaupapa, he said he would send volunteers over on a weekly basis in the meantime.

The funeral is Thursday at St. Patrick Church, 1124 7th Ave. in Kaimuki. Visitation is at 5:30 p.m., followed by Mass. The burial is set for Sept. 10 at 9 a.m. at the Valley of the Temples in Kaneohe.

Following in His Footsteps

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

Following in His Footsteps

It was an eventful week for a group of French Catholic priests from the Fraternity of Molokai, marking the first time they had ever visited their namesake island and home of their patron, Saint Damien de Veuster.

These priests were part of a group of 35 priests, nuns and lay people from an international Catholic movement called Heart’s Home comprised of nearly 400 global members and volunteers. They came to Molokai to learn about Saint Damien’s life, gain a deeper understanding of his mission and the people he served, that inspires them in their own missions around the world.


Heart’s Home, inspired by St. Damien’s work and dedicated to compassion for those in need, has 45 centers in 22 countries around the world.

Sylvie Muller is a lay-consecrated member who made the journey to Molokai. Muller’s current mission is in Brooklyn, New York. She began with Heart’s Home, as many do, as a volunteer, first sent to serve in Argentina over 10 years ago. She said though her work with Brooklyn’s elderly, under-privileged and home-bound is often difficult, she is inspired by Saint Damien’s closeness to the people he served and how much he loved them.

“You don’t know how I was longing to be closer to Damien and follow in his footsteps,” said. St. Damien “gives meaning to what I do and what I am.”