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.”

Praising In The Heart Of Town

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

Praising In The Heart Of Town

Community Contributed

By Randy Manley

The moon was aglow and the cool breezes were blowing as hundreds of people gathered at the Kaunakakai Ball Field for the first ever Molokai Summer Praise Concert last Friday evening. The free concert featuring various musical groups from around the island was sponsored by eight Molokai churches as a way of sharing the ministry of music with the island community.

Concert goers filled bleacher seats, reclined on blankets spread on the field, and sat at picnic tables enjoying a mixture of musical styles which included contemporary praise, choir, reggae, and gospel.

While the adults listened to the tunes, the keiki had the opportunity to participate in various games and activities that were designed to keep them entertained and occupied throughout the night.

As the musical smorgasbord was being served from the stage those looking for physical food needed only to follow their noses to the large food tent where musabee, chili and rice, and fresh malasadas were available free of charge.

Adding a special touch to the event was Dawn O’Brien master of ceremonies for the evening. O’Brien, the morning DJ for Christian radio station 95.5 The Fish, entertained the crowd with her quick wit and stories of growing up in the islands as she helped transition between performances.

If you missed the opportunity to attend be assured that the organizers of this event plan to make this an annual affair.

Blessed Feast

Monday, May 17th, 2010

Blessed Feast

May 10 was a day of celebrations all over the world in honor of the feast day of Saint Damien De Veuster. But none were more poignant or relevant than those held on Molokai, the island Hawaii’s first saint called home. Last Monday, parishioners gathered at Our Lady of Seven Sorrows Church to extend prayer and gratitude to St. Damien. 

The evening was filled with vibrant images and vignettes of St. Damien as Mass commenced inside the faintly lit church on Molokai’s east end – one of four topside churches built by Damien himself.

Father Clyde Guerreiro, pastor of St. Damien Parish, led the ceremony alongside Deacon Michael Shizuma. The service was followed by a potluck supper, where guests enjoyed ono grinds and engaged in light conversation.

feel present among us. The day was beautiful.”

St. Philomena Church, located in Kalawao, began as a small chapel where Damien spent his first few nights on Molokai. He added on to the church twice, more than doubling its size, while parishioners refinished and painted the interior. Today, the church stands in homage to the priest.

Leoda Shizuma called it an “experience of a lifetime” for the Kalaupapa patients, to be right in the midst of his memory, where he set foot for many years.

“I thought they were moved and touched,” she added.

Michael Shizuma reflected on the experience as a good way to remember everything Damien has done for the isle.

“I feel very grateful to be a part of it,” he said.

According to Your Faith

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Opinion by Pastor Mike Raines, The Lighthouse Church

Then Jesus touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done unto you.” And their eyes were opened.  (Matt.9:29-30)

Aloha to the Grand Old Lady

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Aloha to the Grand Old Lady

For over 70 years, St. Sophia’s Church had held baptisms and funerals, weddings and sermons – a spiritual hub for Kaunakakai town. Now, there’s a bare spot where the structure once stood. Last Tuesday, the church was demolished to make room for a new church building, to be called Saint Damien Church.

“Yes, we’re saddened,” said Leoda Shizuma, pastoral council chair. “But it’s just a building – we, the people, are really the church.”
A fire on Feb. 10 caused extensive interior damage to St. Sophia’s. Shizuma said the demolition had to take place anyway, but “the fire moved it along.”

In a gathering Sunday evening, referred to by some as “saying aloha to the grand old lady,” parishioners bid farewell to the church. Father Clyde Guerreiro brought charred pieces of the crucifix, stations of the cross, and other relics to an area behind the building he called the “garden of sorrows.” He asked people to share reflections and memories of the church, and closed with a prayer. While it was sad to see it go, parishioners said it was also a time of hope and anticipation for the new church, and especially full of symbolism in the Easter season.

The demolition was completed as a community service by Maui Master Builders. The company is on-island to construct the new fire station, and thanks to Wayne Pe`elua, an equipment operator for Maui Master Builders, employees did the work free of charge. Pe`elua grew up on Molokai and was baptized in the church. He said he asked company higher-ups if they would consider doing the demolition about a month ago, and they agreed. The demolition and clean-up, which took about half a day’s labor, was valued at $50,000, according to Pe`elua.

Shizuma said the new church is in the permitting stage and a date to begin construction on Saint Damien church has not yet been set. Father Clyde Guerreiro has set a completion goal for Christmas 2011.

Egg-cellent Hunt

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Egg-cellent Hunt

Bailey Sproat, 3 (pictured below), won second place – and $15 – for her adorable Easter bonnet at the Annual Lions Club Easter Egg Hunt. She helped her mother put it together with plastic eggs and candy. A hundred or so families gathered last Saturday morning to collect colorfully-dyed eggs in baskets, and many also participated in contests of best-decorated Easter egg, Easter bonnet, Easter basket, and the Golden Egg.





The Winners of the Lions Club Easter Contests
First place won $20 cash, second $15 and third $5. Congratulations to all the winners and participants!
Easter Egg
Ages 1-6

(1) Ku Chow, (2) Kailian Chong, (3) Kailani Bicoy
Ages 7-12
(1) Cendall Manley, (2) Keeya Bicoy, (3) Brenden Keanini
Easter Bonnet
Ages 1-12

(1) Kona Habon, (2) Bailey Sproat
(1) Pono Chow, (2) Oeenis Keanini, (3) Daquel Cabaiar
Easter Basket
Ages 1-6

(1) Kamalani Kanawaliwali, (2) Kalawaia Kanawaliwali, (3) Ku Chow
Ages 7-12
(1) Kelsey Bicoy, Shyllea Villa, Meleano Pakala
Golden Eggs
Ages 1-3 Kendra Kaulili
Ages 4-7 Haley Alfante
Ages 8-12 Mackenzie Nerveza


Listening to God’s Voice

Monday, March 15th, 2010

A message to the church: Whose voice are you listening to? Are you listening to the whole counsel of God, or merely confining yourself to what your particular denomination teaches as their “central doctrine?” We are praying for revival, and revival will come when we as God’s people truly humble ourselves in such a way that we are willing to come into agreement with all that our Lord says and willing to obey as well.

An Irresistible Force

Friday, December 11th, 2009

An Irresistible Force

As the global focus on Saint Damien begins to lessen, Molokai knows full well the island has another divine resident to be proud of: Blessed Mother Marianne. The woman who comforted Saint Damien in his last months became the leader in spirit of the Kalaupapa community after his passing.

Mother Marianne is currently on her last step to canonization – she was beatified in 2005 – and two important figures in her cause wrote an extensive biography of her life, released last month, called “Pilgrimage and Exile: Mother Marianne of Moloka`i.”

“The main purpose of the book is to share the life and virtue of Mother Marianne, the inspirational and motivating story of a life lived by a woman who had extraordinary gifts and talents and yet gave her all to serve the poorest of the poor because of her love of God and neighbor,” wrote one of the authors, Sister Mary Laurence Hanley, O.S.F., via email.

Sister Hanley is one of the four members of the Historical Commission for the Cause of Mother Marianne. Her co-author, the late Dr. O.A. Bushnell, also a member of the cause committee, wrote several books and historical novels about the Hawaiian Islands, including “Moloka`i,” a story of the Hansen’s disease patients at Kalaupapa.

In the course of her canonization research on Mother Marianne, Sister Hanley updated her original book of the same name, written 20 years ago.

Sister Hanley was first inspired by another biography she read about Mother Marianne, affectionately known to her congregation as the “Beloved Mother of Outcasts.”
“It had adventure and a great heroine and it was a call for courage. I decided to become a Franciscan sister and thought about going to help patients at Molokai,” Sister Hanley said.

She instead became a teacher, and eventually her research skills led her to be the director of Mother Marianne’s Cause for canonization in her congregation.

The book delves into surprisingly in-depth details of Marianne’s life, including her family’s decision to move to America and their reactions, the exchanges between the Catholic Mission in Hawaii and Mother Marianne’s order prior to the sisters arrival, and direct quotes from the patients in pidgin when the sisters worked at Kaka`ako.

Molokai’s Mother
Mother Marianne was born Barbara Koob (also Kob, Kopp, and now officially Cope) on January 23, 1838 in Germany. Her family moved to Utica, New York the following year and she became a naturalized citizen as a teenager. She expressed a desire to dedicate her life to God at a young age and entered the Sisters of Saint Francis in Syracuse, N.Y at age 24.
Sister Marianne worked as a nurse-administrator at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse beginning in 1870 – starting a long career as a healer of bodies as well as souls. She was elected Provincial Superior in 1877, a title she kept for the rest of her life.

In 1883 she received a letter from the Catholic Mission in the Hawaiian Islands asking for nurses and schoolteachers. After a few months, she wrote back with high conviction of her decision.

“I am hungry for the work and I wish with all my heart to be one of the chosen Ones, whose privilege it will be, to sacrifice themselves for the salvation of the souls of the poor islanders…I am not afraid of any disease, hence it would be my greatest delight even to minister to the abandoned lepers,” wrote Mother Marianne, as quoted in “Pilgrimage and Exile.”

She move to Kaka`ako Hospital in Honolulu where she saved many lives by instituting the then-unknown ideas of sterilization and sanitation. When the hospital closed, she and several sisters were finally able to join Father Damien at Kalaupapa in 1888. She stayed for the rest of her life. Like Saint Damien, Mother Marianne has a grave marker in Kalaupapa, near the Bishop Home for Girls where she worked.

The canonization committee’s website,, has more information on the ongoing project for the canonization of Mother Marianne.