Annual Barge Reaches Kalaupapa

Damien, airport upgrades, dump closure & archeology top news on Peninsula.

Kalaupapa residents will be working together to restore Father Damien's legacy, St. Philomena church in Kalawao in preparation for the many visitors and pilgrims who will visit.  

By Jennifer Smith

Kalaupapa’s July monthly meeting provided updates about upcoming developments on the peninsula including the recent barge arrival, next month’s visit from U.C. Berkeley archaeologists, and the upcoming landfill closure and increased recycling efforts.

Kalaupapa is currently in a transition to shut down its landfill by the end of December, and will begin a recycling program in November. Residents can begin recycling efforts on a small scale now, but it is not required. The National Park Service (NPS) recently received necessary materials to complete construction of the composting and recycling facilities on this week’s barge.

Barge & Airport
Three barges made their annual visit to Kalaupapa this week carrying resident requested items such as cars and appliances. Construction material including rock and trucks were also delivered to aid in airport improvements which include runway upgrades and fence maintenance, but not a firehouse, according to Michael McCarten, administrator for the Department of Health.

Several of the residents expressed their disappointment with the June 30 removal of firefighters from the airport. The airport received a waiver to remove the position after the Federal Aviation Administration ruled that airports servicing planes carrying less than 10 passengers are no longer required to have fire personnel present.

"We all agree we need the firefighter position here," McCarten said. National Parks Superintendent Steve Prokop said he filed a major complaint with the airport division concerning the need for the position at Kalaupapa's remote airport.

Residents also reiterated their frustrations with the peninsula's only air carrier, Pacific Wings. Customers have found unreasonable rate increases, and a general lack of schedule accommodations to be an ongoing problem with the airline. However, as long as the airline continues to provide services without a government subsidy, there is little legal action that can be taken.

An exciting announcement came from the Vatican just days before the July 8 monthly meeting: Pope Benedict XVI’s confirmation of Father Damien's second miracle will allow him to proceed to canonization.

If all goes well, the pope is expected to announce an official date to declare Father Damien a saint during an annual gathering in February 2009 in Rome. 

"The real scoop is that it has happened," said Father Felix, Vandebroek. He said while the process began several decades ago, followers of the process need to remain patient a little while longer until Father Damien's sainthood can be confirmed.

"(It is) not only an honor for the Roman Catholic Church, but it is an honor for the whole community of Kalaupapa," Father Felix said. "We are thankful and we are grateful that we can live where he lived."

While waiting for Father Damien's sainthood to be confirmed, the church and the NPS are hoping to work together to restore Father Damien's physical legacy, St. Philomena church in Kalawao. Father Felix said they are expecting many visitors and pilgrims to the site, and hope to have it restored in time for celebrations to take place.

A U.C. Berkeley team of archeologists will return to Molokai in August. The group headed by James Flexner will focus on Kalawao sites. Excavation work is intended to look at aspects of everyday life in the early days of the settlement.

All work will take place in areas believed to be home sites, and will not involve the study or disturbance of human remains. The team has a tentative date of August 26 set to have a meeting with residents, prior to beginning work.
The next monthly meeting will be on August 12 at 11:30 a.m., and will feature a visit from Senator J. Kalani English. He will visit the peninsula to read a resolution that offers an apology to the people who were forcibly quarantined in Kalaupapa between 1866 and 1969, after being diagnosed with Hansen’s disease.


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