Celebrating Kalaupapa Month
Opinion by Father Pat Killilea, St. Francis Church, Kalaupapa
You may have noticed that I’ve been AWOL from these pages for the past several weeks. The reason is that my computer died a sudden and unexpected death several weeks ago, perhaps as a result of the acidity of my writings. So, last week, I spent several hours in Honolulu (make that several days) under the tutelage of our man, Bill Pimental, learning computer. Power to the Portuguese! Bill gave me a crash course on how to use my new computer as well as my new Apple smart phone. He was very patient with me, seeing that I am not the brightest bulb in the room. His attitude was in stark contrast to the philosophy professor many moons ago who said to me one dark day in class, “Shit down, Killilea! I didn’t ask for ‘ur opinin.” That is a direct quote from that Kerryman. I have since forgiven him and think that what he said was funny. I hope to see him one day in heaven… but not in a classroom.
Now I am back in my hermitage in Kalaupapa where we just completed the month of January, which has been designated as Kalaupapa Month. This designation was prompted by the efforts of our memorial society, Ka’ Ohana O Kalaupapa, which proposed this to the Hawaii Legislature. A number of events were scheduled for the month, beginning on Jan. 3, the birthday of Father Damien. It was to have been an ice cream party. However, this had to be cancelled, much to our chagrin, because of precautionary COVID regulations. Thank the Lord that we have a freezer in Damien Hall kitchen. On Jan. 6, a small group of patients and other residents gathered at the pier in Kalaupapa (I call it Damien’s Landing) to remember and honor the first group of Hansen’s disease patients who arrived here on Jan. 6, 1866. We opened the service with prayer, blessed the lei and flower petals, then tossed the petals into the water. Afterwards some of those present went to the original settlement in Kalawao and placed lei on the graves. On Sunday, Jan. 23, the birthday of Mother Marianne, we celebrated Mass at St. Francis in Kalaupapa. Then came “the moment we had all been waiting for.” Our Sisters of St. Francis provided a delicious lunch for us capped by the much-anticipated ice cream of our choosing. As Jackie Gleason used to say, “How sweet it is!”
As I pen this, the sun is shining, the breezes are ruffling the leaves on the palm trees, the waters in the harbor are shimmering in the sunlight and somewhere in these waters, there is at least one whale. It is like a prelude to heaven and there is more to come in this land of Saints Damien and Marianne. Aloha.