Happy Birthday, St. Marianne
By Fr. Pat Killilea ss.cc., St. Francis Church, Kalaupapa
Glory be to God, Mokulele Flight 999 touched down and taxied to a stop at Kalaupapa Airport only a few minutes behind schedule. We had neglected to lay down the red carpet, but who needs that when there is a warm welcome awaiting. Down the steps came Msgr. Robert Sarno, his golden dome glowing in the morning light. He was accompanied by Dr. Maria DeVera, Sisters Joan Souza, Davilyn Chick and Margaret Burnett, James Jackson, and Fathers Andrew Baranski and Paul Houlis. They received a standing ovation on arrival at Terminal 1. The Sisters came bearing the relic of St. Marianne. It would be placed in front of the altar of St. Francis Church.
At 10 a.m. Kalaupapa time, after some deliberations, we celebrated Mass. Msgr Sarno was the main celebrant and homilist and led us in a prayerful hour. Sr. Barbara Jean led the now world-famous St. Francis Choir. After Mass, we retired to Damien Hall for a most delicious and filling lunch compliments of the Sisters of St. Francis. For those perhaps learning about its history, Damien Hall was, in its inception, built by St. Damien as Our Lady of Health Church and was succeeded by St. Francis Church.
After a pause to refresh, we took to the gravel road, our faces turned to the east and to Kalawao, the site of the first Hansen’s Disease settlement. There we visited St. Philomena Church, twice enlarged by St. Damien. Afterwards, we visited the graves of St. Damien and Joseph Dutton, flanking the church. Across the road lies the site of the Baldwin Home for Boys. All that remains are some ruins, but the memories live on. The entrance was blocked on this day by a huge-downed tree and we decided not to strain our muscles to remove it. Bring on the National Park Service! Further down the road, we found a good vantage point where Valerie Monson spoke about the memorial to the eight thousand souls who lived and died as victims of Hansen’s Disease. This memorial will stand in the Baldwin Home site. From there we went to Judd Park and the landing. We then returned to Kalaupapa Town, where we visited the bookstore which is supervised by Sr. Alicia Damien.
It was then that the cry went up, “Whales, whales!”
So, all scrambled into their vehicles and hurried to Damien’s Landing, our Kalaupapa pier, to watch the whales put on a show for us in our outer harbor. After feasting our eyes on these frolicking marine mammals, it was difficult to tear ourselves away from the scene, but we managed to do so. We then visited the Manor House at Bishop Home. Here the Sisters did a walking tour of the corridor and spoke about all the Sisters whose pictures are on the walls and who had cared for the women and girls of Bishop Home over the many years. Next came the walk to Mother Marianne’s grave where Sr. Barbara Jean led the group in a prayer service. Then lei were placed on the grave and Msgr. Sarno gave a special blessing. It was now time to go. All good things tend to come to an end at some stage. So, at 5.45 p.m. or so, we waved goodbye to our visitors as they climbed into the western sky. It isn’t every saint who gets to celebrate his or her birthday in this fashion, but that’s okay. Happy Birthday, St. Marianne. Aloha.