Holidays in Kalaupapa

By Father Pat Killilea, St Francis, Kalaupapa

I heard the voices approaching. So I got to my feet and went to the front door. They were coming through the entrances onto the church lawn wearing strange red head gear and armed with torches. My heart began to race. Oh my Lord, they were coming to take me away. My goose was cooked and Christmas had not even arrived yet. I had to face the music. Then… they broke into song: “Away in a manger, no crib for a bed…”
They had indeed come to take me away, as they began the annual community carol singing evening. So I grabbed my red shirt and joined the merry band. As is the tradition here in Kalaupapa, we visited the homes of our patient residents and turned our vocal cords loose to serenade them with Christmas music.

Here at St. Francis, we celebrated our first Christmas Mass at 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve. The church had been transformed spectacularly the previous weekend by our devoted members aided by some kindly visitors. Our visiting choir from St John Vianney in Kailua filled the church with heavenly hymns as we celebrated the birth of Christ the Savior. After Mass our faithful friends from St John Vianney treated us to a fabulous dinner in Damien Hall.

The celebration continued through New Year’s Eve, when the one and only Edwin Lelepali always puts on a great meal here in the shadow of those great, green-clad pali. We gathered as a community at McVeigh Hall to celebrate our life together in 2013 and to look with hope to the new year ahead. Lelepali did not disappoint us. He and Kahu Richard Matsushita with Mrs. Matsushita put on a splendid meal… and I made sure to honor them by going for seconds. Then the fun began.

It has been the tradition to follow up the dinner with an amateur night showcasing all our local talent — our version of America’s Got Talent. There was some great singing as well as musical renditions, poetry recitation, legendary storytelling, hula dancing and comedy skits. By the time I got up to do my best presentation of Eamon Kelly’s “The Looking Glass,” some of the gathering had become well acquainted with Mr. Heineken and Miss Corona, so audience participation was flowing freely.

About 10 p.m. I bade farewell to those who were still having a great time and mentioned that I would be available for confession the next morning for those who might have partied a little too much. It had been a great celebration that night for all of us here in Kalaupapa. And yes, Kalaupapa has talent. We are blest and we need to go tell it on the mountain.


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