By Father Pat Killilea, St. Francis Church, Kalaupapa
The morning meeting started right on time — Kalaupapa time that is — which usually means after the participants have done hugging, kissing, talking story and visiting the cooler for some libation. This day’s libation was cold, clear, refreshing Kalaupapa water, the best water I have tasted since my childhood days in the west of Ireland. It is almost as good as Uisce Beatha (water of life), the Irish version of Jim Beam or Jack Daniel’s — not that I am a connoisseur of either. Then the fun began. Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa president and Kalaupapa resident Boogie Kahilihiwa welcomed the gathered assembly as only Boogie can. Then, after an opening prayer by yours truly, patterned after a prayer used during the Second Vatican Council (yes, I can be serious at times), we introduced ourselves with some degree of levity. Then the board members were introduced by “Secretary General” Valerie Monson, and the mission/vision statement was read. This was followed by welcome remarks by our great administrator with the shiny dome, Kenneth Seamon, followed by our National Park superintendent and expectant mother, Erika Stein Espaniola. Now it was time for Ohana’s dauntless Secretary to take over the program.
Just in case you are getting impatient as to what this assembly was all about, let me put you at ease. This was actually the opening session of our 15th annual Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa meeting. This organization seeks to keep alive the memory of the 8,000 or so patients of Hansen’s disease whose home this peninsula has been since the first patients arrived in Kalawao in 1866. Ka ‘Ohana has helped more than 800 family members reconnect to their Kalaupapa ancestors and it continues to help families visit and learn about Kalaupapa’s history. For some years now, it has been planning to erect a memorial wall to all those forcibly isolated on this peninsula because of government policies on Hansen’s disease. Valerie Monson is not lost for words and so, aided by excellent visuals, she gave us an eloquent and free flowing account of the history, goals and works of advocacy of Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa.
Just as all good things must come to an end on this earth, so all good days should end with a good meal and it was no exception on this occasion. The day culminated with a delicious meal at McVeigh Hall followed by music… all on Kalaupapa time.