Passing The Baton in Kalaupapa

Community Contributed

By Father Pat Killilea, St. Francis Church, Kalaupapa

I have lost a step or two since my high school running days 60 years ago, but I still enjoy watching track and field on television. I particularly like to watch the relay races where the first runner takes a stick (baton), takes off like a bat out of hell, passes the baton to a team mate, who in turn passes it on to another team mate, who passes it on to a fourth, who sprints to an exciting finish, baton in hand. This is no easy feat as disaster can happen in an exchange and the baton is dropped.

During my more than nine years here in Kalaupapa, I have experienced some passing of the baton in terms of leadership roles. The position of administrator of the Dept. of Health passed from Mark Miller, who retired to Oregon, to Kenneth Seamon. Ken now holds the baton. The post of superintendent of the Kalaupapa National Historical Park passed from “Too Tall” Steve Prokop to young Erika Stein Espaniola. She served until this past springtime when she decided to end her term. Two young boys can be a handful and the pali trail takes its toll on the knees.

So it was that yesterday afternoon in the shade of the great banyan tree, Nancy Holman was introduced by Ken as our new Park superintendent. Nancy originally hails from Colorado and has served in many regions of the U.S. mainland. Introduced also was the new head nurse of the Kalaupapa nursing department, Veronica “Ronnie” Mitchell. She took over from John Callaway who moved on earlier this year. We wish Nancy and Ronnie a hearty welcome to our community.

Personally, I never ran as part of a relay team in my school days because I run more like a horse than a hound and enjoyed both the mile and cross country. Still, I enjoyed watching our relay teams practicing the passing of the baton with skill and smoothness. I can still picture them on the senior field. It has helped me in my ministry as the baton of responsibility was passed on to me. I learned that, if I fumbled the exchange, I had to recover and keep on keeping on.

It is admirable to be a member of the relay team and to run the race. It is more important to be in tune with teammates and carry the baton to victory. Aloha.


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