On Tuesday July 10 to Wednesday July 11, 2012 I along with my fellow Brother Seminarians and Bishop Larry Silva and a few other priests of our Diocese embarked on a two day retreat and pilgrimage to Molokai; Damien and Marianne’s land. We departed Honolulu Airport on Island Air a little propeller plane for a quick 20 minute flight to Molokai. We were greeted with the typical “Friendly Isle” greeting by the Pastor of Molokai Fr. William Petrie SSCC and other members of the one Parish Island. From the airport we went to the new Saint Damien Church and had light refreshments. Here we listened to a talk from Fr. William which was very inspiring. Father did some intensive work for the Sacred Hearts Order (Picpus Fathers) in Rome as well as served as a Missionary in India along side Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. I believe he was also a spearhead in the cause for canonization for Father Damien. So, as one can imagine Father William not only smart and knowledgeable about the lives of Saint Damien, Blessed Marianne, and Blessed Teresa but he is also very passionate in his life as Priest and Servant of God. He is truly a holy and humble man. One thing I got out of his talk was a story he told of his work in India. He said there was one day that there was no medicine to give to the afflicted patience and he and Mother Teresa did not go because of that. When they did reach the area with medicine a few days later a patient asked them “why did you not come to see us?” to which they responded, “because we did not have medicine.” The paitent told them, “still, you should’ve come.” The importance of “Ministry of Presence” as a Priest and pastor of souls is so important. He also stressed the importance of prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament and as Father said that he learned from Mother Teresa, that, “if one does not spend time to recognize Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, how is one to recognize Christ in his fellow brother or sister?”
From there Bishop Larry gave an opening invocation, invoking the intercession of Damien and Marianne on our pilgrimage and for blessings on all of our vocations. And then, we were off to visit two Churches built by Saint Damien himself. Saint Joseph Church and Our Lady of Seven Sorrows. At Saint Joseph’s we all crammed into this tiny Church which is now only used for special masses for some quiet prayer. Bishop read from scripture “Joseph’s dream” and said a prayer to Saint Joseph. Then we intoned the “Doxology” which sent chills down my spine as I thought of the hundreds if not thousands of souls that worshiped there over the last 150 years. We prayed Vespers at Our Lady of Sorrows Church and then headed back to Saint Damien Church for Holy Mass and the installation rite of Father William Petrie SSCC as Pastor of the Island. We were then treated to a wonderful dinner and hosted by the wonderful people of Molokai.
Wednesday July 11, 2012 We were up by 4:45 a.m. Today was a day of pilgrimage. Today we would make the 3 and a half mile down the Pali into the Kalaupapa Penninsula. After getting a quick bite to eat we were brought to the trail head and began our hike down. One cannot imagine the wonderful views of God’s creation we were graced with that day. By the time we got down (1 hour) the midmorning Hawaiian Sun was scorching. We were greeted by the Pastor of Saint Francis Church Sacred Hearts Father Patrick Kililea as well as members of the National Park of Kalaupapa. We toured by Blessed Marianne’s grave monument and then Saint Francis Church where Mother Marianne worshiped. Then we were off to Kalawao and to Saint Philomena Church for Mass and installation of Father Patrick as Pastor. We joined in Mass with patients of Kalaupapa and park rangers. Following Mass we were given some time for quiet and personal prayer. I spent my time at Damien’s grave (the relic of his right hand is buried here) and brought to his intercession my intentions and in a special way my vocation. I prayed that I may live up to my Confirmation name of Damien. To always do good and care for all. To give until it hurts and to love unceasingly. After lunch in Kalawao we began our trip up the steep pali. There were moments on that hike up that were very difficult. I thought, “Father Damien, how the heck did you do this every week?” and then I remembered it was his love for God, the Church, and the people that he did it. It almost seemed at point where I could hear Father Damien saying, “Come on boy, get moving!” When down in Kalaupapa there is such a powerful presence. You feel the mana of the land and the people who have dwelt there. So much suffering from a dreadful disease made peaceful through and with the love of Damien and Marianne. Imua Saint Damien and Blessed Marianne!