In the big inning

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You are probably aware already that in the beginning of the game the Houston Astros dominated and led by two runs, but in the big inning (seventh) the Washington Nationals scored three runs and went on to win the seventh and deciding game of this year’s World Series. I am telling you this in case you are not a sports fan, but more importantly to show you that we here in Kalaupapa are not cut off entirely from the outside world. Indeed we have our own “big innings” here, and while the World Series may have occupied much of your time, we have been busy with several pilgrimages to this land of Saints Damien and Marianne.

In the first “inning” Father Daren Zehnle from Springfield Diocese in Illinois arrived here and spent the better part of a week resting, praying and playing with my cats. Later in the week Sister Dolores from Kaimuki and Sister Gloria from Ecuador visited the settlement bringing me apples, cheese and other items and taking pictures of my feline friends. 

Then on Saturday the Damien Council of the Knights of Columbus arrived and almost immediately went to work cleaning the church yard as well as the church itself. I was delighted to see them wielding shovels, brooms and mops and was most happy that they had not come armed with their swords. If they had, I would likely have gotten the point right away.

Sunday dawned bright and early and saw some of us at our Kalaupapa International Airport awaiting the arrival of three incoming planes. Our “big inning” was about to begin as we looked to see Bishop Larry step down from the plane like the team’s closer striding from the bullpen. Bishop Larry would lead us in celebrating Mass accompanied by his 26 fellow pilgrims and our local community. 

Soon after the arrival of the pilgrims a cavalcade of vans departed the airport and began to proceed toward Kalaupapa town. We stopped as usual at Papaloa Cemetery to pay respects at the graves of Bishop Larry’s great grandfather, John Santos, as well as that of the co-founder of Damien Tours, Richard Marks.

It was then that the scramble began. The lead van carrying 16 pilgrims had broken down and John and I had to go find replacements, my old paddy wagon and Meli’s truck. Meantime many of the pilgrims hoofed it to St. Francis Church where Bishop Larry celebrated Mass and hit a home run with his homily. After Mass all gathered in Damien Hall, believed to be in its original form, Our Lady of Sorrows Church built by Father Damien. 

Reinforced by a hearty lunch and refreshed by cold, sparkling water, we then set out for Kalawao and Father Damien’s church, St. Philomena, in the original settlement. There Damien had cared for so many patients during his 16 years in the settlement. I expect that there will be many more World Series and many more Most Valuable Players but none will measure up to Saints Damien and Marianne. So keep on coming, pilgrims. After all, we are only in the early innings. 

Aloha.

Anchor columnist Father Patrick Killilea, SS.CC., is pastor of St. Francis Parish in Kalaupapa, Hawaii.


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