Shifting gears on Kalaupapa

I turned the ignition key and without hesitation my Paddy Wagon began to purr in anticipation of the ride. Then I put the shift lever in forward and suddenly something snapped in the gear box. What a time to have this happen when I was about to take my young college visitors on a tour to Kalawao! Still, it was providential that it happened here in Kalaupapa town rather than on the way. SS. Damien and Marianne were surely watching out for us. Then along came Meli and Randall Watanuki, like the Lone Ranger and Tonto riding to the rescue. Soon my young passengers were seated in the back of the Watanuki truck and we were on our way to Kalawao, the former settlement.

Earlier that Sunday morning, I had met John, Jared, Jennifer, and Ryan as they came off the Kalaupapa trail. They had been school friends on Oahu and are now in school in various colleges on the mainland U.S. For them this was an adventure as well as a pilgrimage. So they didn’t mind riding on the back of a truck on a dusty road. Young people are quite flexible and so they had no problem shifting gears as well as vehicles. After visiting St. Philomena Church in Kalawao as well as the graves of Father Damien, Father Shulte, Brother Dutton and our Sacred Hearts Brothers, we went on to Judd Park where we had lunch under the trees overlooking the landing area where many of the patients arrived at the Kalawao settlement in those early years. On the way back to Kalaupapa town we made the now customary hike to the Kauhako crater, the students shod only in their flip flops. Oh to be young again!

In the afternoon I left this energetic foursome at the base of the trail and headed for the airport to meet my classmate from St. Damien Church on Topside Molokai, Father Bill Petrie, SS.CC. He of the golden tongue and smooth flowing words had arrived to give the annual retreat to our young novice students, Matthew, Semisi and Esitio. So from Sunday to Friday they enjoyed the luxury of a beach house for their retreat. Some people have all the luck. LOL.

Since that eventful week, we have celebrated Pauline’s birthday at the pavilion overlooking the harbor. She is now 80 — going on 28. Tina has returned to topside Molokai to join her husband,Willie, in the workforce and Sister Sam has taken on a leadership role in Manoa, Oahu. She leaves me to keep an eye on Sister Theresa until a replacement arrives. I promise to keep both eyes on her! We all learn to shift gears here in one fashion or another and I have learned to do so also. Hey, after all, my Paddy Wagon is still in sick bay. Aloha.

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

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