‘All day, all night, Marianne’

“All day, all night, Marianne,
Down by the seaside siftin’ sand.
Even little children love Marianne,
Down by the seaside siftin’ sand.
When she walks along the shore, people pause to greet,
White birds fly around her; little fish come to her feet.”

So go some of the lines from one of my favorite popular songs from the ’50s, sung by the great Harry Belafonte amongst others. Now you may say that this is an unusual way to introduce the celebration of a saint. Yet that is precisely what I am doing as I think of Mother Marianne Cope, now St. Marianne, walking the beaches of Kalaupapa accompanied by little children while white egrets fly overhead and little fish caress her feet.

So it was that on Sunday morning, January 18, some of us residents of Kalaupapa waited at our little airport as several nine-seater planes touched down on the airstrip and we welcomed 60-plus pilgrims who had come to join us in celebrating the feast of St. Marianne for the third consecutive year. Bishop Larry Silva celebrated our Sunday Mass at 10:30 a.m. at St. Francis Church and gave his usual uplifting homily. After Mass we gathered at McVeigh Hall for a hearty meal provided by the Sisters of St. Francis.

Later that afternoon I went to the base of the trail from topside Molokai to meet Father James Peak, an army chaplain from Fairbanks, Alaska. He had hiked all the way from Hoolehua airport and for a time found himself surrounded by very tall grasses after he had made a wrong turn. He is lucky he was not kidnapped by the menehune (cousins of the leprechauns). He arrived tired but in great spirits, ready to walk on the ground once walked on by St. Damien and St. Marianne.

On the following Tuesday I had the pleasure to sponsor and host two of St. Marianne’s great nieces and a friend who had come from Maine and Vermont to visit this special place where St. Marianne had cared for so many children during the last 30 years of her life. It is a great privilege for me to be able to introduce pilgrims to this very special land of saints.

One can still walk the sandy beaches of Kalaupapa and see the little fish come to one’s feet. One can still see those beautiful white egrets on the fields of this settlement. However, one can no longer hear the laughter of little children in this settlement. Yet the memory of their voices lives on in the grassy confines of Bishop Home. Aloha.

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

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