Voices that care

I stopped in my tracks as this blood-curdling scream came from the direction of the church hall (what we believe to have been the church St. Damien had built for the township of Kalaupapa). I retraced my steps to the hall fearing that I might find someone out cold on the floor and that I might have to administer artificial respiration to one of the choir ladies working in the kitchen. 

Thanks be to God I soon learned that my services would not be needed, at least medically, since the cause of that almighty scream had been a large rodent of the rattus family. It had propelled itself from behind some kitchen equipment in the general direction of one of the ladies, whose name I will not mention here.

This scream would be one of the high notes of the week and it was followed a few minutes later by a chorus of voices from the choir when the culprit reappeared momentarily. This choir from St. John Vianney Church in Kailua on Oahu has come to Kalaupapa faithfully in mid-July each year to provide us with beautiful music and to perform lots of service work for St. Francis Church in the course of a week. Its week of service is highlighted by the annual concert on Thursday evening followed by a delicious meal. In the course of the week the choir members wash and clean the inside and outside of St. Francis Church as well as my residence. Indeed they did such a good job on the walls of my room that their brightness made it difficult for me to get to sleep that night. These men and women certainly live out that song of the early 1990s, “Voices That Care.”

On Saturday morning these voices took a break from singing and washing to watch the unloading of our annual barge which delivers much of our yearly supplies to Damien’s Landing. This time around I missed the “Christmas in July” spectacle as I accompanied Bishop Larry and his pilgrimage for Mass at St. Philomena in Kalawao. It must have been a hectic morning on the pier since the barge was preparing to leave by the time I arrived back in Kalaupapa at about 12:15 p.m. I hope it did not leave behind any more members of the rattus family.

There are many ways that voices that care take on flesh in our world. We were reminded of this on Sunday when a group of young medical students from Honolulu, led by our own Dr. Kalani Brady, joined us for Mass. It was great to have them with us, joining us in singing, and reminding us of all those great young people who are dedicating themselves to the caring ministry in the medical field and elsewhere. It was truly inspirational. It was in the spirit of SS. Damien and Marianne. They are indeed voices that care. 

Aloha.

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

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