Precious memories

“Precious memories, unseen angels, sent from somewhere to my soul. How they linger, ever near me, and the Sacred past unfolds.”

We could say that these lines from a traditional Gospel song, written by J.B.F. Wright in 1925, and put to music by great vocalists such as Jim Reeves, Aretha Franklin and Alan Jackson, echo the sentiments and the feelings we experienced here at St. Francis Church on Wednesday evening, November 14, as we remembered and celebrated the 130th anniversary of St. Marianne Cope’s arrival in Kalaupapa.

That evening Mother Marianne, played by Eva Andrade, was first observed at the Kalaupapa pier. Shortly thereafter she appeared at the church door and entered St. Francis Church, the main Catholic church of this peninsula, and slowly walked up the center aisle until she reached the altar. There she took a seat facing the congregation and greeted us warmly. Then she took some questions regarding her coming to Hawaii with her Sisters in 1883 and her memories of 30 years of caring for the victims of Hansen’s Disease in Kalaupapa from her arrival in 1888 to the time of her death in 1918. Suffice it to say that the interaction between Mother Marianne and her interviewers was much more cordial than that experienced in the news conferences at the White House in Washington.

After Mother Marianne had completed her press conference, she led us to Damien Hall (originally Damien’s church) next door where Sisters Alicia Damien and Barbara Jean had organized a fabulous meal. By the way it is always good to get a free meal, especially considering my own personal talents, or lack of them, at cooking. When most of us had satisfied our stomachs, Sister Alicia conducted the drawings of the raffle she had organized.

 Then it was time to talk story and reminisce on the events of the day and the memory of St. Marianne. It had been a great evening for all of us and especially for our Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities whose saint we had celebrated and whose memory we had invoked.

“Precious memories, how they linger, how they ever flood my soul. In the stillness of the midnight, precious Sacred scenes unfold.”

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

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