“Goin’ to the chapel and we’re gonna get married
Goin’ to the chapel and we’re gonna get married
Gee I really love you
And we’re gonna get married
Goin’ to the chapel of love.”

Many of us older folks will remember this hit song, “Chapel of Love” by the Dixie Cups, released in 1964. Today it most likely is the sentiments of many young brides to-be, whose wedding days had to be postponed because of COVID-19. Hopefully the prospective grooms feel the same way. This reminds me of the man who was asked, “When are you getting married?” He replied, “I’m waiting for a nice rich widow.” Now the church doors are about to open again in our diocese for wedding Masses and the grooms may be humming, “Here comes the bride.”

It is very unlikely that we will have any weddings in Kalaupapa this year but there have been many weddings here at St. Francis and St. Philomena over the past 100-plus years. We do not have any rich young widows here but we do have some golden-age ladies who graced our church Sanctuaries on their special days. I will not mention their names lest they give me the “business,” but we are happy that they are still with us. Some are still able to join us for Sunday Mass as we reopened for public Masses on Pentecost Sunday.

Today, on this date, May 25, as I pen these thoughts, I am reminded that on this same date 50 years ago, on the Feast of Pentecost, I knelt along with my classmates before the bishop in the seminary chapel in Cootehill, County Cavan, and was ordained to the priesthood. Little did I know then that one day I would find myself as the priest on the peninsula where two saints had walked and ministered to the unfortunate victims of the dreaded Hansen’s Disease. Little did I know that I would be on lock-down on this same peninsula along with our patients and workers for this long stretch of time.

My knees are not as flexible and my legs are not as sturdy as they were on that day in 1969, but they will take me in the direction of our church’s open door, for we are going to the chapel of love. 


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