The Irish parliament (Dail) members were gathering for an important legislative session. As they all filed in to take their seats, there was a lot of semi-formal chatter with some money being exchanged. One member rushed in somewhat late, sat down, then, unsure what already happened, he leaned over to his neighbor and asked, “Has the meeting started yet?” The other member chuckled and said, “No, this is the time for placing of bets for the Sunday game.” Well, at least the Irish members of parliament get their priorities straight, unlike other gatherings of government representatives! All gatherings should be like that. Speaking of gatherings, we had our own version here in Kalaupapa recently and several of the participants were members of local governments.
First off the plane was the Lord Mayor of Tremelo, Bert de Wit, and council members of Tremelo, the home town of St. Damien. They had come on pilgrimage to visit the land once trod by Damien in the years spanning from 1873 to 1889. Shortly thereafter, Richard Bissen, the Mayor of Maui, arrived, as did our good bishop, the Most Reverend Larry Silva. Not to be outdone by these luminaries, the governor himself, Dr. Josh Green touched down in the company of some of his youthful assistants. Note that the island of Oahu is known as The Gathering Place because of its population, but on this day, Kalaupapa was the Gathering Place.
After Mass, celebrated by Bishop Silva at St. Damien’s Church, St Philomena in Kalawao, we had lunch at Judd Park, which is named after former Governor Lawrence Judd. Later he was superintendent of the settlement and made several positive changes in favor of the patients. He was revered by the Hansen’s Disease patients. Valerie Monson, from Maui, provided much valuable history of both the original and present settlements and we thank her for that, as we do for Deacon and Mrs. “Bambi” Emayo from Kauai who provided the meals in Damien Hall.
Governor Green and Mayor Bissen had to return to their islands and their offices that afternoon, but the Belgians stayed with us for some more adventures. Indeed, they stayed for a few nights to take in the sights and the fresh air of this peninsula, now referred to as Kalaupapa. They also wanted to experience the nightlife of our town. Where else would they see Axis deer roaming on our lawns under the Kalaupapa moon? How romantic!
Meanwhile, the Irish parliament is busy discussing the current weather, the upcoming rugby game and of course the price of Guinness and Jameson.
Anchor columnist, Father Killilea is pastor of St. Francis Church in Kalaupapa, Hawaii.