I was awakened by the loud “meow” of a cat in the near vicinity of my room. In my semi-wakefulness, I thought I was back in my own bed in Kalaupapa. I was surprised that one of my seven mousketeers would cry out in the middle of the night like that. They are very disciplined. Then it came clear to my feeble mind that I was not in my own bed but rather in another bed on a different  island. A little Irish medicine may have affected my sleep mode as well as my awakening! This was my first night in the retreat house on Oahu.

It sits on a gradual incline in the rain forest of Kalihi Valley. It opened in 1909 as an orphanage and was constructed by our good Sacred Hearts Brothers. Since then, it has been enlarged and now serves as a retreat house run by our good Sacred Hearts Sisters. It is surrounded by lush green foliage and beautifully landscaped by the staff workers. Birds fill the air with their heavenly music while the roosters make it known that they are lords of their territory. Meantime, the Kalihi Stream wanders lazily by the edge of the property. This is St. Anthony Retreat Center.

Retreatants come to St. Anthony for various reasons, some to renew their spiritual lives, some to get away from their hectic lives for a bit, some to share their lives with others and some to simply enjoy the heavenly beauty of the place itself. Some come to find peace and others to be renewed in the hope of a better future.

Living as I do on my own in Kalaupapa, I appreciate being able to get together with my Brothers of the Sacred Hearts on special occasions. We share some laughs and “talk story,” as the residents of these islands put it and we imbibe a little medicine to keep the vocal cords lubricated. For this I thank Sister Ivy, Sr. Jane Francis and Sister Marie who share this beautiful property with us for the better part of a week. Until the next time in the Valley of Peace and Hope, 

Aloha.

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