Saturday, November 7th, marked the formal close of months of celebratory activities surrounding the sainthood of Joseph Damien de Veuster at the Vatican in Rome on October 11th. In stunning contrast to the regal setting of the holy city, filled with ancient architectural and artistic wonders, Kalaupapa’s November 7th celebration was nestled within a backdrop of Molokai’s unparalleled natural splendor and steeped in a profound sense of place, history and aloha, bringing this long-awaited commemoration full circle back to the place where it all began.
“Today is about the Kalaupapa patient residents, and about helping our kupuna [elders] and their invited guests honor Saint Damien’s legacy as a ‘Servant of God and Servant of Humanity,’” explained superintendent Steve Prokop.
Arriving by charter plane and via the historic Kalaupapa Pali (cliff) Trail, visitors began their descent onto Moloka`i’s renowned north shore peninsula with the rising sun. This remote Kalaupapa Peninsula is the place where Damien’s work first began attracting world-wide attention to the plight of local islanders forced into exile after having contracting leprosy (Hansen’s disease).
Prior to an outdoor mass on the historic St. Philomena Church grounds, visitors enjoyed refreshments and interpretive displays on recent preservation work completed on St. Philomena Church. Bishop Larry Silva and clergy presided over the service, which included contributions from residents Pauline Chow and Gloria Marks, St. John’s Vianney Choir and prominent leaders of Kalaupapa’s other religious and secular organizations.
Na Wahine o Kalawao delivered a moving hula performance to the piece entitled “Saint Damien” while the winds stirred suddenly and the crowd was showered with a gentle “Hawaiian blessing”. Mass was followed by a good old fashioned lu`au feast, live music and educational exhibits on Saint Damien and resident life at Kalaupapa. Sharing words on this joyful commemoration, Kalaupapa resident Kay Costales recited, “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad.”