I was here in my easy chair, where I tend to think better, when they burst onto the scene. Some were carrying white buckets while others were toting back tanks from which hoses protruded. They looked like ghostbusters. I wondered if they had been sent here by the Board of Health to fumigate the church property or perhaps the resident pastor himself. Then I recognized their supervisor was Kaohulani. So I felt safe to go out to meet and greet them.
In actuality these “ghostbusters” are a group of students from the University of Hawaii at Hilo on the Big Island. They are with us for a couple of weeks spraying and scrubbing the many grave markers of the peninsula under the guidance of Kaohulani McGuire of the National Park Service.
They seem to enjoy their work, judging by their laughter, and there is no need for Kaohulani to crack the whip. After I had encouraged them with my signature greeting, “Let us Spray!” they did just that as they went to work cleaning the concrete base of the Sacred Heart statue on our front lawn.
While these young students work on the graves, (I do not know if they have encountered any spirits) Deacon Mike Shizuma from St. Damien Church on Topside has been laboring over a hot stove at McVeigh Hall in an effort to keep their growing bodies nourished and healthy. All of this is happening here in this peninsula where we are cut off from the rest of the outside world by sheer cliffs and the surrounding ocean, even as the feared virus, COVID-19, is ravaging much of the civilized world. We are blessed to be living in the land of Saints Damien and Marianne.
Here in Kalaupapa tours are not operating at this time, we are not receiving visitors and we are not celebrating public Masses at the directive of Bishop Larry Silva and his advisers. Other than that life goes on as usual. The grocery store shelves are stocked with the usual items including the all-important tissues. My third feline, Mr. Gray, has returned to my front porch after being AWOL for some weeks and the landline is working again.
For these and all our blessings we thank the Lord, St. Damien and St. Marianne, as well as the ghostbusters of Kalaupapa.
Anchor columnist Father Patrick Killilea, SS.CC., is pastor of St. Francis Parish in Kalaupapa, Hawaii.