I played around the monitor screen with my mouse and fiddled and diddled until I heard a voice, a familiar voice, the voice of Bishop Larry. Then the video screen began to fill up with the priests of our Vicariate.
I had reached the advertised “Get To Meeting” and there was Bishop Larry speaking to his priests by teleconference on the subject of COVID-19 and its consequences. I continued to fiddle and diddle like I was blind until I heard the bishop tell the group that Pat Killilea was on audio. I had unintentionally requested to speak and now I was on the spot.
So I said hello to my brother priests, answered bishop’s query in regard to our patients and gave my apology for appearing in “my house dress.” Bishop seemed amused and told me not to worry because he could not see me on the screen. Shortly thereafter I clicked myself on screen but made sure that I kept my big mouth shut. This was my first time on a teleconference.
Today as I meditated on the horizontal (that spells bed), I began to imagine how it would have been for Father Damien had he had in his time the possibility of Skyping and teleconferencing. It would have been fascinating to join in such a media wonder and to see him in action. He would, I am sure, address his superiors and civil authorities as “Your Excellency,” then tell it like it is in as civil a tone as he could muster. I don’t doubt that he would have used our modern methods of communication to further the cause of his afflicted people.
Today the sun shines brightly and warmly here in Kalaupapa and the palm trees sway gently in the breeze. On this workday it is quieter than usual because many of our workers have gone home to their families during this time of crisis, leaving a team of essential workers. Some do their work online. As of this time, there are no reports of anyone being sick from the Coronavirus. It is indeed ironic that the same cliffs and ocean that imprisoned so many victims of Hansen’s Disease on this peninsula over the years now help to protect us from this deadly virus.
The TV which brings us each day the stories of the spread of the virus throughout our world is silent at the moment. My computer is getting some rest before I put it to work to send out this script. My cats are all taking their afternoon siestas. The mynah birds, on the other hand, continue to squawk, doing their own teleconference, perhaps telling us that things will return to normal in our world in the Lord’s time. Let us all pray for that time.
Anchor columnist Father Patrick Killilea, SS.CC., is pastor of St. Francis Parish in Kalaupapa, Hawaii.