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February 24, 2016 / cmfletcher

Saints and sinners

Today we went to the Kalaupapa peninsula in search of Father, now Saint, Damien. It was an interesting day in many, many ways. First of all the choice of transport; we chose airplanes. The high wing took us from Maui to Molokai topside in 25 minutes, the second took us from Molokai topside to the peninsula in a 6 minute flight. The two other ways to get there are hike or ride a mule down a trail from 1600 feet above with 26 switchbacks. That’s why we chose the plane.

223Tour bus.jpg

Tour bus

Once in Kalaupapa we got on the tour bus, then collected the hikers and mule riders. Apparently one woman hiker fell several times and the rangers were working out what to do. Evidence suggests they got her back topside, she never appeared on the peninsula.

The peninsula was the site of the original leper colony on the east side, Kalawao, where Fr Damien arrived and started working to help the sufferers. St Philomena Church is  a monument to his efforts, and the only building of the original settlement that remains standing.

Around 1890 the colony moved to the west side, Kalaupapa, and Mother Marianne Cope from a community based in Syracuse NY, came to help Fr. Damien. In 6 months she had raised more money for the patients than he had managed in 6 years. I think one of the reasons I am devoted to Fr. Damien is because he could be hard to get along with (like St Jerome, famous for his temper). I like cranky saints; they give me hope.

Today 13 patients still live in the colony, they have  been cured of  the disease thanks to the sulfone drugs, but they have the right to live there. The rest of the small population are either state workers or employees of the National Park Service. There are three landowners: the Hawaiian natives, the state of Hawaii and the Park service. No one knows what will happen when the last patient dies. Lots of developers are looking at the site and itching to add more resorts to Hawaii. Guess who I think are the sinners!

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