|St. Mary's parishioners on a visit to Hawaii pose with |
Father Patrick Killilea, second from far left.Photo courtesy of Lillian Desrosiers
Affectionately referred to by parishioners as "Father Pat," Killilea served at St. Mary's in Fairhaven for 13 years before he moved to the St. Francis Parish in Molokai in June. He requested the move to Molokai in part because of its connection to St. Damien, who built the St. Francis Parish and lived there from 1873 until his death. Damien, also a father of the Sacred Heart Congregation, spent his days at Kalaupapa, an isolated peninsula of the island, caring for residents of a leper colony.
In previous eras, those with leprosy, also called Hansen's Disease, were sent to secluded colonies in order to avoid infecting others. Damien worked with those who were infected and ultimately succumbed to the disfiguring disease himself.
Trip organizer Charlie Murphy said he had planned to lead a mission to Molokai to teach congregants about Damien's life and work even before Killilea announced his move. The trip was postponed from August to October in order to give Killilea more time to settle in before receiving visitors.
The reunion was a happy one, Murphy said. "He greeted us wearing a Hawaiian shirt; he fits right in." Murphy said. In Kalaupapa, Killilea led Mass for the pilgrims. "That was my favorite part of the whole trip," Murphy said. "There was such a sense of peace about some people in my life who have recently passed away. "I could feel their presence and just a calming effect that they are in a good spot," he said. Lillian Desrosiers also said she was moved by the Mass, which was "a touching moment to stand there and to worship in the church that so many thousands of people with Hansen's Disease once stood and prayed in and hoped for a cure. "I will never forget that experience," she said.
In addition to visiting Killilea in Kalaupapa, the parishioners also went to other famous sites in Hawaii, including Pearl Harbor. "The contrast between being at this colony with people dying this slow death and then going to Pearl Harbor when you have this huge amount of people who died in seconds was very moving," Desrosiers said. "It changes you." Murphy said he was struck by the generosity of the people the Fairhaven residents encountered. In Molokai, he said, the church threw a potluck dinner for the visitors and presented them with leis made from shells. Desrosiers, who volunteers as a eucharistic minister at a nursing home, said she returned to Fairhaven newly inspired to help others. "It makes you realize that we are all a little bit selfish with our time," she said. "But Damien stopped at nothing to help others and gave his life for it. It just shows you that God wouldn't give you more challenges than He knew I could overcome."
By ARIEL WITTENBERG email@example.com
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