Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A Welcoming Parish In A Distant Land

Upon entering the parish church of St. Catherine's in Kapaa, Kauai for Sunday Mass, a greeter approaches each visitor and places a lei made of shells around their neck. There is a ribbon attached to the lei which says, St. Catherine Church, Kapaa, Kauai, Hawaii. A very welcoming and thoughtful gesture. Then before Mass begins all visitors are asked to stand and the priests, the deacon and parishioners welcome them. I was impressed but that was only the beginning. First Holy Communion was celebrated at that Mass. After Communion, the children stood before the congregation and sang a song with hand gestures. It was beautiful. The song,  Let Our God Shine Through You, was one I had never heard before. The reason I never heard of it was because it was composed by a third grade student from St. Catherine's School. She was asked to stand, as she was in the children's choir and she was applauded. It's a wonderful song for children to sing at First Holy Communion. I imagine it will be copyrighted and published in the future. 
On the way out of Church, a priest handed us holy cards, one of them was the Lord's Prayer in Hawaiian. Another one was a holy card of "The Compassionate Christ," a sketch by Jean Charlot. On the bottom it was written, .....with aloha from St. Catherine Church. 
It was a very positive experience. It is so important to create welcoming communities in our parishes. It means so much to people to feel welcome and appreciated. Sometimes it just takes a little effort and thought.
One day as my cousin drove us around the scenic island of Kauai, I saw a sign that said, "St. Raphael-Oldest Catholic Church in Kauai. It wasn't on the agenda for the day, but I wouldn't of missed it, so we followed the signs until we arrived at the Church in Koloa. It was open, so we were able to say prayers, get some literature and of course, leave donations. Kauai was discovered by Captain Cook in 1778. The first Catholic missionaries arrived in Hawaii in 1827, but they were forced to leave because of anti-Catholic sentiment that had already been "planted" in Hawaii. Religious liberty for Catholics came to Hawaii in 1839 when a commander of a French warship threatened war against the Hawaiian kingdom if Catholics were not granted the same religious freedom as Protestants. Fr. Walsh celebrated the first Mass on Kauai on Christmas Day 1841, shortly after establishing the Mission of St. Raphael the Archangel. Interesting history gathered from an informational guide available at the Church. Raphael in Hebrew means, "God has healed." (As you probably know, only three angels-archangels are mentioned in Scripture: Michael, the famous Gabriel (the angel of the Annunciation) and Raphael.)
Joy be to thee always.......(Tob. 5:11)
For I am the angel Raphael, one of seven, who stand before the Lord. 
(Tobias 12:15)