Kalaupapa Journey


(Students from bottom Left, counter-clockwise) Naomi, Pomai, Ani, Chardonnay, Taylor, Nins, De’Andre, Nick. (Retreat Leader Top Left) Danny O’Regan

Moloka’i is a beautiful island next to the Southeast side of Oahu. Moloka’i is not known for it’s tourist attractions, nor the beautifully built resorts on the beach. Molokai is most noted for having had one of the largest communities comprised of Native Hawaiians whom were banished for having leprosy.

Leprosy is a horrifying disease in which the skin forms lesions all over the body. If left untreated, the damage to the skin would cause overall body malfunction to the nerves, arms, legs, and eyes. This would be equated to the modern day “zombie” phenomena, minus the grunting and eating the flesh off of live people.

Leprosy was first found in Hawaii, in 1848. By that time, it was too late for the Hawaiians to stop the disease from rapidly spreading to local family members and friends. King Kamehameha was forced to gather all the people reported to have contracted the disease. He shipped them off to Kalaupapa in 1866. At that time no cure was developed.

In May of 1873, Father Damien, originally from Tremeloo, Belgium, decided that there was more in life that he needed to do. While on his mission in beautiful Honolulu, Father Damien chose apply his services, and heart, in a place that truly needed it. He packed up and went to the Leprosy Colony in Kalaupapa. There he helped the Lepers build a Church, a Library, homes, stores, and a new civilized life on Moloka’i. Father Damien contracted leprosy and died in 1889. Today the disease is dormant and no longer has the ability to be spread through human contact.

Chaminade University is a school that upholds Marianist values by encouraging students to give back to the community through getting involved in different projects. Going on a retreat to start off a break was one of the best ways to lead into the final stretch of the semester.

This Spring Break me and seven other students were given the opportunity to see a whole new life on Moloka’i. A life lived by very few lepers today. The experience was something to be remembered by each student involved. “Kalaupapa is a wonderful place to visit because of the beautiful scenery, cheerful people, and provides time to self that increases your oneness with God,” says Nina a senior at Chaminade.

While in Moloka’i students met with locals in the leprosy community. Edwin was one of the nine people infected with leprosy living in Kalaupapa, HI. When reminiscing about his past, he was happy and passionate about the life that he lived and is currently fulfilling. Edwin inspires deep compassion within people because he saw many of his family and friends die from leprosy. Edwin’s stories leave many longing to hear the journey experienced by the lepers and see life through their lenses. Campus Ministry Retreat leader, Danny O’Regan, said, “Meeting Edwin was a highlight of my trip. He is a man who came when he was 12 years old and is now 85. He told so many stories of his journey.”

Another individual the students met along the way was Sister Teresa. She presently works and lives at the church. Sister Teresa talked about the life lived by many people. She further inspired those students, including me, to ponder the blessings in my life God has given me today. While I am thankful that a zombie-esque disease no longer runs rampant through society, the best message I received during the Kalaupapa trip was from Sister Teresa. She told students, “Do the best that you can in the situation you are in.”

The trip to Kalaupapa was not all business for us students. We were given great opportunities to do some community service, relax on the beach, jump off the pier, and hike the crater or the lighthouse. I highly encourage students to go on retreats but come prepared with survival gear in case a zombie apocalypse happens.