At the mid-afternoon Mass for the feast of Blessed Marianne of Molokai Jan. 23 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace, Bishop Larry Silva blended a handful of themes and events into a single message – “Christ’s love takes what is degraded and makes it glorious.”
In addition to commemorating Hawaii’s second candidate for sainthood, the bishop chose the occasion to incardinate two Filipino priests into the Diocese of Honolulu.
Bishop Silva started his homily on a harsh note, followed by a hopeful tone.
“I don’t know of any time in Catholic history when there was more bad publicity about Catholic priests,” he said, using the example of the recent clergy sex-abuse crisis.
“But in spite of that, the enrollment in seminaries is rising,” he said.
He spoke of how Blessed Marianne Cope, in answering the call to serve Hawaii’s sick, faced a disease that degraded the human body and responded with a love that glorified the human spirit.
The bishop tied the Franciscan sister’s unconditional response to the day’s Gospel story about the shoreline recruitment of the first Apostles.
“She too was smitten by the same love of Jesus that caused Peter, Andrew, James and John to leave all they had,” Bishop Silva said.
Bishop Silva continued his comparisons.
“There are a lot of things causing anxiety,” he said, going down a list of troubles that included “a very beloved priest who suddenly leaves the priesthood.”
“We are degraded in so many ways, but the Lord can make us glorious,” he said.
“We have so many challenges to face and yet we can get through them,” he said. “We can take what is degrading and make it glorious because we have the light that is Christ himself.”
The homily was followed by the incardination of Father Pascual Abaya and Father Mario Raquepo, both formerly of the Philippine Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia. Each stepped up to the altar, placed his right hand on the gold-covered book of the Gospels and pledged his allegiance to his new diocese and bishop.
The priests and bishop then signed papers on the altar to make it official. Father Raquepo has been in Hawaii for 21 years, Father Abaya for five.
The bishop compared the two priests’ 5,000-mile relocation to Hawaii from their Philippine homeland to Mother Marianne’s permanent move here from Syracuse, N.Y., which is 5,000 miles to the east.
Wearing shiny gold fabric leis, several dozen Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities, the new name for the Franciscan Sisters of Syracuse following their recent merger with other east coast communities, sat in pews on either side of the altar.
The church was packed for the music-rich liturgy. Twenty priests and a half-dozen deacons participated. Among the laity present were two relatives of Blessed Marianne, her great, great grandniece Margaret Burnett and great, great grandnephew Dr. Paul DeMare.
Near the end of Mass, the bishop announced that the Sisters of St. Francis would be donating in May a first class relic of Blessed Marianne to the Diocese of Honolulu. The relic will be carried to each island for veneration before it is housed in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace.
Tentative plans have the diocese “officially” receiving it in Honolulu on May 6. It would be taken for celebrations that evening to Topside Molokai and the next day to Kalaupapa. It would then be carried to the rest of the neighbor islands, arriving back in Honolulu for a Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace the evening of May 13, in anticipation of the sixth anniversary of Mother Marianne’s beatification on May 14.
It will remain permanently enshrined in the cathedral, which is already the home for a relic of St. Damien.
The bishop also brought to the Mass a packet of material about Blessed Marianne he is mailing to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in the hope it will persuade the bishops to put Blessed Marianne’s Jan. 23 feast day on the nation’s liturgical calendar.
He asked the cathedral congregation to pray for the success of the appeal.
The American bishops narrowly voted down an earlier request.
Printed with permission from the Hawaii Catholic Herald, newspaper for the Diocese of Honolulu.