My guest for the interview segment this week is Sue Ferandin, the vibrant and wonderfully caring executive director in Hawaii of AEF – the Augustine Educational Foundation – a foundation whose mission is to make Catholic education more affordable for families in Hawaii.

Sue and I met during my recent visit to Honolulu when Bishop Larry Silva invited me to attend the September 13 AEF donor appreciation reception. She was a speaker at this event, as was the bishop. I was enthralled by her words and her mission. I told Sue I’d love to have her as a guest on Vatican Insider to speak about AEF and her work.

When we spoke in her office at the St. Stephen Diocesan Center on September 20, I told her I was still very, very touched by last week’s reception, in particular the young people whom I met who were recipients of AEF scholarships and aid. In fact, one of the young people, Brittany, also addressed the group at the reception, and her story brought tears to not a few eyes. You will hear Sue and I talk about that.

The students who receive AEF aid attend a retreat every year. This year one of their activities was to make a cross and to explain in writing what the colors they used meant, what went through their mind as they made the cross and what the cross tells people about themselves. These wonderful young people – whose lives have been changed by AEF and who themselves are changing lives – decided to give the proceeds of the cross sales to Make A Wish foundation in Hawaii.

I bought four of the crosses – one for me and three for very special destinations. Here are the stories of those crosses and the young people who made them:

To learn more about this amazing foundation, visit their web page:

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An acquaintance of mine, four-star Admiral Harry Harris, Jr. CINCPAC (Commander in Chief Pacific) yesterday at a Change of Command ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, turned command over to Navy Adm. Philip Davidson.

As are most military ceremonies, I could attest how inspiring it was because a friend sent me the DOD link to the video of the ceremony and I enjoyed “returning” to a base I know well, having a number of Navy friends in Honolulu. It was also fun to see another friend, Fr. John Shimotsu as he gave the invocation.

I first met Admiral Harris when he commanded the Sixth Fleet and was based in Naples and Gaeta. We met on a day that was dedicated to a former Navy Chaplain, Fr. Vincent Capodanno, who was killed in Vietnam on September 4, 1967. Ceremonies were held in Gaeta (where the Capodanno family had roots) in September in 2011 to mark that anniversary and there was a large component of the Sixth Fleet present for the daylong events that began with a Mass presided by Cardinal Raymond Burke.

Actually the day began with breakfast at a hotel garden where many of the guests were staying who had come from Rome for the occasion. That was the first time I met Adm. Harris and his wife Bruni – we shared a few other moments during the day and then had lunch aboard the USS Mount Whitney. Not a lot of time but enough to begin to understand what a thoroughly delightful person Harry Harris was, as well as one of the most brilliant people to ever command a Navy fleet. A bit of that came out in conversations but I had also started to follow his career through a mutual friend of ours – and it was Ted who sent me the link to the Change of Command ceremony.

We next met several years ago at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. I was in Honolulu on my by-now annual retreat to this island paradise. I knew Adm. Harris had been here for a few years and I emailed him and asked if I could come by and say “aloha,” and so it was that we re-connected in his office. I remember quite well that part of our conversation focused on the cause for canonization of Fr. Capodanno: the admiral wanted to understand what a cause was and asked at what stage was Fr. Vincent’s cause.

“Souvenirs” of the visit:

Also present was out mutual friend, Navy chaplain Fr. Shimotsu.

Admiral Harris’ illustrious 40-year career with the Navy ended yesterday, but President Trump has nominated him to be the U.S. ambassador to Korea, thus a life of service will continue.

I am sure that, at some point in his time as ambassador, he will be able to meet the Holy See’s new ambassador to Korea. Archbishop Alfred Xuereb.

I’ll be praying for both of them.

PS. Following is a link to the DOD video of the Change of Command ceremony. If you have military in your family, you might enjoy this. I found it riveting because I know Admiral Harris, I know the Navy base and I know Honolulu. What is really worthwhile are the speeches of the outgoing and incoming commanders and that of Defense Secretary James Mattis, especially if you are interested in US foreign and defense policy.



I returned to Rome Friday after a wonderful visit with family, including a First Communion celebration for my great-niece Cece, a visit to the 4th grade classroom of my great-nephew Emory, 10, at St. Monica’s school in Whitefish Bay near Milwaukee, a birthday party for his 12-year old brother Cole, a touch of pre-graduation celebrations for soon-to-be 14-year old Brogan and a May crowning ceremony.

St. Monica’s is one of the most vibrant parishes and schools I’ve ever encountered. I keep up with news and events through my niece Christie and, when I’m at their home, by talking to the kids or visiting the school. Mass is the first order of the day every Tuesday but on the Tuesday after a First Communion celebration, there is the annual May crowning ceremony.

Did I mention sports – soccer and baseball games and track and field! The four kids are on the go every waking moment or so it seems. Never a dull moment during my Wisconsin stay!

Stay right here as I’ll have a really wonderful story for you tomorrow about St. Monica’s 4th grade class and a special assignment they were given!

My time in Fox Point and Whitefish Bay was a mini family reunion with my niece Christie and her husband Bryan, Christie’s two sisters, their husbands and children (I have 23 great-nieces and -nephews and No. 24 is due June 11), Bryan’s folks and several of his sisters and my own sister Gail and her husband Paul who were in town from California.

A few photos of the countless happy moments with all the generations present –

I start with this beautiful description of his family by Brogan –

And then – let the celebrations begin!


I am sure most of you have seen images of the eruption of the Kilauea volcano on the Hawaiian island of Hawaii, called the Big Island by residents. I’ve been following the news because of my many friends in the islands, though almost all of them are on Oahu or Molokai. However, one good friend, Maryknoll Father Clyde Phillips lives on the Big Island and I wrote to ask about the situation.

If his name seems familiar to some of you, Fr. Clyde was in Rome for many years and often could be found saying Mass at Santa Susanna in the years before that church closed and Americans moved to St. Patrick’s.

Father Clyde answered yesterday just before leaving California where he had been on assignment. He wrote: “My brother has been keeping me abreast of the situation with the volcanic eruptions. I feel sad for those who lost their homes, now over 2 dozen and counting, as well as those displaced by the lava flows. As for me, I live about 45 miles from the eruptions and our area is considered safe as we are along the Hamakua Coast. But of recent days, the Volcano National Park is closed as they expect a catastrophic eruption to happen. Again, I am safe but others living the area are not. The 6.9 earthquake did no damage to the house as it is made of wood as it weathered the quake. But things were moved around in the house and no breakage.”

Even since that email, more fissures have been noted in the volcano and continual evacuation alerts are going out. We must remember these people in our prayers. One friend told me that a volcanic eruption is far worse than a hurricane or tornado that destroys a home because volcanic eruptions and lava flows destroy more than homes – they destroy the land – there is therefore no land on which to rebuild.


Pope Francis tweeted today: When we pray, we need to have the courage of faith. Have trust that the Lord hears us!


My special guest this week on Vatican Insider is Audrey Toguchi of Honolulu. It was her miraculous cure from cancer that led to the canonization in 2009 of Blessed Damien of Molokai, and Audrey tells us her story. The Italian word for the person undergoing what has been recognized as a miraculous cure is “miracolata.”

Last week you met Kate Mahony whose miraculous cure from a total organ shutdown through the intercession of Mother Marianne Cope of Molokai led to her beatification in 2005. Years before meeting Kate, however, I met another woman, Audrey and heard her story.

Two women, two miracolata….

I saw both of them at the recent Damien and Marianne Catholic Conference in Honolulu, and that is where I interviewed Kate. I saw Audrey a number of times in that period and listened to her story – not the first time I had heard it. That was in 2008, my first trip to Hawaii when I met Audrey and her husband Yuki.

We met again when they came to Rome with a Hawaii delegation for Damien’s canonization in 2009. I interviewed Audrey at that time and that is the conversation you will hear today.

Audrey and I had quality time together in Honolulu on my recent visit but our conference schedule was so busy that I did not have time to interview her. However her story, be it 2009 or today, is the same. So stay tuned as Audrey and I talk in Rome in 2009 right after Fr. Damien’s canonization. Hear how she became aware of Fr. Damien at the age of 8 when the ship bearing his remains came into Honolulu harbor on a trip that would return Damien to his native Belgium…..that and much more.

This was taken at a farewell dinner given for me by my friends Trip and Jan McKinney just hours before my departure for Rome. Audrey and her husband could not stay for dinner. Audrey is seated between Jan and me, and Yuki is standing next to Trip

In the second photo you see Kate Mahoney, her mother Mary and a priest from the diocese of Syracuse, early home to St. Marianne and home of her Franciscan sisters. Fr. Andrew Baranski. The sun had set, as you can tell! This lanai overlooks Pearl Harbor, gorgeous at night!

In the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio. Outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:00am (ET). On the SKY satellite feed to the UK and parts of Europe, VI airs on audio channel 0147 at 11:30 am CET on Saturdays, and 5:30am and 10pm CET on Sundays. It’s also available on demand on the EWTN app and on the website. CHECK YOUR TIME ZONE. Here’s a link to download VI to your iTunes library:   For VI archives:


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for all those cardinals and bishops who have died over the past year. During his homily the Pope reflected on the reality of death, but he also reminded us of the promise of eternal life which is grounded in our union with the risen Christ. Linda Bordoni reports for Vatican Radio:

“Today’s celebration,” Pope Francis said, “once more sets before us the reality of death.  It renews our sorrow for the loss of those who were dear and good to us.” But more importantly, reflecting on the liturgical reading of the day, he said it increases our hope for them and for ourselves, as it expresses speaks of the  resurrection of the just.

The resurrection of the just

“They are the multitude,” Franicis continued, “that, thanks to the goodness and mercy of God, can experience the life that does not pass away, the complete victory over death brought by the resurrection”. And recalling Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross the Pope said that “by His love, He shattered the yoke of death and opened to us the doors of life”.

Our faith in the resurrection opens the doors to eternal life

The faith we profess in the resurrection, Pope Francis explained, makes us men and woman of hope, not despair, men and women of life, not death, for we are comforted by the promise of eternal life, grounded in our union with the risen Christ. He urged the faithful to be trusting in the face of death as Jesus has shown us that death is not the last word. Our souls, he said, thirst for the living God whose beauty, happiness, and wisdom has been impressed on the souls of our brother cardinals and bishops whom we remember today.

Hope does not disappoint

Pope Francis concluded giving thanks for their generous service to the gospel and the Church and reminding those present that Hope never disappoints.


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has released a video message accompanying his monthly prayer intention for November 2017.

This month’s intention is for Evangelization: To Witness to the Gospel in Asia. That Christians in Asia, bearing witness to the Gospel in word and deed, may promote dialogue, peace, and mutual understanding, especially with those of other religions

The text of the video message reads:

The most striking feature of Asia is the variety of its peoples who ar  heirs of ancient cultures, religions and traditions.On this continent where the Church is a minority, the challenges are intense. We must promote dialogue among religions and cultures.
Let us pray that Christians in Asia may promote dialogue, that peace and mutual understanding, especially with those of other religions

The Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network of the Apostleship of Prayer developed the “Pope Video” initiative to assist in the worldwide dissemination of monthly intentions of the Holy Father in relation to the challenges facing humanity.




The Damien and Marianne Catholic Conference ended this morning with the third very special liturgy of the weekend. There was a Hawaiian Mass Friday, a Tonga celebration yesterday and the closing Mass this afternoon that featured various cultural elements and many languages.

To experience the Universal Church right here in the United States, in the very multi-cultural state of Hawaii was truly a joy. The beauty of the various languages and dress, the cultural customs incorporated into the Mass, the wonderful music, the pre-celebration dance by young children before our opening Mass, gave such a rich meaning to the Mass.

The Tongan Mass was so special. The Tongans create very special coverings for the altar, the chair of the main celebrant, the ambo and, in one photo you will see, a small podium with a box on top containing relics of St. Damien had its own covering and was surrounded by a lei as well.

Flowers in the form of leis play a huge role in all ceremonies in Polynesian cultures. In Hawaii, the placing of a lei over the head and around the shoulders of a person exemplifies the bestowing of honor and respect, and also the spirit of aloha. According to Hawaiian tradition, the maile was the lei for people of all classes and all occasions. The maile is a long-lasting lei and probably the oldest and most popular material used in leis by the early Hawaiians. It is an open-ended horseshoe fashion lei made of the spicy scented green maile stems and leaves.

The maile is most often reserved for memorable occasions. It is known to many as the “lei of royalty,” given to signify respect and honor. The maile is very popular at weddings, graduations and especially proms. On the US mainland, young men usually receive a boutonniere from their prom dates. In Hawaii, they are presented with a maile lei. Wedding leis are a Hawaiian wedding tradition. The maile is the most traditional wedding lei, as it was used by the Kahuna (Hawaiian priest) in old Hawaii to bind the hands of the bride and groom, symbolizing their commitment to each other.

I was blessed to receive 7 leis in two days, one of which was a maile. In the days fo the monarch, only royalty could wear these, never the ordinary people.

Conference organizers prepared more than 50 informative, inspiring sessions by local, national and international presenters over a three-day period, with the goal of transforming the lives of attendees. The sessions covered a broad range of topics, including leadership development, faith formation, spirituality, youth and young adult programs, and social services, and inspiring talks on sainthood, pointing to the lives of Damien and Marianne.

I had so hoped to bring you numerous Facebook Live posts but FB Live never worked in the convention center! In my condo, on the street, in a restaurant or store, yes, but never the center. Here, however, a few photos from the Tongan Mass:

Conference president, Makaka Aiona, said organizers hoped to keep the conference practical with principles that attendees could apply right away. “Our goal was to show the relevance and role of Saints Damien and Marianne in addressing the challenges we face every day in our families, homes and community.”

Some of the featured speakers we heard over these three days:

Very special guest and liturgical celebrant; Cardinal Soane Patita Mafi of Tonga: you will hear directly from him on my EWTN radio program, Vatican Insider.

Father William Petrie (a very close friend of mine for many years) shared his experiences as a Sacred Heart priest involved with Hansen’s disease patients for 25 years in India in a sponsored ministry of St. Teresa of Calcutta. He also served as pastor at St. Damien Church on Molokai for five years. Mother Teresa said: “I have to become holy in the state of life I live, and you must become holy in the state of life you live.”

Sister Alicia Damien Lau, (also a good friend from my visits here to learn about St. Marianne) – a Sister of St. Francis, she offered practical advice on how to follow in the footsteps of a saint by showing how the decisions we make every day can make a positive difference.  She retraces the life of an ordinary woman called to live the gospels to the fullest and experienced true spirituality as she reached out in faith and love to restore dignity, grace and healing to the outcasts in Kalaupapa, Molokai.

Dr. Edward Sri, theologian, best-selling author and well-known Catholic speaker who appears regularly on EWTN television, provided sessions on how love in marriages can be transformative and life-giving.  He teaches that falling in love is easy; growing in love is more difficult.

Teens often feel their families are dysfunctional and an impossible challenge and Paul J. Kim, international speaker, musician, and licensed marriage and family therapist had a session on how God can make beautiful things come out of the ugliest situations.

Jackie Angel, Catholic musician, singer, songwriter, speaker, and youth minister, showed God’s plan for romantic relationships to avoid heartache and pain.

Dr. H. Anthony Chan gave tips on how even with a very busy life and a demanding career in science and engineering research, he has found peace in the sacraments and Eucharistic adoration – something that has changed his life and he is changing lives!

Patrick Boland – (A new friend as I am an ‘ex officio’ member of the Joseph Dutton Guild) Patrick first visited Kalaupapa 50 years ago, and has been absorbed by the stories and the people of the place ever since.  He has been a board member of the Damien Museum and Archives, a member of Ka `Ohana O Kalaupapa, the Bishop’s Damien/Marianne Commission and now the Joseph Dutton Guild.  On occasion, he is a driver/guide for Damien Tours; a tour service at Kalaupapa that was started by patient Richard Marks 51 years ago.

Maria Devera  – (I am also blessed to have Maria as a very dear and close friend) a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist whose journey has taken her to Loma Linda University Medical Center and Pediatrics, Child Psychiatry at Stanford University Medical Center and work in many communities in California before living in Hawaii. For the past 12 and a half years she has worked at Schofield Barracks Pediatric Clinic serving military families in Hawaii, in particular veterans returning from war zones, and her faith community. She has a passion for Brother Joseph Dutton and is a member of the Guild for his cause for canonization.

Audrey Toguchi – (one of my dearest friends) – Hawaii resident and retired school teacher whose recovery from lung cancer a decade ago stunned her doctor and was ruled a miracle by the Vatican. A warm, loving, humble lady, Audrey is a living, walking, talking phenomenon of Hawaiian history. She weaves Hawaiian history and her knowledge of St. Damien into a riveting story.

Kate D. Mahoney – The author of The Misfit Miracle Girl, Candid Reflections and an international speaker who travels the country to share anecdotes from life as patient and caregiver- it’s crisis, but with jazz hands. She is on a mission to inspire audiences across the globe sharing candid reflections and her miracle story – her miraculous cure from total bodily function shutdown due to the intercession of St. Marianne Cope.

Cardinal Mafi (l) and Honolulu Bishop Larry Silva (note the leis)

Audrey (l) and Kate – they just met for the first time!

Yours truly –



October 16th has always had a special place in my mind and my heart as it was on that day, 39 years ago, that a Polish cardinal was elected to the See of Peter and took the names John Paul II. I was actually in Cairo, Egypt the night he was elected and that in itself is a great story – but for another day.

I followed almost every day of St. John Paul’s magnificent papacy, and our lives intertwined a number of times during the years I worked in the Vatican. When I tell people those stories, they always say “God bless you!”  And I reply, “He really has!”

As a saint, he is now with us, more than ever. Someone to pray to and someone whose life (and death) can be an inspiration!


Yesterday was a remarkable day, as I posted on Facebook during my travels….travels that encompassed 4 cities (Rome, Frankfurt, San Francisco and Honoulu) and 12 time zones in 24 hours!

I was tired but, oddly enough, not exhausted and attribute some of that to PMA, a Positive Mental Attitude. I try to immediately adjust to where I am, not think about what time it is where I came from, and then just proceed as normal. I went to a local ABC store, got things for breakfast, had a sandwich for dinner and then unpacked.

As you know, I’m here for this weekend’s Saints Damien and Marianne Catholic Conference at the convention center. I’ve already been in touch with my friends here and with conference organizers and things look very promising – lots of enthusiasm about the conference guest speakers (

As I was about to get off the plane in San Francisco, I told the attendant who had been such a jewel on the flight from Frankfurt that I still had a six-hour flight ahead of me to Honolulu. A woman in the seat in front of me remarked how lucky I was to be going there, I agreed and explained I was going to attend a conference and give a talk. She asked the subject and I replied that I’d be speaking on how to become a saint! The woman smiled and said she wished she could attend the conference, and then asked me to tell her how one becomes a saint. I said, “If by chance you’re on the flight to Hawaii, I can explain!”

As I sit at a table in the wonderful condo of a good friend to write this column, I once again marvel at the beauty of this land I love. Windows surround me, and everywhere I look, I see the Pacific Ocean, the white, foamy surf, the surfers on big, crashing waves, the sunbathers on Waikiki beach, the palm trees and my favorite, the plumeria trees. And then there’s Diamond Head, an extinct volcanic crater and surely Hawaii’s most famous landmark. It is directly in front of me as I write these lines.

As the saying goes, “Life’s a beach”

It’s also  –

And Diamond Head –

And St. Augustine Church –

And –

This was the first photo I ever took of Diamond Head –

As I was going through my photos, I found this picture from a previous trip and only now realize the tall building on the right is where I am staying – the penultimate floor (above me is the penthouse)

I found the following on a site about historic Pacific parks: Lē‘ahi is the traditional Hawaiian place name for the crater. It is said that Hi’iaka, sister of the fire goddess Pele, gave Lē‘ahi its name because the summit resembles the forehead of the ‘ahi fish. Another translation is “fire headland” and refers to the navigation fires that were lit at the summit to assist canoes traveling along the shoreline.

It is hard to believe, looking at the overwhelmingly beautiful nature that marks this corner of God’s creation, that so many lives were marked for so many years by exile, pain, loneliness and deprivation in this paradise. Families were separated and, most often, never able to be together again. The years, the decades, well over a century in fact, when people with leprosy were exiled to the Kalaupapa peninsula on Molokai, those were dark years of hopelessness and fear – fear of contagion of a terrible disease for which, at the time, there was no remedy or cure.

There was no beauty on Kalaupapa for those exiles. They lived each day wondering about food, sanitation, a roof over their heads and, of course, medicines and medical care.

There was no hope for a bright future, for a job, for a tomorrow that promised to be even minimally better than today.

Until Fr. Damien arrived in 1873 at this isolated settlement to bring comfort and hope to these outcasts. Sixteen years among the patients of Hansen’s disease, improving their lot, little by little, day by day, trying to restore a lost sense of human dignity. Sixteen years of living heroic virtues until he died of leprosy in 1889.

In November 1888, a year before Fr. Damien died, Mother Marianne Cope arrived with six Sisters of St. Francis. She worked with the exiles for 30 years and died in 1918.

Damien and Marianne are the saints whose lives and virtues we will be looking at this weekend.

As the conference webpage states, its focus is “the respect of human life and dignity, marriage, youth and family life, education, social justice and evangelism.


A NOTE FOR TRAVELLERS : I flew from San Fran to Honolulu on United and, even though the flight is nearly six hours long, United does not serve a meal – you have to buy food. It is basically just snack food, except for a hamburger, a chicken wrap or a small pizza.   United offered the same terrible choice on my September 9-hour flight from Chicago to Honolulu and that prompted me to write to the president of the airlines and to essentially say that not serving a meal on a 9-hour flight was inhuman.

I wrote the letter while on the plane and told the crew and they were delighted! They said they’d LOVE to serve a meal and were happy I wrote because they feel the powers-to-be listen more to passengers than to the personnel.  I did get a very nice, lengthy letter from president Munoz’s assistant and some compensation for the issues encountered on the flight. She said there was one issue they were not aware of and was happy I wrote.

These lines are just to let you know that, as customers of a service you are paying for, you have rights, including the right to complain when something does not go as promised. Don’t make it angry, just factual.






Sunday, October 8: When you experience bitterness, put your faith in all those who still work for good: in their humility lies the seed of a new world.

Monday, October 9: The search for peace is an open-ended task, a responsibility that never ends and that demands the commitment of everyone.

Put this on your calendar: At 5 pm Rome time on Thursday, October 26, from a small room in the Paul VI Hall, Pope Francis will have a linkup with the crew of the International Space Station.


On Sunday I leave for Hawaii to participate in the October 20-22 Saints Damien and Marianne Catholic Conference at the Honolulu Convention Center. I am very excited about the conference because, starting in 2008, I have spent years researching the lives and works of Saints Damien and Marianne Cope, and then covering their canonizations in Rome (respectively 2009 and 2012), and now I can share my stories and listen to the stories of others who also love Hawaii’s two very special saints.

And Hawaii may well have a third saint – Brother Joseph Dutton. He was not a religious brother but rather received that name from Fr. Damien himself who told Joseph one day as they worked together on Kalaupapa, “You are like a brother to everyone here.”

Born Ira Dutton, he took the name Joseph when he became a Catholic. Joseph worked for 44 years alongside Fr. Damien and Sr. Marianne and her nuns, with the leprosy patients on Kalaupapa, this hankerchief-sized piece of land in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Hansen’s disease is the medical name for leprosy. When it came to the Hawaiian Islands, then a kingdom, King Kamehameha V banished all those with the disease to the isolated Kalaupapa peninsula on the north shore of the island of Molokai. The leprosy colonies operated from 1866 to 1969 and had a total of over 8,500 residents over the decades.

At the time of Fr. Damien, a priest of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, people sick with leprosy were exiled to Kalaupapa. It was that exile of so many human beings who needed the hand not only of a doctor but of another human being to comfort them in their dreadful living conditions, both physical and spiritual, that prompted Fr. Damien to go to Kalaupapa in 1873. He served there until his death in 1889.

Damien was joined by Mother Marianne Cope and six sisters from her Order, the Sisters of St. Francis of Syracuse, in 1883. She lived and worked there until her death in 1918.

We see the words “heroic virtues” literally come to life in Damien and Marianne.

More than 8,000 people, mostly Hawaiians, have died at Kalaupapa. Many of their tombs can still be seen today, although many thousands were washed away years ago as the result of a tsunami. Kalaupapa is now home to just a few remaining residents who are now cured, but were forced to live their lives in isolation.

The conference will, as its title says, focus on Hawaii’s two saints, on their heroic virtues but also on human rights because that is really what Damien and Marianne fought for over so many decades – the rights of people who had been ostracized by society and forced to live in totally undignified circumstances.

When we think of sainthood and heroic virtues, we think: this is Mission Impossible – not something I can achieve. And yet, this is what we are all called to do! And this is what the conference hopes to achieve: to inspire all of us to – in our way, with whatever gifts God gave us, in whatever circumstances He placed us – aim high, to look at sanctity as something eminently achievable.

Did Marianne and Damien think like Mother Teresa: “I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much!”

A number of the speakers, as you’ll see from the program, are from the same congregation as St. Damien and the order of St. Marianne.

The special guest of honor is Cardinal Soane Patita Paini Mafi of Tonga. We have been in touch and I’ll be interviewing him!

I’ll also join Bishop Larry Silva on a pilgrimage to Kalaupapa on October 23. I’ve been there several times before, and have written stories and posted videos and interviewed many people.

I am truly looking forward to returning to a place that, for me, is a shrine.