A seminarian with ties to Maui held the microphone for Pope Benedict XVI throughout Sunday's canonization of St. Damien in Rome.
Patrick "Pat" Arensberg was born on Maui on Jan. 3, 1984, coincidentally the same birthday of Hawaii's first saint, Father Damien de Veuster, a 19th-century Sacred Hearts priest who served Hansen's disease patients in Kalaupapa.
Arensberg, 25, was baptized and received his first communion at Christ the King Church in Kahului. He attended Lihikai Elementary School up until the 3rd-grade when his parents, Joseph "Joe" and Julie Golis Arensberg, moved their family of seven children to the Mainland.
ARENSBERG FAMILY photo
Patrick “Pat” Arensberg holds niece Julia Kaitlyn Smith during a family reunion two years ago in Hawaii.
The Arensbergs - Joe, a 1975 St. Anthony High School graduate, and Julie, a 1974 Maui High alumna, have lived in Mobile, Ala., for the last 15 years. Pat is the fourth of their seven children and is studying at the North American seminary in Rome.
Contacted by e-mail, Pat Arensberg said he recently grew a strong devotion to Father Damien.
"He is a model for any priest, whether living in a parish or in a foreign mission country because of his devotion to the Lord and to the people he served," he said.
Just seven hours before Sunday's 10 a.m. (10 p.m. Saturday HST) canonization ceremony and Mass in Rome, Arensberg and Oahu resident Rheo Ofalsa were selected to serve as assistants to the pope during the canonization of five saints including Damien.
Arensberg's primary duty was to ensure that the microphone was placed correctly in front of the pope whenever he was to speak or pray.
"To have the opportunity to serve at the canonization was a real blessing," Arensberg said. "The whole event was very surreal, I couldn't believe I was in arm's distance from the pope the entire Mass."
The Arensbergs contacted family and friends on Maui as soon as they learned of their son's role. They also stayed up early Sunday morning in Mobile to watch the live telecast.
"We were so excited,"Julie Arensberg said about watching her son at the canonization. "We're just overwhelmed."
Joe Arensberg said he was proud of his son and happy about his choice to study for the priesthood.
"I was always hoping one of mine would choose a life of vocations," Arensberg said.
Joe Arensberg worked on Maui as paramedic but left the job nearly 20 years ago to study to be a teacher. He now teaches theology at a high school in Mobile, where he intends to share stories of Hawaii and of Father Damien.
"He was always one of those people local Hawaii Catholics could look up at," he said.
Pat Arensberg called it a blessing to be at Damien's canonization.
"I think that is is a great thing for Hawaii to get its first saint," he said. "Hopefully, it will be a call for a deeper relationship with Christ for all Christians, especially Catholics, that live in Hawaii.
"May they learn from the example of Father Damien: To love all our brothers and sisters as Christ did and to help those who are in need, no matter how dire the situation may be."
* Claudine San Nicolas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.