Excitement was building Friday night as Hawaii residents in Rome took part in lavish festivities as they awaited Mother Marianne Cope's canonization, which will take place tonight in the islands or Sunday morning in Rome.
"The mood is very upbeat here. We are having a good time," said Stephen Prokop, Kalaupapa National Historic Park superintendent via cellphone in Rome.
"The National Park Service is here to represent the national historical park (that) preserves and protects the people of Kalaupapa, and Mother Marianne is a very central figure in the whole history of Kalaupapa. We are looking forward to the canonization on Sunday very much," Prokop said after attending a gathering at the Vatican Museum on Friday night, which another Hawaii resident called "quite a swanky affair."
Kaehu Okalani Spencer of the Keali‘ika‘apunihonua Ke‘ena A‘o Hula halau of Oahu waves the Hawaiian flag as Pope Benedict XVI welcomes the dancers from Hawaii to a general audience in Rome this week.
GARY COLTON photo
The canonization of Mother Marianne Cope will be aired with a short delay at 10:30 p.m. on KGMB Channel 9, a station official said. The ceremony presided over by Pope Benedict XVI, will actually begin at 9:30 p.m. Hawaii time, or 9:30 a.m. Sunday in Rome.
People also may view the ceremony live on the cable Eternal Word Television Network, or EWTN, according to the Diocese of Honolulu.
Earlier in the week, the Rev. Gary Colton of Maui, said that "the excitement about the canonization of Blessed Marianne Cope is becoming more and more obvious as time approaches."
The recently retired pastor of Maria Lanakila Catholic Church in Lahaina said in an email that the homilies of Hawaii Bishop Larry Silva at the Masses "are pointing to the day and our call to imitate the lifestyle of Mother Marianne in whatever way we can."
"Personally it feels like the memorable lady, though deceased, is watching over us as we do our touring of churches and other historical sites in Rome," Colton added.
Colton was scheduled to be the homilist at the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi on Thursday, the birthplace of Cope's Sisters of St. Francis Order.
Colton will accompany Silva near the main altar tonight.
Dr. Kalani Brady, physician for the Kalaupapa patients, said: "The patients are very excited and happy."
On Friday, he said that there were "no major medical mishaps" with any of the nine Hansen's disease patients who made the trip. They range from 72 to 91 years old. Those patients also made the trip to Rome in 2009 to see the canonization of St. Damien, the Belgian priest who moved to Kalaupapa to care for leprosy patients in 1873.
"They've been holding on to their own," Brady said of the patients via cellular phone on a bus Friday night in Rome.
He and others said that the patients were either sleeping or starting to doze off, so The Maui News was unable to interview them.
Patrick Downes, editor of the Hawaii Catholic Herald on Oahu, said Friday that the Hawaii group had just left the Vatican Museum, where they and others from the United States had gathered.
There were also Native Americans among the U.S. contingent because also scheduled for canonization tonight is Kateri Tekakwitha, a 17-century Mohawk Indian who spent most of her life in what is now upstate New York.
Tekakwitha survived smallpox but was left with scars on her face and seriously impaired vision. She later dedicated her life to Christianity and took a vow of celibacy, which was frowned upon by some in the Native American community.
Mother Marianne came to Hawaii from New York state in 1883, when she was 45. She was the only religious leader in the U.S. and Europe - of 50 asked - who agreed to a request by Hawaii's king and queen to come to the islands to help leprosy patients.
She eventually went to Kalaupapa in 1888, five months before the death of Damien.
She and her fellow sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities ran various homes, including one founded by Damien.
Cope never returned to the Mainland, spending the rest of her life at Kalaupapa. She died there in 1918 at the age of 80.
The Holy Rosary Church in Paia is taking orders for T-shirts to commemorate the canonization event as well as raise funds for the Paia church, said Mary Costales.
The sand-color shirts will have a photo of both St. Damien and now St. Cope on the back of the shirt with wording that includes "Saints of Hawaii Nei." The front of the shirt will have the insignias of the Sacred Hearts order, which Damien belonged to, along with the St. Francis insignia for Cope and Holy Rosary Church's name.
The shirts come in small, medium and large in youth sizes as well as small, medium, large, extra large and extra-extra large in adult sizes.
Youth shirts are $12, and adult shirts are $15. The XXL shirts are $16.
Those ordering the shirts from Neighbor Islands or out of state need to include $5 for two shirts (or $5 if only ordering one shirt) to allow for shipping costs.
The deadline to order is Nov. 2.
Checks should be made out to Holy Rosary Church. People should include a contact phone number.
Checks may be mailed to Mary Costales, 595 Hana Highway, Paia 96779.
For more information, call Costales at 579-8586.
* The Associated Press contributed to this report. Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.