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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, November 24, 2001

Where We Worship
Patience is key when you're on God's time

By Mary Kaye Ritz
Advertiser Staff Writer

Out on the edge of nowhere, somewhere above Waialua town and below the foothills of Mount Ka'ala, sits O'ahu's only Benedictine monastery.

Father Michael Sawyer uses a golf cart to get around the Benedictine Monastery, in the shadows of Mount Ka'ala.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

The Benedictines are the oldest religious order of the Roman Catholic Church, founded by St. Benedict more than a millennium and a half ago and dedicated to a life of prayer.

Eight Benedictines — including oblates, or lay people — live together in the small community compound so remote, there's not even a street address. There, they pray together six times a day, attempt to subsist on the fruits of their own labor and minister to those who come to them for guidance.

"Medjugorje night" on Fridays is especially popular, even though the extensive rosary, Mass and healing service mean those visitors heading up the narrow gravel road through the red dust of upper Waialua won't be making their way back until after dark, three hours later. Medjugorje is a small village in Bosnia-Herzegovina where the Virgin Mary has reportedly been appearing since 1981.

The subsistence aspect of their monastic creed can be problematic in modern times, said the Rev. David Barfknecht. To pay their bills, which include a telephone and Internet service, members of the monastery use visitors' offerings and even proceeds from crafts that they sell.

The other part of their mission is spiritual direction, which they accomplish by holding retreats and seminars, and counseling families and individuals. For the most part, however, they are able to grow or raise what they need to eat.

The Benedictines collect their own honey from hives they maintain on the 67-acre compound. It's a deep, lager-

colored product with a musky taste from the many fruit trees on the property — breadfruit, mango, avocado and various forms of citrus.

Projects dotting the grounds prove that to be Benedictine, you must possess some inherent scavenger tendencies: Yard chairs are recycled and refurbished; an old propane tank has been turned into a barbecue pit and Matson shipping containers have been incorporated into the dwelling structures.

One refrigerated container has been recycled into a food storage area for the monas-

tery's newest project: a seven-sided chapel and multiuse retreat house with a striking view of the Mokule'ia shoreline. Once completed, this building will allow for more retreats.

Construction on the building began nearly two years ago and yet its completion date keeps getting pushed back, partly because some work is being done by volunteers and partly because the local bureaucracy can take time to churn out permits. The project is also at the mercy of shipping schedules in receiving construction materials.

The blessing ceremony for the building is set for Jan. 13. Besides the multipurpose room that doubles as a chapel, there will be an office, kitchen and gift shop and a basement for storage.

Besides the half-completed multipurpose chapel, the compound has one other building — the one in which the Benedictines live. Upstairs, the main house is divided into a cramped chapel that can probably squeeze in 24. In one corner is Sister Mary Joe McEnany's music station, complete with Omnichord — a mechanical musical instrument that could be a cross between a synthesizer and miniature guitar.

Off the common room, with its mismatched furniture, is a lanai bearing Sister McEnany's handiwork: pretty little potted plants, including a cascading succulent that affirms its nickname, donkey's tail.

On the other side of the kitchen are bedrooms and around the way is the first Matson container, which serves as an office and what the residents euphemistically call "the library."

Little goes to waste here. Barfknecht proudly points out a project he is working on with another cleric: bookshelves made from leftover Australian hardwood boards. The siding are building supplies leftover from a Mililani housing development. (They traded the leftover siding for a riding lawnmower.)

If a new fl-ton pickup truck should find its way onto the property, it's a sure bet Barfknecht wouldn't object, but as any Benedictine will tell you, God will provide in God's time.

Ask Barfknecht if they are particularly resourceful, and he'll look you in the eye and give you a knowing smile.

"Not resourceful," he said.


Benedictine Monastery

• Name of church: The Benedictine Monastery.

• Our denomination: An order of the Roman Catholic Church.

• Where we are: Waialua.

• Our numbers: Eight living at the monastery, up to 25 attending chapel.

• What we believe: “Our day centers around the praise and worship of God in the celebration of the Eucharist and the recitation of the Psalms by the community three times a day,” according to its Web site (catholichawaii.com/religious/benedictine). Typically, each Benedictine monastery will have its own distinctive characteristics. The Hawai‘i Benedictines give emphasis to Life in the Spirit; thus we gratefully accept the activity and gifts (charisms) of the Holy Spirit which Jesus promised to his disciples.

• Our history: Founded by Our Lady of Guadalupe Abbey, Pecos, N.M., the monastery here belongs to the Benedictine Congregation of Mount Olivet. The first group of Benedictines moved from Wai‘alae Iki to the present site in June, 1987.

• What’s special about us: This is the only Benedictine monastery in Hawai‘i.

• Contact: 637-7887.

If you would like to recommend a faith organization for a Where We Worship profile, e-mail faith@honoluluadvertiser.com, or call 525-8035