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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, March 27, 2010

Follow examples of good influence

 •  Ex-priest defends Darwin


By Rev. Sky St. John

"The person who trusts me will not only do what I'm doing but even greater things ..." (John 14:12).

This seldom-quoted prediction of Jesus holds a promise for all of us who are followers of the Christian path to significantly influence the world for good. The Easter event is of huge historical and religious significance to the followers of Jesus Christ, but the real impact of that holy day is revealed in the way it transforms our lives here and now; and when our lives are changed, so is the world.

This Easter, Unity Church of Hawai'i will present a special Easter service at the Waikīkī Shell that shows how the priest Father Damien trusted in God and brought hope and transformation to the lepers at Kalaupapa. Just as Jesus was resurrected, Father Damien has been lifted up by the Catholic Church and now holds a special place in the hearts of many as Saint Damien.

The narrative of Jesus' life and the spiritual journey of Father Damien show us some significant parallels in their demonstration of commitment, compassion, humility and surrender. If we pattern our lives after these two great men, we, too, can do great things in the world for God.

I grew up in Hawai'i and began my adult career as a high school teacher at Radford High School. There, I founded a youth touring company, taking high school students to the Neighbor Islands. It was during one of those trips that I met Richard Marks and fell in love with Kalaupapa and the legend of Father Damien.

I have a strong yearning to emulate my spiritual heroes and I knew that the only people who could actually live and work in Kalaupapa were nurses. So I became a nurse. Graduating from Hawai'i Loa College with a nursing degree, and later the University of Hawai'i with a master's degree in public health, I worked for the Department of Health and lived and nursed in Kalaupapa from 1988 to 1990.

I found that the impact of Father Damien on the amazing people of Kalaupapa was so impressive. It was still palpable still real and I was tremendously inspired.

And so it was that in 1993 that I entered the seminary and became a Unity minister. I have been at Unity Church of Hawai'i for more than five years now, and next Sunday will mark the church's third annual Easter presentation at the Waikīkī Shell.

Hawai'i's world-class actor, Terence Knapp, who played the definitive role of Father Damien in the 1976 PBS special, "Damien," will join me at the Shell, reading letters written by Father Damien and selections from the award-winning production. Knapp is also a director, educator and author.

Alethea Train, as musical director, has pulled together a 10-piece orchestra to accompany Unity Choir. In addition, local luminaries including Guy Merola and Shawna Masuda will be part of the production. Also, Stefan Mitchell, of the Seattle area, will be featured in the event.

Father Damien loved the song "'O Makalapua," composed by Queen Lili'uo-kalani. It will be performed during in the program, with Tara Chanel dancing.

Admission to the Easter Sunday service is free and open to the public; the program will get under way at 8:30 a.m.