Saints for Life
By Darlene J.M. Dela Cruz Hawaii Catholic Herald
Practical, positive and presenting life issues in light of Christian virtues and values, the inaugural Damien and Marianne Catholic Conference aims to be a unique and inspirational Island event.
The conference is set to take place Oct. 20-22 at the Hawaii Convention Center near Waikiki.
Early registration is being accepted until July 31 at the Damien and Marianne Catholic Conference website, www.dmcchawaii.org. Registration fees will be discounted until the end of this month, costing $75 for adult participants to attend the three-day gathering, and $50 for youth. Adults wishing to attend only on Friday, Oct. 20 or Sunday, Oct. 22 can pay $35 for each day, youth $25 respectively.
Accommodations for conference attendees at a special group rate are being offered at the Double Tree by Hilton Hotel Alana, about a 10-minute walk from the Hawaii Convention Center.
According to a June 23 press release, the Damien and Marianne Catholic Conference, or DMCC, has lined up more than 50 sessions and talks by renowned local, national and international presenters. Confirmed keynote guests include Congregation of St. Joseph Sister Helen Prejean, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee and author of the critically acclaimed best-seller, “Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States.” Cardinal Soane Patita Paini Mafi of Tonga is also scheduled to celebrate Mass and share his insights as a speaker. The theme of the first-ever DMCC is “Saints for Life.” All conference activities pay homage to the spirituality and activism exemplified by St. Damien de Veuster and St. Marianne Cope, who were canonized for their selfless efforts aiding Hansen’s Disease patients in Kalaupapa, Molokai.
“Our goal is to show the relevance and role of Saints Damien and Marianne in addressing the challenges we face today,” said Makana Aiona, DMCC president. “We want this first conference to transform lives.”
Making a difference
Aiona heads a small but passionate board of directors organizing the Damien and Marianne Catholic Conference. Valerie Santiago, a parishioner of St. John Apostle and Evangelist Church in Mililani experienced in Hawaii’s healthcare industry, serves as DMCC vice president and treasurer. Sister Cheryl Wint of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities is DMCC secretary.
Bolstered by prayer and a team of talented folks lending their expertise in marketing, hospitality, web design, speaker recruitment and fundraising, they are ambitiously pulling the conference together from its inception in only 18 months. Their goal is to create an experience for Hawaii faithful who cannot attend major Catholic conferences abroad, such as the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress.
“Our sessions will be especially appealing to young, aspiring leaders who may not be able to travel to similar regional or national conferences on the mainland,” Aiona said.
In 2016, DMCC was established as a 501(C)(3) non-profit organization and an Association of the Faithful under the Honolulu diocese. Aiona noted that DMCC organizers collaborated with the diocesan Office of Worship and Office of Religious Education; both offices coordinate the annual Diocese of Honolulu Faith Formation Conferences. DMCC is fully endorsed and approved by Bishop Larry Silva.
DMCC sessions are categorized under three “tracks” – faith formation, life issues and spirituality. Aiona noted that these tracks coincide with priorities outlined in the diocesan pastoral plan, “Stewards of the Gospel.”
“The initiatives of the diocese are important to us,” said Aiona, who previously worked as diocesan coordinator of young adult ministry before his current job as a teacher at Damien Memorial School.
“All these things are pieces of the diocesan initiatives that help empower the people to be the body of Christ, to explore and develop ways of their own to reach their communities.”
DMCC has been funded so far by the generosity of anonymous donors, the With Grateful Hearts campaign, Our Lady of Perpetual Help School, the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities and St. Francis Healthcare System. DMCC treasurer Santiago noted that Iolani School of Performing Arts and private citizens have provided in-kind donations.
Conference organizers hope for additional sponsorships and donations to finance “scholarships” for faithful interested in attending, but unable to afford the fee.
Aiona and Santiago explained that DMCC is a “Christian event open to people of all faiths or no faith.” All ages are welcome as well.
In time, Aiona noted, the DMCC team would like to connect with other organizations in Hawaii “who currently offer similar opportunities to honor God and spread the Gospel of Christ.”
According to Santiago, the “ultimate goal” is to provide the spark for Islanders “to put their faith into action – in their homes, schools, workplace, parishes, communities and beyond.”
“This will be a life-changing event, done like nowhere else in the world, in the spirit of aloha,” Santiago said.
“Hawaii is blessed to have two saints whose names and virtues continue to live on through education, healthcare, social services, missionary work and spirituality,” she added. “What better role models than St. Damien and St. Marianne?”
Three dynamic days
The DMCC schedule packs concerts, book signings, food, fellowship and liturgies in a dynamic three days.
Oct. 20 begins with 8 a.m. registration and opening of sponsor exhibits and vendors in the Hawaii Convention Center. An introductory ceremony will start with an “oli” or Hawaiian chanted prayer. The first DMCC “Saints Award” will be presented, Santiago explained, to a local politician “who has remained a courageous champion of the family, in the face of swirling adversity.”
Sister Helen Prejean has a twopart keynote talk titled “A Voice for Life” on the first conference day. Bishop Silva will give a welcome address, followed by a Hawaiian Mass celebrated by Father Alapaki Kim, pastor of St. Rita Church in Nanakuli.
Notable national speakers Dr. Edward Sri and Jackie Francois Angel will provide evening sessions on Oct. 20. The night culminates with a concert of youth and young adult bands, as well as a showing of the locally produced award-winning short film “Yehuda.”
A Polynesian Mass celebrated by Cardinal Mafi opens the second conference day Oct. 21. Sister Helen will speak that morning on the new book she is working on called “River of Fire,” a memoir of her journey to religious life and becoming a spiritual advisor to inmates on death row.
Dozens of one-hour breakout sessions are offered that day from 11:15 a.m. to 8:15 p.m. The list of session leaders is diverse and extensive, and can be found on the DMCC website. Topics range from marriage and family, to sacraments and catechesis, to politics and social justice, reflections from present-day members of St. Damien’s and St. Marianne’s religious orders, and even miracles.
Visiting speakers include Paul Kim, a popular Catholic “beat-boxer” licensed in marriage and family therapy, and Kate Mahoney of New York, whose cure from multiple organ failure attributed to the intercession of Mother Marianne Cope paved the way for the Franciscan nun’s canonization.
The Damien and Marianne Catholic Conference concludes Oct. 22 with a morning keynote talk by Cardinal Mafi. Students and teachers from local performing arts programs will share a play on Kalaupapa. Bishop Silva is scheduled to celebrate the DMCC closing Mass at 1 p.m. that Sunday. Relics of St. Damien and St.
Marianne will be on-site during the conference for veneration. There will be opportunities for the Sacrament of Reconciliation as well. Participants can also sign up to visit Kalaupapa after the conference with Bishop Silva; day tours are available Oct. 23 and Oct. 24.
Visit the Damien and Marianne Catholic Conference website at http://www.dmcchawaii.org
When: Oct. 20-22, 2017
Where: Hawaii Convention Center, 1801 Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96815
Early registration cost: Adults, 3 days, $75 Youth, 3 days, $50
Adults, 1 day (Oct. 20 or 22), $35 per day
Youth, 1 day (Oct. 20 or 22), $25 per day