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Hope Emerges on Maui with Strength in Solidarity

September 26, 2023

From the Office for Social Ministry

“The decision to migrate should always be free, yet in many cases, even in our day, it is not. Conflicts, natural disasters, or more simply the impossibility of living a dignified and prosperous life in one’s native land is forcing millions of persons to leave.” Pope Francis Message for the 109 World Day of Migrants and Refugees (WDMR), September 24, 2023

Millions of people around the globe are on the move today and not by choice. Many are forced to flee their homes because of violence, persecutions, wars, natural disasters, and dire poverty. During this year’s 109th World Day of Migrants and Refugees (WDMR), Pope Francis delivered a profound message that resonates deeply with forcibly displaced persons, including those affected by the devastating wildfires in Lahaina.  “For I was hungry, and you gave me food, I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” (Matthew 25:35-36) “These words are a constant admonition to see in the migrant not simply a brother or sister in difficulty, but Christ himself, who knocks at our door.” By responding to the needs of the vulnerable among us, the Pope says we can all do our part to welcome, protect, promote, and integrate every person in our community as a part of one ‘ohana. Pope Francis encouraged all to be committed to helping anyone forced to flee their homes.

On a recent visit to West Maui’s Sacred Hearts Catholic School, we were blessed to witness these words in action as a diverse mix of migrant families from Asia, the Pacific Islands, the Americas, and Europe gathered in support of students, teachers and parents who lost loved ones, homes and livelihoods in the Maui wildfires. (To donate to the fund for Sacred Hearts School please go to www.shsmaui.org.)  

While volunteering with Maui’s Ministry of Presence and Catholic Charities Hawaii at the Lahaina Civic Center, we talked story with other wildfire victims who solace, healing and strength by helping their neighbors in need. Such stories of compassion and resilience in the face of devastating loss is inspiring hope among the community. For example, a Lahaina postal worker who lost his home expressed his prayerful gratitude and petition to God for the unforgettable kupuna he had been blessed to meet daily on his Front Street route, which is now demolished. Spanish and Tagalog-speaking families sheltered in hotels shared harrowing stories of escaping the fires and how their faith now anchors them as they seek relief and recovery. One migrant family of eleven, whose Mexican Grinds food truck and rented home were obliterated, remained hopeful about rebuilding their business and future on Maui. The Lahaina Center hosted a Filipino Fair, where thousands impacted by the wildfires gathered to share their support for one another. ( To find out what Catholic Charities Hawaii is doing on Maui please go to www.catholiccharitieshawaii.org.

On a Saturday morning at St. Anthony Parish parking lot in Wailuku, volunteers from most Maui's parishes gathered to pick up and deliver appliances donated from the mainland for those displaced by the wildfires. Days earlier the monthly vicariate meeting discussed establishing a "faith-sharing accompanying" ministry to complement professional mental health services being provided in Maui. To support the Catholic Diocese and Maui vicariate parishes ministries with Maui fire victims, please go to https://tinyurl.com/MauiCatholic.

All these examples are signs of hope emerging from shared vulnerability being transformed into the strength of solidarity.

In closing his 2023 WDMR message, the Pope Francis encouraged the world to see all forcibly displaced persons as special companions on our journey, deserving of our love and care as brothers and sisters. “Only by walking together will we be able to go far and reach the common goal of our journey.” Let us continue our relief and recovery efforts in Maui in the spirit of Pope Francis's prayerful conclusion: "God, Father Almighty, grant us the grace to work tirelessly for justice, solidarity, and peace, so that all your children may enjoy the freedom to choose whether to migrate or to stay… Sustain us by the power of your Spirit, so that we can reflect your tender love to every migrant whom you place in our path, and to spread in hearts and in every situation the culture of encounter and of care." For the full text of Pope Francis’s message please visit www.humandevelopment.va For more information on these ongoing efforts in the Diocese to assist Maui wildfires victims, stay tuned to the Hawaii Catholic Herald. Mahalo.