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“Talk Story” with Sacred Hearts School in Lahaina

May 6, 2024

From the Office of Social Ministry

“Earth's creator, Everyday God, Loving Maker, O Jesus, You who shaped us, O Spirit, Recreate us, Come, be with us. In your presence, Everyday God, We are gathered, O Jesus, You have called us, O Spirit, To restore us, Come, be with us. Life of all lives, Everyday God, Love of all loves, O Jesus, Hope of all hopes, O Spirit, Light of all lights, Come, be with us.” ~ Lyrics from the song “Everyday God” by Bernadette Farrell.

God is lovingly with us all the time, even in the darkest moments. This message seemed to resonate deeply during a recent visit to Maui, when we were blessed to participate in intimate “talk story” sessions with some directly impacted by the August 8, 2023 wildfires. Persons from the Maria Lanakila Parish Sacred Hearts School (SHS) ohana and Diocese of Honolulu gathered to share quality time with each other and reflect on where they have been, where they are now, and where they are going. The “talk story” began with a heartfelt slideshow-video of their 9-month journey, accompanied by the beautiful hymn “Everyday God.” Everyone was immediately moved to tears as they watched images of their keiki hugging one another upon arrival at the makeshift Sacred Hearts School in Kapalua, just weeks following the destructive fires. The pictures brought back memories of pain and hope, while the haunting beautiful melody and lyrics of the song reminded all of the enduring presence of God–even amidst the devastating aftermath.

Principal Tonata Lolesio, who has emerged as a steady and compassionate leader, believes the faith-based song lyrics of this song offer inspiration to her entire community dedicated to continuing their mission of providing a quality Catholic education in the face of difficult challenges. “We came together during a time of crisis to help students and families,” she told the Hawaii Catholic Herald recently. “It is our Catholic calling and mission. These experiences, especially my first two years as principal, have taught me much about entrusting my work and plans to God for his guidance and protection. It is ultimately his school, I am his servant in providing for its needs.” Lolesio’s words express her unwavering service and leadership through the struggle of recovery from an horrific disaster: 101 lives lost, 12,906 residents evacuated; 2,300 structures destroyed; more than 8,500 jobs vanquished; and billions of dollars in economic damage. Yet even with these heartbreaking statistics, there are countless stories of compassionate strength, and resilient hope. Although many lost loved ones, homes, and livelihoods, the SHS faculty and staff were successfully able to swiftly pivot to an emergency location in Kapalua with outdoor classrooms under commercial tents, revised schedules to include Saturday sessions, and virtual learning options. This immediate solution miraculously created a safe place—a home-- to be, heal, and learn together during the difficult 2023-2024 school year.

Now with the help of insurance, government and donors, Lahaina’s Maria Lanakila parish has secured a “new” temporary school site in neighboring Ka’anapali to renovate 3 buildings for 13 air-conditioned classrooms plus add portable air-conditioned restrooms and office space along with grass area and a basketball court, all to provide Sacred Heart School students a learning environment with less exposure to the weather, and more outdoor space for healthy play. Plans are to open this year for the fall semester. For the next 3-4 years, this Sacred Hearts School site will serve as a place for students, families and staff to survive and continue to grow as a vital contributing part of building Lahaina’s future. As Lahaina undergoes the daunting work of restoration and redevelopment, the Sacred Hearts Ohana is faced with the challenge to sustain their mission of upholding the tradition of Catholic education providing excellent learning as a vital foundation for life. To ensure that every student has access to this transformative experience, Maria Lanakila Parish’s Sacred Hearts School has established a tuition assistance fund with the ambitious goal of raising $4 million for 2024-2027. Thanks to the incredible generosity of donors, the fund has already secured $1.6 million towards this noble endeavor—a testament to the incredible impact of compassionate community commitment and God’s constant presence.

Sacred Hearts School “compassionate hearts” campaign is now asking for help to bridge the gap with matching funds for providing essential tuition assistance to those in need. To help students not only survive but thrive, learning and growing in a nurturing, faith-based environment at Sacred Hearts School, please consider donating to their Tuition Assistance Fund through the Hawaii Catholic Community Foundation (https://hawaiicatholiccommunityfoundation.org) Maria Lanakila Parish pastor, Fr. Kuriakose, expressed the sentiments of all in his “talk story” opening prayer: “Lord in the midst of trials, we remember all those affected by the recent wildfire, and we ask for Your comfort and strength to be with them. Bless all who support us during this challenging time, showing us the  power of solidarity and compassion. May Your love shine upon us as we strive to serve You and our community... Maria Lanakila our mother protect us from all dangers and pray for us. And as sung in the “Everyday Godsong, these “talk story” sessions concluded with these hopeful inspiring words “In our dreaming, Everyday God, In our daring, O Jesus, In our searching, O Spirit, In our sharing, Come, be with us.” Mahalo.