Feeling a calling for Kalaupapa, Rev. Patrick Killilea from Fairhaven, Mass. announced he will be coming to Molokai in July to serve as the permanent pastor for the St. Francis Parish.
Killilea — “Father Pat” as he is known to his congregation — first visited the isolated peninsula of Kalaupapa in 2004. “I felt called right from the beginning,” said the pastor in a recent story on southcoasttoday.com.
Killilea, 68, has served as the pastor at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Northern Fairhaven for the past 13 years.
“I just got a feeling during Mass there, completely out of the blue, that there was a calling for me to stay,” he said. “I had never anticipated that level of flashbacks and excitement even for a year after I returned. It was a heavenly call from God to go back.”
Killilea had returned to Kalaupapa once before in 2006 as the parish’s fill-in pastor for three months.
Killilea, originally from Ireland, calls Saint Damien of Molokai one of his role models. Like St. Damien, Killilea is a father for the Sacred Heart Congregation. The Sacred Heart Fathers have maintained the mission in Kalaupapa even before Damien arrived in 1873.
Father Ambrose Sanar, a member of the SSCC Indonesian Province, is the current pastor of St. Francis Church. He has been in Kalaupapa since early 2011.
Father Pat will not completely lost touch with his congregation from the south coast of Massachusetts. In October, one of the town parishioners will lead a trip with 15 Fairhaven pilgrims to Hawaii to learn about the history of St. Damien’s association with the island and, of course, to visit Killilea. This is the same month that Blessed Mother Marianne Cope, who served Kalaupapa after Damien, will be canonized by Pope Benedict XVI.
With only about 10 surviving Hansen’s disease patients still living in Kalaupapa, Killilea will have a far smaller congregation than he does now in Fairhaven. A typical day at St. Francis Church begins with Mass at 5:45 a.m. for patients and workers and then Damien Tours arrives with its daily visitors at 11-11:30 a.m.