In Red Mass, the school’s principal shares how the pandemic was fought through faith and science
By Patrick Downes
Catholic Herald of Hawaii
On the day the COVID-19 infection rate hit a new single-day high of 6,252 in Hawaii, a positive message was heard during the annual Red Mass, Jan. 18, at the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady. -Lady of Peace – the story of how Catholic schools in Hawaii coped with the pandemic.
The Mass, celebrated during the opening week of the Hawaii State Legislature, is the annual prayer to the Holy Spirit for guidance and wisdom for Hawaii’s civic leaders. Bishop Larry Silva presided.
Superintendent of Catholic Schools in Hawaii, Llewellyn Young, this year’s guest speaker, shared how schools, with a vigorous combination of faith and science, made a conscious decision to “thrive” during the pandemic rather than simply “to survive”.
In fact, he says, “surviving” was not an option.
The first step in their strategy was prayer, said Young, a Kauai-raised administrator with a doctorate in education.
We “had to start with our faith,” he said. “We have asked all schools to continue to pray for healing, understanding, wisdom and knowledge of the virus and how we might respond to it effectively.”
Then came the science: “masking, physical distancing, hand washing, cleaning and disinfection, defining bubbles or cohorts, etc. from our partners in the Ministry of Health”.
Schools were planning in-person classes, as well as “effective alternatives,” Young said.
“The vast majority of Catholic schools in our state actually opened in the fall of 2020 for in-person instruction,” he said.
Hawaii has 27 Catholic schools with a total enrollment of approximately 7,000 students.
“They did this with great care and caution taking all recommended mitigations and strategies very seriously,” he said, while acting with humility.
“At the end of the 2020-2021 school year, we saw a total of just over 30 COVID cases among all Catholic schools contracted by staff and students,” he said. “But all of these cases were contracted off-campus.”
And thanks in part to the schools’ diligence, Young said, “We’ve seen, for the first time in 14 years, a significant increase in enrollment.” This year, all schools added 288 students.
“Our schools have led with faith, science, love, wisdom, compassion, understanding and innovation,” he said, “staying true to our mission of evangelism, being witnesses of Jesus and stewards of the world. ‘Gospel’.
Young thanked his staff and “all of our wonderful Catholic school administrators, teachers and staff.
“There is still so much uncertainty with this pandemic, but the Lord has seen us through, and He is central to our successes,” he said.
In his homily, Bishop Silva contrasted the impact of the invisible coronavirus with that of another equally invisible powerful force, faith.
“Faith in God keeps us anchored; faith in God keeps us going,” he said.
Even the smallest amount of faith has an “incredibly powerful influence on the world”, he said, giving meaning to countless people.
This is why Catholic schools exist, he says. It is also the foundation of prudent governance.
The Goliaths we face today – homelessness, mental illness, lack of respect for life – can be defeated by the “little stone of faith”, he said.
This is why we come together to pray for our municipal leaders, he said.
The Red Mass normally packs the cathedral. But this year’s mass was probably the least attended ever due to the widespread omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus.
Eleven municipal leaders came, the same number as last year.
State senators who attended included Kurt Fevella, Donna Mercado Kim and Bennette Misalucha.
State representatives included Henry Aquino, Ty Cullen, Greggor Ilagain, Sylvia Luke, Bob McDermott, Val Okimoto and Jackson Sayama.
Honolulu City Councilman Calvin Say was also present.
Where there are usually several dozen men and women colorfully representing Hawaiian royal societies, this year saw only five. The pews reserved for religious orders were empty.
Social distancing was not in effect, but it was not necessary in the sparsely populated pews. There were only about 20 various devotees.
An ecumenical guest minister was present, Pastor Brandon Duran of Central Union Church in Honolulu.
After communion, the priests and the Protestant minister raised their hands in the direction of the standing municipal leaders while the bishop recited a prayer of blessing.
The pageantry normally provided by rows of Knights of Columbus and members of chivalric orders got by this year with just five Knights of Columbus.
Nine priests concelebrated, less than usual.
Compensating for the small congregation, the organist and cantor Robert Mondoy gave the liturgy a rich musical setting.
Leftover Christmas rustic potted poinsettias painted splashes of red throughout the sanctuary.