Iwie Tamashiro of the Office for Social Ministry signs during the Ohana Mass on Easter Sunday, April 4, at St. Stephen Diocesan Center’s chapel in Kaneohe. (Courtesy photo)


“Where there was death, now there is life. Where there was mourning, now there is consolation. In embracing the cross, Jesus bestowed meaning on our sufferings and now we pray that the benefits of that healing will spread throughout the world.” (Pope Francis “Urbi et Orbi” Message, Easter 2021)

Alleluia, Alleluia! The Lord is Risen and hope is alive! Pope Francis’ Easter message focuses on the single event that is the foundation of our faith and “gives us the hope that does not disappoint: Jesus who was crucified has risen!” During this pandemic, our Holy Father calls us to be people of hope and healing, especially for those who are sick and those who have lost loved ones: “May the Lord give them comfort and sustain the valiant efforts of doctors and nurses. Everyone, especially the most vulnerable among us, requires assistance and has the right to have access to necessary care.”

Here in Hawaii, Easter Sunday’s celebration Mass at St. Stephen Diocesan Center was indeed filled with hope and care as a unique small faith community of families with members who have disabilities returned to an in-person Ohana Mass for the first time after a year of COVID restrictions. Eight families and a few care-giving friends gathered from as far away as Ewa Beach, Wahiawa and Kuliouou, and as near as Makiki and Kaneohe. Assurances that the group would adhere to all safety measures secured the green light from the diocesan Office of Worship.

Persons with special gifts and disabilities took part in the Mass as lectors, altar servers and sign language interpreters. Through teary-eyed moments of joy, it was evident the spirit of the Lord was among us all. After the Ohana Mass, families enjoyed festive Easter baskets filled with snacks, water bottles, pastries and other goodies while the three small children in the group went on an Easter egg hunt around the peaceful grounds.

During the fellowship, families voted on who wore the “cutest face masks.” A young woman with spinal muscular atrophy (who is a member of the high school Class of 2021) took the prize for her Baby Yoda mask. She and the youngest participant on the autism spectrum, who donned a Hello Kitty mask, both cheerfully took home large chocolate Easter bunnies! Easter Ohana Mass was truly a blessing for all. Alleluia! Alleluia!

Pope Francis’s Easter message included a focus on the hopeful role of the coronavirus vaccines and the need to ensure their delivery to the most vulnerable. “I urge the entire international community, in a spirit of global responsibility, to commit to overcoming delays in the distribution of vaccines and to facilitate their distribution, especially in the poorest countries.”

Here in Hawaii, many of our vulnerable kupuna have been struggling with food insecurity, housing and medical challenges during the pandemic. Those who live alone without access to a computer or family to assist them find it especially difficult to get vaccinated. St. Francis Healthcare System is collaborating on the Oahu Kupuna Call Center with the State Department of Health’s Executive Office on Aging, the City and County of Honolulu’s Elderly Affairs Division, and Aloha United Way to establish a dedicated hotline to get vaccines to the most vulnerable.

Seniors and their caregivers can now dial 2-1-1 and talk to a trained specialist who will answer their questions, schedule appointments, and arrange transportation to vaccination sites. Standby translation services help ensure that language is not a barrier.

Our Holy Father also prayed for those who have lost jobs, income and social services during the pandemic, asking the “crucified and risen Lord … to inspire public authorities to act so that everyone, especially families in greatest need, will be offered the assistance needed.” Catholic Charities Hawaii and HOPE Services Hawaii are providing rent and mortgage subsidies for those suffering COVID-related housing challenges.

Indeed, “the crucified Jesus has risen from the dead. Jesus took upon himself our weakness, our infirmities, even our death. Because of this, God the Father exalted him and now Jesus Christ lives forever; he is the Risen Lord.” May we all celebrate the Easter message of hope and healing throughout the whole world. Alleluia, Alleluia!

For more on Pope Francis’ Easter message, the Ohana Mass, the Oahu Kupuna Call Center, or housing subsidies, please visit www.officeforsocialministry.org.


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