HONOLULU – On Jan. 18, the day the COVID-19 infection rate hit a new one-day high of 6,252 in Hawaii, the congregation at the annual Red Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of the Peace in Honolulu heard how Hawaii’s Catholic schools coped with the pandemic.
The Mass, celebrated by Honolulu Bishop Larry Silva, was held during the opening week of the Hawaii Legislature and is the annual prayer to the Holy Spirit for guidance and wisdom for civic leaders in Hawaii. ‘Hawaii.
Hawaii Catholic Schools Office Superintendent Llewellyn Young was the guest speaker this year. He explained how local Catholic schools, with a vigorous combination of faith and science, made a conscious decision to thrive during the pandemic rather than just survive.
In fact, he said, 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, noting that the majority of Catholic schools in the state opened in fall 2020 for in-person instruction. 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.
“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.”
He also pointed out that for the first time in 14 years, Catholic schools in Hawaii saw a significant increase in enrollment, adding 288 students this school year.
“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’.
He thanked his staff and “all of our wonderful Catholic school administrators, teachers and employees.”
He also noted that “there is still so much uncertainty with this pandemic, but the Lord has seen us through and He is central to our successes.”
In his homily, Silva contrasted the impact of the invisible coronavirus against the powerful but invisible force of faith and said, “Faith in God keeps us grounded; faith in God pushes us forward.
Even the smallest amount of faith has an “incredibly powerful influence on the world”, he said, giving meaning to countless people. He also said it is the raison d’etre of Catholic schools and a response to many challenges of the modern world.
This is why we come together to pray for our municipal leaders, he added.
The Red Mass normally packs the cathedral. But this year’s mass was probably the least attended because of the widespread omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus. Eleven municipal leaders came, the same number as last year.
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Downes is editor of the Hawaii Catholic Herald, the newspaper of the Diocese of Honolulu.