Franciscan Sisters Called to Serve at St. Theresa, Kekaha, HI

by Sister Julie Ann on August 1, 2008

church-and-beach.jpgCalled to be witnesses of the reign of God and to respond to the mission of the Church in the present day, the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity serving at St. Theresa Parish, Kekaha, HI will be sharing their lives from the Congregation’s  farthest western ministry site this month.

Sister Rosalani Gomes, OSF writes about her native land and her call to be a Franciscan Sister:

kid05.jpgGrowing up in what Mark Twain termed, ‘The loveliest fleet of islands that lies anchored in any ocean,’ was idyllic. I spent my early childhood on Grove Farm Sugar Plantation in Puhi, Kauai, where I was born, the ninth of ten children. We later moved to Kekaha Sugar Plantation. My mother taught us by example that God is generous and we should be likewise. When God called me to religious life, I readily said ‘yes’. I had never seen a nun nor were there Catholic schools on Kauai, so how did it happen?

I got hooked on four simple words, ‘Fill These Empty Shoes’, an ad in Our Sunday Visitor. I wrote to the Marist Missionary Sisters, Bedford, MS, for information, and was excited when I got a reply. I was impressed with the work of the Order and continued my correspondence. I would fill those empty Marist Missionary shoes someday!

people1.jpgAt St. Theresa Parish, I readied the convent for the first Sisters and welcomed them wholeheartedly. When Mother Edna came, I sent her orchids which prompted a meeting. She encouraged me to pray about my vocation and assured me of her prayers.

Along with my mother, I sought the Lord’s help. Mother was hesitant to have me go so far from home-He lei poina ‘ole ke keiki -A lei never forgotten is the beloved child. (Her youngest since age eleven.) However, my parents gave me their blessing when I chose to be a Manitowoc Franciscan…on a warm July day I stood at the railing of the SS Matsonia with my mother’s prophetic words, “I won’t see you again’, ringing in my ears. As the ship pulled away from Honolulu Harbor, I had a lump in my throat. I was fearful, yet excited. The band played ‘Aloha Oe’ and with tears streaming, I cast my leis onto the water. If they reached the shore, I would return someday…I thank God for the blessings He has given me and for the blessings still to come. I pray that my ‘YES’ continues to be alive and strong.

It seems appropriate to also quote Sister Mara Gandia, OSF, who came to Manitowoc in June 1950 from this beautiful island of Kauai with one of the first Sisters.

kid06.jpgWhen I was on the island, I loved to hear the Sisters laughing and singing. I thought they must love God very much because they were so happy! The Sisters told me they were so happy because they were sure that God loved them. I wanted to be sure of God’s love, too! I thought that if I could become a Sister, I would know that for sure. I continued these thoughts when I was in high school. When I graduated, my parents gave me permission to go to Manitowoc.

people3.jpgI did not know any Sisters in Wisconsin and Manitowoc except Sister St. Margaret. The Sisters and candidates made me so welcome that I was not afraid. I knew I could be happy with God and them. As I prayed to Our Lord, I also asked His Blessed Mother Mary and St. Theresa to help me in my difficulties and to keep on loving my Sisters and me. I have learned that there are no conditions on the love of God Our Father for me.

18 thoughts on “Franciscan Sisters Called to Serve at St. Theresa, Kekaha, HI”

  1. Sister Marie Bernadette Dorn` says:

    How wonderful to hear from Sisters who went ahead of us modern day missionaries to these wonderful Faith filled people at St. Theresa’s Parish in Kekaha. As of today the five Sisters missioned to St. Theresa Parish have arrived home for another year of joyful service to the Lord and His people.
    Sister Mary Ann Feminella has returned for her eighth year of teaching; this year Sister will teach fifteen fourth graders. Sister Mary Ann is from the East Coast; born in New York but presently calls New Jersey home.
    Sister Hannah Johnacheck comes from Michigan and will teach second graders for her second year at St. Theresa’s School.
    Sister Elena Gonzales comes to us from her home in the Yuma, Arizona area and will be teaching third grade in her first assignment to St. Theresa’s School.
    Another Sister teaching for her first time at St. Theresa’s School is Sister Carol Ann Gambsky. We are so blessed to have Sister Carol Ann as a full time Music teacher. She is a native of Wisconsin as is Sister Marie Bernadette Dorn who is returning for her fifth year. Sister Marie Bernadette cooks and bakes for the Sisters; she also visits the elderly ill twice a week either in their homes, hospital or nursing homes. It is a most rewarding work for her.
    This is the beginning of our “talk story” and we’d love to hear from you. God bless you for who your are and what you do for the Lord.

  2. Sister Rosalani,

    What a beautiful and inspiring story! I’m so grateful you shared it with the entire internet community. May God continue to bless you for your generosity and open kindheartedness.

    I need to know if you ever did see your mother again?

  3. Sister Anne Marie, Sister Rosalani is presently enjoying time with family on the west coast. If she doesn’t answer your question in a timely manner, I know the answer to your question.

  4. Sister Marie Bernadette Dorn` says:

    Good Morning/Aloha!
    The teaching Sisters are in school today for a faculty inservice,therefore I have access to the computer.
    Since coming home we’ve had an unwanted surprise when we discovered that the microwave was broken. Thursday is a free day for the Sisters and we plan on going to Lihue to find a new one on sale. In the meantime we enjoyed listening to Sister Elena as she prepares a pick up meal for the microwave only to remember that it does not work. Her verbalization sent us all into laughter.

  5. Sister Hannah Johnecheck says:

    Today was our first day of school here in Kekaha. It is always a joy to see the children’s joyful, eager, faces on the first day of school. It is also precious for teachers to see their last year’s students pop their heads in to say hello as the walk to their new classroom. It seeems to be their little way of transitioning from the old to the new.

  6. On Tuesday of this week we had our first day of school at St. Theresa, in Kekaha, HI.
    It was great to see all of the students and their parents again! They were all ready for school to begin.I especially enjoyed seeing the Kindergarteners from last year. They looked so confident and happy as they went to their first grade classroom.
    This year we have two Preschool classes. Some of the children had a difficult time adjusting to being at school. One “little one” went up to the aide and asked if he could use her cell phone to call his mom. He wanted to tell her to come and take him home. It was a busy and exciting day for all of us!

  7. S. Carol Ann says:


    I am the music teacher who is a newcomer to Kekaha! To all of the Sisters who have talked to me about the beauty of this island and the open warmth of the people…I now know what you mean.

    The landscape and ocean view is like nothing that I have ever seen. Tomorrow we go to Waimea Canyon, leaving at 7:30 a.m. so that we can pray Morning Prayer somewhere on our journey to the canyon. I can’t wait to see this famous place of the islands!

    For me and new to this place, God’s beauty is everywhere. And, I don’t think the newness of it all will ever get old.

    S. Carol Ann

  8. Sister Roselani says:

    Hi Sister Anne Marie,

    In response to your question, NO! I never saw my mother again as she died less than a year after I entered HFC. I know, however, that she has been “watching” over me all this time.

    Blessings on all you for the Church and our Community!

  9. Sister Marie Bernadette Dorn` says:

    Aloha! The window in the van would not move these past two weeks. When it looked like rain, we taped a plastic to the window and we were grateful many a time when it rained hard.However, that meant there was no air condition turned on in the van as that would be a waste. Three cheers as about an hour ago we were told to bring the van down as the motor for the window had arrived. Now may it be the correct size this time.
    An open window did not hamper our trip up the mountain of Kokee this past Saturday! It is so much cooler up there. It was fun to show our new Sisters the sights of waterfalls and color of the mountain. We even found a hiking trail that looked rather awesome. We plan on returning and walking that trail to the end. Want to join us? You are most welcomed!

  10. Neil Nitta says:

    Sisters of St. Theresa School,
    Aloha and welcome to another school year. For those Sisters who are new to the parish and school, my name is Neil Nitta and I am the nephew of Sr. Thereselle Arruda, who is also a member of this religious community and just recently celebrated her Golden Jubilee.
    I am currently the Religion Dept. Chair at Damien Memorial School and I teach Sophomore Religion (Church History). Damien Memorial is an all boys Catholic School with grades 7-12. Just recently, Pope Benedict XVI approved the canonization of Blessed Damien de Veuster, the namesake of our school and we are anxiously awaiting the news as to when the canonization will take place in Rome.
    Today, all of the Catholic Schools met for the Mass of the Holy Spirit at St. Ann’s (Kaneohe), which opens the school year. Bishop Larry Silva was the main celebrant as well as priests throughout the diocese. As part of the opening procession was the Visions of Faith Crosses. The Visions of Faith Crosses are crosses made by each and every Catholic school which tells and shows the representation of that particular school. All the crosses were decorated by students to show the particular charisma and talents that each school brings as its very own gifts. Every school participated and I was very happy to see that St. Theresa was represented. I wanted to meet the teacher who processed with the cross, but unfortunately I didn’t have time to do so after Mass. I do hope that this school year brings another time of joy in continuing on with the mission of the Franciscans as well as bringing out the charisma and spirit of St. Theresa. God Bless to each and everyone of you.

  11. Neil, it is so good to hear from you again. May Blessed Damien (soon St. Damien)intercede for you and your ministry of Catholic education. It is good you continue to watch out for St. Theresa School. Peace and all good.

  12. Good Morning,

    Now that school is in full swing the new music program is up and running. Things are evolving and will continue during the year. I saw several classes for the first time yesterday. The children and I had a fun time getting acquainted. I am waiting for the school day to begin with the view of the beautiful Pacific out the front door of my music classroom. The room is close enough to the ocean to hear the waves hit the beach. Very awesome experience!!

    Sister Carol Ann

  13. Sister Marie Bernadette Dorn` says:

    Dear Neil,
    Wouldn’t your Grandmother Mary, be proud of you with your recent comments on the blog? Sounds to me like you enjoy your teaching ,also. In two weeks we will celebrate the first anniversary of your Auntie Nina’s death. Will you be able to be present? It would be an honor to introduce you to our two new Sisters. We are a community of five this year with a full time music teacher and three classroom teachers. Since the three classroom teaching Sisters are in one area, they have called it “Sister’s Alley.”

  14. Neil Nitta says:

    Sr. Marie Bernadette Dorn and Sr. Julie Ann,
    Thank you very much for your comments. I am now in my 15th year of teaching at Damien Memorial School. I had the pleasure of spending some time with Aunty Kuulei when she came to Oahu and spent some time here for her summer vacation. She showed me pictures as well as a video of her Jubilee celebration. My dad also had a chance of seeing one of his former teachers, Sr. Emerita who showed him the famous “Packers Room” at the Motherhouse.
    Sr. Bernadette, my wife and I will be coming home during the Labor Day weekend in 2 weeks. Usually we would make a trip back home to Kauai during the summer, but because of my schedule and because I had to prepare earlier for the school year, there was no chance of getting back home then. Anyway, I do look forward to seeing you and meeting the new Sisters that have joined the St. Theresa community at Sunday Mass.

  15. Sister Rosalani,
    Thank you for your response and I am sure your mother is “watching” over you. I love our church’s teaching on the Communion of Saints as I talk to my parents(in heaven) all the time and ask for help and thank them for their unselfish parenting.Our family gathers once a month for Mass in their memory (as well as in memory of my sister, Karen) and we usually eat a meal together. Even their recent great grandchildren are learning about my parents through stories and pictures.
    I hope my parents are acquainted with your mother now and they can “watch” together!

  16. Sister Marie Bernadette Dorn` says:

    Ah Neil,
    I am going to miss seeing you over the Labor Day weekend; so will Sister Elena who will visit her sister on Oahu. However the other three Sisters will be happy to visit with you as well as introduce you to Sister Carol Ann who is our music teacher. Enjoy the visit with your parents and the nights in Grandma’s home.

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