Here’s a Franciscan Sister’s Eye on the Hawaiian Culture

by Sister Carol Seidl on January 29, 2011

Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Carol Seidl writes about what she has learned and experienced since August 2010 while living among the people at St. Theresa Parish, Kekaha, HI.

Aloha! AloooooooooHA!

Franciscan Experience of Hawaii Luau

Franciscan Sisters serving at St. Theresa Parish, Kekaha, HI experience a luau.

When one is sent to a new mission you take time to observe and listen. For example, the way aloha is said has great meaning in Hawaii. The longer you drag out the lo and the louder the HA is said gives a greater welcome than just saying aloha.  Part of being missioned someplace is to learn the culture, respect it and to become a part of it if possible.

Being in Hawaii now for just six months I have learned a lot not just about the Hawaiian culture but the many other cultures that make up Hawaii. This was brought out in the luau, that the three Sisters I live with, and I experienced. We were gifted by four of our parishioners from St. Theresa Parish in Kekaha, Kaua’i.

We arrived at The Smith Family Luau in Kapaa at about 4:30PM. The Smith Family have been doing the luau for 60 years. The Smith family is very Hawaiian despite the name. Their great-grandfather came from England and married a Hawaiian girl. Upon entering the grounds we took a short tram ride around the grounds to see the many acres of Hawaiian trees and plants. We saw bamboo trees that grow 4’ a day! We also saw taro plants used to make poi which is a Hawaiian dip with a very bland taste but they love it. We saw plenty of peacocks strutting right next to the colorful roosters. Goats and baby kids were plentiful too -all animals that are part of Hawaii.

Opening the pit at a Hawaii luauWe then all gathered around a mound of sand called an imu. This is where the pig is buried that is being roasted for our luau meal. First, special stones are heated very hot and placed in the pit. Then piles of banana leaves are put down and then the pig. Banana leaves are again placed on top of the pig. There are plenty of banana trees growing on the island. Two young Hawaiian men come and blow a large shell at each of the four corners for the four directions. They then begin digging out the pig. The steam arises as the sand is dug away. Banana leaves are discarded and the pig is placed onto a large metal tray with handles. It is so well done the meat falls off the bones, except for the head of the pig which is clearly seen. Our luau feast is ready!

We proceeded to the Luau House for our feast of: lettuce salad with papaya seed or juava dressing, lomi lomi salad (tomatoes & salmon),namasu salad, fried Chinese rice, Hawaiian sweet potato (bright purple & served cold), choice of three breads-pineapple, taro or sweet, kalua pork, chicken adobo, teriyaki beef, sweet n’ sour mahimahi, fresh poi, Hawaiian fruit, coconut cake, coconut jello, (solid white) and Hawaiian bread pudding which was cooked in a large pot in the pit with the pig. All was delicious! Most I had ever tasted before.

After the feast we walked to the lagoon amphitheater for the Rhythm of Aloha Show. In the darkness of the night we saw the god of fire-Pele-appear in fire up high. This opened the show for the variety of hula dances performed by men and women. All the hula attire they wore were very festive in all colors. The fire dance by the men was outstanding. We were also treated to dances from the countries of the people who immigrated to Hawaii to work on the sugarcane and pineapple plantations. We moved to the rhythm to colorful performances from Tahiti, Samoa, Philippines, New Zealand, China and Japan.

It was an evening to experience true Hawaiian culture in nature, customs, food, clothing, dance and ALOHA spirit!

Have you ever had a similar experience?

7 thoughts on “Here’s a Franciscan Sister’s Eye on the Hawaiian Culture”

  1. Lrizzo1950 says:

    This must be a very exciting assignment. . To be able to experience the way that all these different cultures mold the Hawaiian culture of today and to celebrate Mass and teachings of the Catholic Church within Hawaii is so educational. When I lived in northern Japan, I found a Catholic Church to attend.We are united in the message of our Mass, but all cultures add their own special flavor to the Mass. I especially enjoyed singing the hymns in Japanese.

  2. Sr.Carol Seidl says:

    On the 3rd Sunday of the month it is Filipino Sunday because our parish has so many Filipinos. We sing the Our Father in Filipino on that Sunday. Also, we celebrate the “Rooster Masses-Misa de Gallo” 9 days before Christmas-another Filipino custom. You are right, it is beautiful to see how culture adds a different flavor to a Mass that unites us.

  3. Sr. Delores says:

    Oh, does this bring back wonderful memories of my six years at St. Theresa… I love the hospitality and warmth of the people. It is truly an aloha experience of love and friendship. The dances and food are great. I thank God for the gift of that time. Their faith touched my life deeply. I love praying with them. The music and singing left lasting mark on my soul. I am so happy you are experiencing it, Sr. Carol. God bless your time and ministry. I enjoyed the young people very much. They loved drama and we would take it to the nursing home for the people…

  4. Sr. Delores says:

    Oh, does this bring back wonderful memories of my six years at St. Theresa… I love the hospitality and warmth of the people. It is truly an aloha experience of love and friendship. The dances and food are great. I thank God for the gift of that time. Their faith touched my life deeply. I love praying with them. The music and singing left lasting mark on my soul. I am so happy you are experiencing it, Sr. Carol. God bless your time and ministry. I enjoyed the young people very much. They loved drama and we would take it to the nursing home for the people…

  5. Sr. Carol Seidl says:

    Sr. Delores-the students still talk about you. They really liked you as a teacher. You touched their lives too!

  6. Smkolbe says:

    Thanks for this peek into your life on Kauai! It seems that you enjoy, and help build, a very strong sense of community / family! Beautiful!

  7. Sister Anne Marie Lom says:

    I really enjoyed your organized way of presenting the feast from beginning to end. It helped me to appreciate and understand the experience. Thank you for sharing your Hawaiian life with us.

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