Saturday, August 12, 2023

Magnificat - Lahaina's Maria Lanakila Catholic Church Survived Maui Fires


Maria Lanakila Catholic Church in Lahaina remains standing following horrific wildfires. Some are calling its saving an "act of God."  from New York Post

I am happy to share the news that Lahaina's Maria Lanakila Catholic Church, Maui, Hawaii seems to have survived the recent wildfires.  
Maria Lanakila is a Marian Site featured in the book I edited, MAGNIFICAT: MAMA MARY'S PILGRIM SITES (Anvil 2012; copies available in Anvil's online site, and also via Kindle), which has an imprimatur by then Archibishop of Manila, Luis Antonio Tagle.  I am sharing the article by Millicent Dypiangco about Maria Lanakila, indeed a place where prayers are heard and answered.  



Millicent Dypiangco 

THE IMPACT of my visit to the Marian site of Maria Lanakila did not occur in one instance. There were no apparitions of the Virgin that appeared to me, nor were there dramatic changes within me at any given moment during our visit. Rather, I would call the influence of this site as prompting a perpetual transformation that continues to exert its power over me to this day.

My first visit to Maria Lanakila was in January 2001. It was actually my very first visit to Hawai’i, to the island of Maui, taken on a family trip with my husband and his parents and youngest brother. It would be the first of many future family trips taken with the Dypiangco clan. I say “clan” because we have now grown to be a family of sixteen…who make it a point to go on a family vacation every other year…together…thanks to Mom and Dad. Prompted by the idea to finally visit what many call “paradise,” I for one was very excited to visit Hawai’i, and to finally go on the real honeymoon that Joe and I never went on after our wedding eleven years prior…complete with my husband’s parents at that!

As I do on my vacations, I try not to have any expectations of the place so that I may be pleasantly surprised at each turn. Pleasantly surprised was exactly what I was at each spot we visited. I experienced the peace and serenity of Hawai’i, particularly the island of Maui, which swept me right off my feet and made me want to linger, savor, and soak in every single experience.

From the very first greeting of Aloha, something stirred in me and I knew that this place was going to be special. I think that the first impression of this place for me was its simplicity, and how for me, felt as if I had finally gotten what I have been craving for so many years. The simplicity and purity of the island melted away all the stress from my body. I felt it from that first day, that first meal of kalua pork, as I sat gazing at the blue Pacific from the shores of Lahaina Village. I think that the only thing that broke that pattern was the row of hotels that lined Kanapali where we opted to stay. However, it only acted as our home base as we explored everything else that Maui had to offer.

Of course, we could not go on a vacation without spending time at mass on Sunday. And it was our practice to attend mass that led us to Maria Lanakila. Maria Lanakila stood in its simplicity in the residential area of Lahaina. Its architecture reflected the ease and purity of what surrounded it. It drew me in.

Upon entering this little church, I immediately felt at peace. My frame of mind had totally changed. My mind was quieted as I sat in the pew and reflected before, during, and after the mass. The hectic life that I lived in Los Angeles was forgotten and I gave thanks. Thanks for the opportunity to finally be here in “paradise,” thanks for the family who had accompanied me, thanks for my health, my home, my livelihood. I was grateful for many things and I made sure that I said those prayers of gratitude. Most especially, I prayed for the one thing that weighed very heavily in my heart. I prayed for a child. Despite all the blessings that I have received, I knew that there remained an emptiness in me. And that emptiness was to bear a child, to become a mother, and to love like I have not loved before.

Interestingly enough, Maria Lanakila is located in downtown Lahaina, known to be the “cradle of faith” on the island of Maui. The church’s name also translates to be Our Lady of Victory. How uncanny that this place, this cradle of faith, was to be the testing ground of my faith as I prayed in earnest for my heart’s desire. I have always considered my faith to have been strong. I went to Catholic schools from Kindergarten to twelfth grade. I received my sacraments. I went to church every Sunday. Little did I know that the depth of my faith would be truly tested in the first eleven years of my marriage as Joe and I awaited a child. We even sought medical help and received treatments at a fertility clinic, but none led to conception. Yes, my faith wavered. There were even times when the strong desire to have a child placed a strain on Joe’s and my marriage. Shortly prior to this visit to Maui, we had actually taken a step back and decided to give ourselves some time to let things be. We decided to put distance between all the medical interventions that we had undergone and to leave things in God’s hands. This was not always an easy thing to do, especially for me. We needed to have faith. I prayed for that faith.

Transformation #1: A couple of weeks after returning from our trip to Maui, Joe and I find out that we were pregnant.

Transformation #2: Miranda Victoria Makanalani Dypiangco was born in late September of that same year. Unbeknownst to us at the time, the middle name of Victoria that we had given Miranda derives from the meaning of Maria Lanakila, Our Lady of Victory. It could not have been any more appropriate for this coincidence to have happened. We also purposely agreed to giving our child a Hawaiian middle name. This gift eventually came from Joe’s cousin, Erinn, a native Hawaiian, who gave us the name “Makanalani,” gift of heaven. Miranda’s name was complete.

Transformation #3: Total turn-around on my part: emotionally, psychologically, spiritually. I had become more real, feeling things more meaningfully, seeing things more clearly, loving more deeply. My focus went from my job to my home. My home, in turn, was transformed.

Transformation #4: Family, and the time we take to cultivate our relationships, became priority. One way that we make sure to nurture our family relationships, particularly with Joe’s family, is to take these family vacations every other year. Usually, we vary the places where we take these vacations. However, in 2005, Dad and Mom spoke up and elected to take the family back to Hawaii, to Maui. They wished to return to Maria Lanakila to give thanks. We were in complete agreement. So it was that Miranda Victoria Makanalani made her first trip to the place that brought her to us.

Transformation #5: Our ohana (Hawaiian for “family”) grows as a result of Miranda’s choice to continue her dance studies in hula over tap/jazz/ballet. We have become a part of a halau (hula school) that has Miranda developing her craft and that has also brought out mine and Joe’s hidden talents. Through our halau, we have found true friends who share a common love of hula and of the aloha spirit. 

Transformation #6: Embracing the aloha spirit as part of our daily living. The aloha spirit stands for much more than “hello” or “goodbye.” According to one of Hawaii’s treasured kupuna (an elder), Auntie Pilahi Paki, the aloha spirit is the coordination of mind and heart within each person. Each person must think and emote good feelings to others. It means kindness, unity, humility, and patience. These are qualities that we wish to impart upon Miranda.

Although Maria Lanakila is not a popular Marian site, this church in the village of Lahaina in Maui, and that has been built in Mary’s honor by the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Mary and Jesus, has had a tremendous influence on our lives. Its transformations are perpetual. From the birth of our Miranda (after an 11-year wait), to a return visit to Maui and to Maria Lanakila (to give thanks), to the discovery of hula (and our extended halau ohana), to learning more about the spirit of aloha (and embracing it as part of our daily living), to the writing of this Marian experience (and examining its impact on us), and most importantly, to the way it has enriched our faith in Mary and in her son, Jesus, Maria Lanakila, Our Lady of Victory, truly embodies “her triumphs with the faithful.” Because of Maria Lanakila, where our prayers were heard and answered, we are, and will be, forever faithful.

tags: Marian sites, Maui wild fires, Hawaii fire, Mama Mary

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