For two days in February, Ben Suiso and Felice Brault trimmed bushes, filled ditches with dirt and took a weed whacker to overgrown grass. But the work wasn’t being done in their home yards.
Ben, a retired fire fighter and Felice, a retired school teacher, rolled up their sleeves and volunteered their time to clean up around the convent/chapel and Saint Marianne Cope’s grave in Kalaupapa, Hawaii.
Kalaupapa National Historical Park was established in 1980 and depends on volunteers like Ben and Felice to help keep the grounds around St. Elizabeth Convent and Mother’s grave manicured. Ben took part because he wanted to see firsthand “a part of history.” The visit left him “very impressed” about how much the sisters of St. Francis gave to help the patients with Hansen’s disease (leprosy). “They did an incredible job especially considering the times,” he said.
Felice, who worked and developed an intergenerational program at St. Francis Hospital in Honolulu in the 1980’s and introduced her neighbor Ben to the sisters, said “It’s a privilege in enhancing the grounds where Saint Marianne and her Franciscan Sisters ministered to the poorest of the poor — sharing in the preservation of the dignity of place and people of Kalaupapa.”