> Lord, Preserve Us!

Lord, Preserve Us!

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By Sister Barbara Jean Wajda

From the large windows of the Kalaupapa Store, a sizeable (for Kalaupapa) crowd could be seen gathered at the pier. Two wore NPS uniforms, indicating the National Park Service sponsored the group. In a few moments of glancing away, the group was heading to the Store. Our questions were answered. The NPS had contracted people to restore the pedestals holding the large statues at St. Philomena Church in Kalawao. They also were tasked with inspecting and taking steps to maintain the museum textiles and pack up St. Philomena Church’s original chandelier for refurbishing, a two-week project.

The museum is actually a Cultural Resources building since it is not open to the public. In a humidity and temperature-controlled setting, metal cabinets hold patients’ clothing, carefully stored for maximum preservation. Team members inspected current conditions and recommended best practices for ongoing protection. In another museum wing, the grand chandelier from St. Philomena’s, bearing the corrosion of years, was carefully packed for shipping and restoration.

While one contingent worked on the textiles at the museum, the other was at St. Philomena Church. Restorers took four statues (Sacred Heart, Blessed Mother, St. Philomena, and St. Joseph) from their stands. The focus was the stands’ gold-painted areas. They were painted over, so the first task was to get down to the original gold color. Like Aztec and Inca alchemists, team members mixed gold paint with conservation-grade resin to match the original covering and provide a better-lasting layer. They also refinished the wood-like pillars on two stands to bring out their vibrancy. Project conservators are Curtis Sullivan, Casey Oehler, Anne Ennes, Fran Ritchie, Nicole Peters and Shay Henrion.

Do you know that concrete breathes? Conservators noted that the rust marks on the rectory yard statue were becoming more prevalent. An experienced NPS worker said the rebars supporting the concrete were rusting from the inside because painting the figure prevented the concrete from breathing. Treating the rebars with more expensive lime would have allowed the concrete to breathe and prevent the rebars from rusting through. We are looking forward to another NPS project down the line to restore the outdoor statues and monuments.

One couldn’t help but notice the care, attention to fine detail and reverence evident when team members spoke of the restorations and did the work. In the blink of an eye, the care, attention and reverence of Father Damien and Mother Marianne in tending to patients’ needs came to mind. Renewal, restoration and healing are brought about in the past and the present, for which we are truly grateful. May our hands bring renewal, restoration and healing into the lives we touch!