Leading in the Spirit of St. Marianne
In April 2012, more than 200 people who were living at Kea‘au Beach Park in Waianae, Hawaii, were evicted from their homes by city officials. Like St. Marianne, who always responded willingly to the outcast, Sister Beatrice Tom, administrator of the nearby Our Lady of Keaau retreat and outreach center reached out in love.
In 2005, after serving as chief executive officer of St. Francis Healthcare System for 15 years, Sister Beatrice established Our Lady of Keaau. Located on 58 acres on the Waianae Coast, the center offers nonprofit organizations a special retreat center for meetings, conferences and celebrations. Guests have access to furnished cabins, an outdoor kitchen and dining facilities, tennis courts, swimming pools and open fields.
Reaching out to the community, volunteers and staff at Our Lady of Kea‘au also prepare and serve about 375 hot meals every week for those residing at the Paiolu Homeless Shelter and at the Waianae Boat Harbor.
This year, in response to the needs of her homeless neighbors, Sister Beatrice went a step further in tackling this growing community problem by creating Mother Marianne Farm, a Christian homeless tent community on the campus.
The land, once overgrown with kiawe and weeds was cleared and within weeks, tentalos, (framed tents) donated by the Diocese of Honolulu, were erected. Soon flowers and trees were planted. Rock walls were constructed by the new residents.
Today, residents pray together as a community, grow their own produce, go fishing and help with chores to maintain the property. Residents follow strict rules, and their lives are transformed as they learn to live in harmony with God, each other and the environment. In addition to hot meals, hygiene kits and clothing, other items are distribute.
The ultimate goal is to retrain the temporary residents and get them back into society, said Sister Beatrice. For example, some have been taught to lay flooring and maintain the farm carts, and “Henry has become our baker. He tries anything and made delicious almond cookies for the feast of St. Francis and St. Marianne Cope’s canonization day.”
Sister Beatrice takes a hands-on approach to leadership. In addition to managing the facility, she strives to create an atmosphere of love and peace among guests, residents and volunteers. Like Mother Marianne, she ministers one-on-one with those who are homeless and helps to restore dignity to those who have lost all hope. “I feed them, clothe them, teach them discipline and pray with them,” she explains.
Like St. Marianne, Sister Beatrice says God seems to continually lead her to ministry with those most in need. “I don’t seem to seek it. It falls in front of me,” she says. “I have to follow it. If it falls in front of me, it must be from the Lord.”