Hawaii parishioners displaced by lava ask for prayers

IMAGE: CNS photo/Marco Garcia, Reuters

By Anna Weaver

(CNS) — Paul and Rose Utes, members of Sacred Heart Parish in Pahoa, had to
leave their home when lava from the Kilauea eruptions moved into their section
of the Leilani Estates subdivision in Puna on the Big Island.

the time they heard the mandatory evacuation order, the couple, who own Black
Rock Cafe in Pahoa, were prepping to cater food for Honolulu Bishop Larry
Silva’s parish visit that first weekend in May.

the Utes were at their house retrieving their belongings, a fissure opened up
across the street, sending a lava fountain shooting into the air. They later
returned to get some of their dogs that had run off after the fissure explosion
and a few more things. But with the road to their home fairly inaccessible,
they haven’t been back recently.

just frustrating not knowing what’s going on around your house,” Paul said May
23 in a telephone interview with the Hawaii Catholic Herald, Honolulu’s
diocesan newspaper.

Paul said they haven’t accepted much relief support beyond temporarily staying
in a friend’s home because they feel there are other people who need it more.
Their business hasn’t been much affected by the eruptions so far. And they have
insurance, though they still have to pay the mortgage on a house they can’t
live in.

Utes, who have lived in Leilani Estates since 1991, now need to find a
long-term place to stay.

don’t want these houses. I want my house,” Paul recalled his wife saying sadly
as they drove around looking at potential rental properties that would allow
their six dogs.

everybody could just keep all the people affected in their prayers,” Paul
asked. “I know a lot of people that lost their houses and need help. And
they’re devastated. And I know quite a few people who didn’t have insurance and
lost their houses.”

Heart parishioners Richard and Nancy Robbins also live in Leilani Estates, but
are four or five streets north of the current lava activity.

has looked out after us,” Richard said.

to Hawaii County Civil Defense, 82 structures to date have been
destroyed by lava in this latest outflow from Kilauea Volcano, erupting
continuously since 1983. Lava so far has covered more than 2,223 acres.

Hawaii County issued an evacuation order to subdivision residents, some
residents like the Robbinses have gone back to living in their homes. They
moved from Miami to Hawaii 19 years ago and love Leilani. Now they regularly
drive around the subdivision checking on the homes of friends and neighbors.

one thing hearing about it, one thing seeing pictures on TV,” Richard said, but
another to be there. “We got halfway down a street and we realized that (the
rest of the) street didn’t exist anymore.”

said fellow parishioners have been wonderful. One couple offered their deployed
son’s home as a temporary residence. The parish food bank asked if they needed
food. A non-Catholic local friend has also offered their home further away on
the island for Richard and Nancy if and when they might need to leave Leilani

aren’t in any need, but it’s nice to hear people ask you, even if you don’t
need it,” Richard said.

is a very, very tight community,” he added. “I’m just hoping we can survive. I
don’t want to have to leave Hawaii.”

Sacred Heart Parish in Pahoa town, you might not know there’s major volcanic
activity going on just a few miles away if not for the busy parking lot full of
news crews and aid workers, said Lindbergh Marzo, Sacred Heart’s pastoral
council president.

parish, which is 3.5 miles from the eruption, has allowed media and relief
workers to use the church’s lot and office bathrooms. At one point the parish
hall was a temporary crisis information center. Other parishes have been
dropping off donations there as well.

Joseph Parish in Hilo filled a 15-person passenger van with food, water,
blankets, pillows, clothing, gift cards and other items for Puna evacuees and
dropped it off at Sacred Heart May 22. Parishioners also raised a $3,224 cash
donation for a local relief fund.

Paul Li, vicar forane of the diocese’s East Hawaii vicariate, said the parishes
in the vicariate took up a second collection for volcano aid during Masses May
19 and 20, which was Pentecost Sunday.

Li’s parish of St. Theresa in Mountain View, which is about 18 miles from
Pahoa, and Holy Rosary Mission in Keaau collected $1,164 in their second
collection and also delivered blankets, tarps, towels and other items to Sacred
Heart for distribution to those displaced residents that need them.

people are grateful for where they are and some people have a lot of anxiety,”
Marzo said of the people he knows displaced by the volcano activity.

Estates is a rural subdivision with large lots on a 22-mile grid. The smaller
nearby Lanipuna Gardens also is affected. At least 24 fissures have opened up
since May 3, spewing molten rock on what used to be a quiet subdivision,
forming a lava lake, sending magma to the ocean and expelling poisonous sulfur
dioxide gas.

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Note: The Honolulu Diocese’s three social service agencies — Office of Social
Ministries, HOPE Services Hawaii and Catholic Charities Hawaii — are helping
those affected by the volcanic activity. For information on how to donate to
the agencies go to https://hopeserviceshawaii.org or https://www.catholiccharitieshawaii.org.

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writes for the Hawaii Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Honolulu.

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