Each year, Dr. Lynn Babington, president of Chaminade University, meets with Most Reverend Larry Silva, Bishop of Honolulu. The annual meeting serves as a way for the university and the diocese to discuss and share their shared mission of serving the people of Hawaii.
This year’s meeting took on a different form, with Chaminade having the extreme honor of safely hosting the Bishop on campus. The visit was an opportunity to explore how the university and the diocese could come together during these unprecedented times of need to serve our community.
“I thought that meeting some of the people that are doing work that contributes to the shared mission of the diocese and the university would be helpful to him and to us,” says Brother Edward Brink, Chaminade’s vice president of mission and rector who helped arrange the visit. “I hope the visit will help both the Bishop and those of us who met with him to think creatively about how the university and the diocese can serve the people of Hawaii.”
Most Reverend Larry Silva began his visit by meeting with Father Martin Solma, Chaplain; Dr. Dave Coleman, professor of Religious Studies; Dr. Dustyn Ragasa, director of the Master in Pastoral Theology Program; and Jeremiah Carter, director of Campus Ministry. Wearing masks and maintaining a safe distance, the small group discussed Marianist values, focusing on the formation of faith on campus and in the community. Next, he met with Dr. Lynn Babington, president, and Dr. Helen Turner, vice president of strategy and innovation.
For first-year students Jerseylee-Rayne Mahiai and Ashley Yoshikawa, the Bishop’s visit left them feeling connected and inspired. They were part of a group of students who joined the Bishop for a safe luncheon after his morning meetings.
“The biggest takeaway I had from lunch with Bishop Silva was how engaging he was,” says Mahiai. “One thing that stuck out to me was when he said that we were future leaders. It may not seem like much and I’ve heard that term many times, but Bishop Silva spoke to us as if the world’s next decision had to be made by the five students that were in that room at that moment.”
The Bishop asked the students for their thoughts and opinions on how to solve some of Hawaii’s most pressing issues, like homelessness.
“It caught my attention because he asked us for ideas of how to solve this issue,” says Mahiai. “He is so full of wisdom and he has experienced so much, and here he was asking us for advice. It felt like such an honor. The ideas that were brought to the table were very interesting and some things I would have never thought.”
Yoshikawa was struck by hearing how the Bishop’s work and church communities have been affected by COVID-19 in many of the same ways as Chaminade.
“Hearing about his experiences with learning to adapt to COVID-19 regulations was really eye-opening,” she says. “Especially as he mentioned that some were critical of his choices.”
As the group sat six feet apart from each other and took precautions to keep each other healthy, many shared their own experiences with COVID-19. For some of the students who are new to the university, one of their biggest takeaways was just getting to meet each other and feel connected during these socially distant times.
“It isn’t very often that we can meet with others and talk with them,” says Yoshikawa. “And especially as a first-year student I’ve missed out on a lot of opportunities to meet and get to know people. So I enjoyed being able to have that in-person connection with people.”
Mahiai agreed. “It was good being able to meet new people while feeling safe during this rough time,” she said.
Their shared experiences allowed them to explore the reality of COVID-19, and discuss how these challenging times have affected everyone across the board. Together, the Bishop and the students explored their joint responsibility to care for their community.
“It has been a difficult time because of COVID-19,” says Yoshikawa. “It has impacted so many communities, and it is more important than ever to reach out to those in need.”