by Mark Paul Pilar
In Nomine Patris, Et Filii, Et Spiritus Sancti, Amen (In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen)
When we reflect on the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, we have to think like a writer trying to write a new story. A writer creates the characters, their backstory, assigns them specific roles, and tells the story utilizing characters that he or she created in order to bring the entire story to life. That’s what God did with our Blessed Mother, even before she came into existence, God had already assigned her the role she was going to play and that she’d be conceived without original sin and play the role of the Mother of Christ.
The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception teaches us that God has already written our story just like He did for our Blessed Mother. Although we don’t know how our lives will exactly play out according to God’s plan, we must continue to place our full trust in God’s plan for our lives and let Him tell the story that He has written for each one of us.
How? Trusting in Him. Easier said than done, I know. It’s never an easy thing to do especially when we are wanting things to go our way all the time, especially when life will hit us unexpectedly.
On the Feast Day of the Immaculate conception, the Gospel reading is from Luke 1:26-38. St Gabriel the Archangel was sent by God to visit our Blessed Mother in Nazareth and spoke the words “Hail Full of Grace, the Lord is with you” and then reassured her saying “Do Not Be Afraid”, from there St Gabriel told our Blessed Mother that she will be conceived by the Holy Ghost and that the child Jesus will be born. Mary did have fear but her ultimate response to St Gabriel was “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, may it be done unto me according to thy word”. Our Blessed Mother’s response was a response of trusting God fully by the words of her beautiful Fiat.
Even though we are presented with opportunities where God asks of us to take the leap of faith so that we can meet Him where he’s at in our lives, we have to be like our Blessed Mother and recite the words of her Faith “May it be done unto me according to they word”. Many of you know my discernment story that is still being revealed to me and the risk I took to get to where I am at. For those of you who don’t know I am currently in a long-distance relationship and by long distance, I mean in another country, and by another country, I mean Canada.
In July 2021, Celina and I received news that the Canadian Borders will be open to US travelers. Prior to that we were worried and prayed a lot that the borders would be open and they did. The following month was when I took the leap of faith to book my flight to meet Celina in Edmonton for the first time. I was scared and by scared I mean I almost did not fly up. So many thoughts of doubt were running through my mind but I then I ended up praying the rosary. After praying the rosary was when I booked my trip and right before hitting the “Book Flight’ button, I whispered “Lord, let it be done unto me according to thy word”.
October 2nd came and I was already on my flight. During my flight’s, I prayed the rosary and kept on whispering Mary’s fiat over and over again and reminded myself not to expect anything from this trip because I was only meeting Celina for the first time. When I got to meet Celina the next day, we got acquainted and started our first adventure together. I got to meet her family, her roommates, and her friends throughout this trip. In the middle of it all we expressed doubts and thoughts about whether this would work out or not. On October 11, 2021 we went to Mass together on the feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary. The Gospel for that feast day is Mary’s Fiat. Luke 1:26-38. That was the day where we officially started dating and trusted God with His plan for us.
God has presented me an opportunity to take that leap of faith and trust Him and never would I thought I would have made that trip and I’m glad I did because God presented me with the opportunity to discern with Celina and to grow in faith and trust in Him to a whole new level. Even though my story is still being revealed, I know that every time I read up on the Immaculate Conception, I am always reminded of Mary’s Fiat.
The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception reminds us that God has already written our story for us and knows how it will end up just like how he has written our Blessed Mother’s story. When God presents us with challenges that shake our faith, new opportunities that are intimidating, difficult decisions to make, etc. We are called to Trust God and to also meditate on the words of our Blessed Mother’s fiat “Let it be done unto me according to thy word”.
May the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception teach us and Trust in God’s plan for our lives even in the midst of uncertainty. If God already knew what plan He had for our Blessed Mother even before she was conceived, God already knows what plan He has for our own lives. Trust in Him.
In Nomine Patris, Et Filii, Et Spiritus Sancti, Amen (In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen)
Mark has been apart of EPIC ministry since 2015. Throughout his years in EPIC, he has served as a small group leader, been part of the Core team and served as a Site Team Leader and Information Officer from 2019-2022. Aside from being a part of EPIC and serving the ministry, he also attends the Traditional Latin Mass at Blessed Sacrament Church in Pauoa and serves as one of the Sacristans for that parish. Outside of Church, Mark is a Full-Time Inspector at ADT security and is currently working on obtaining his Cyber Security Certification and restarting his photography business within the next year.
By Jessica Russell
To be grateful is one of the most difficult things to do when you are not in the right place in your life to give thanks. When you can be pessimistic and always look for what’s wrong in your life instead of looking for all the small blessings that God has given you. They can seem small, but if one of them weren't there on any given day they can make a huge difference in our lives. For example, how many times have we woken up and opened our eyes and just breathed? How many times have we told God thank you for the breath in my lungs? Can you imagine if that breath wasn’t there?
God has blessed me tremendously, he has healed me from my PCOS and given me a son after 16 years of praying for him. I am now at home taking care of him which means I am no longer working my full-time job. We have become a one-income household, which can be really challenging in Hawaii.
Our lives have been changed and we may not have everything we want but we have everything we need. God has found a way to provide for our every need. When I start to lose focus and start to worry about our finances, God reminds me that he will take care of everything. He reminds me of the smallest things like a rainbow which means that he keeps his promises. When that Rainbow first appeared to Noah they were so grateful after waiting so long for a dry day and for somewhere to land where they were able to get off that boat. Can you imagine how they must have felt after so many days on a boat with nonstop rain? During the COVID lockdown, it was so difficult to remain positive and connected to God when the churches were closed and we couldn’t see anyone because we had to stay home. The rate of divorce and suicide went up during this time. It was really challenging, but somehow through all the rain, God continued to show himself through his rainbows.
During this time God guided me to start a small group on Zoom with all my cousins and to create a friend group on messenger where we supported each other through it all. I would watch Father Mike Schmitz on Youtube for mass and pray before my workouts. I started going daily to the Aiea Loop trail to feel close to God. There is a peak where all you see is God’s beautiful creation and feel his breath in the wind so strongly I can’t help but feel close to him there. All these beautiful blessings helped me not only survive but thrive. I lost 67 pounds.
One day I decided to choose God. I choose joy. I chose to trust him and I did. I wasn’t going to let sadness win and when I felt weak I prayed harder. I reached out to my beautiful support group and God shined through every dark cloud.
To be grateful is very important to me. I can’t stop feeling grateful for everything he has given me; my health, my son, my husband, and my beautiful doggy that is still miraculously alive after 15 years. The way that Jacob looks up at me.The way that just by seeing me I can make him smile. How I hold him and he stops crying or being scared. I have learned so much about God’s love, I can’t stop thanking him. The fact that I can hold a beautiful miracle in my arms every day is more than enough for me. I look at my son's beautiful eyes as he looks at me so lovingly. I feel so grateful to have him. I try to enjoy every second I have with him and not let stress or worry a.k.a the Devil steal my joy. I love our Lord and I trust him with everything in my life but knowing Jacob has shown me a new understanding of love.
To love God is to be grateful no matter what you’re going through. There is always a blessing to give thanks for. There is always God behind the scenes blessing you, protecting you, and loving you. Just because you are his beautiful miracle, his beautiful baby that he can't help to just hold and look into your eyes and hold you when you cry or are scared. Let him love you like a baby in his parent's arms. Let yourselves be loved by him. Let our beautiful Mother embrace you and cuddle you when you need her. Let his love shine through every circumstance. Let him love you. I pray that this Thanksgiving you find more blessings than you can count to be thankful for.
by Normie Jean Taylan
When I was introduced to the rosary as a young child, I found it intriguing, but I also dreaded praying it. I was intrigued by its various mysteries, prayers and what I thought was its “power”, but I dreaded praying it because the average 15 minutes it took to pray it felt like such a long time. It was when I was able to, with God’s grace, grow in my faith life and learn about the rosary’s impact on our salvation and my inner peace that my heart started to change about the rosary.
My introduction to the rosary as a child came through my family’s involvement in a Philippines-based ministry in which daily praying the rosary with one’s family was a huge part. Each Saturday, my sister and I would join our mom and her friends in bringing a statue of Our Lady of Fatima to a new family’s home, where with them, we would pray the rosary and various devotional prayers followed by dinner and fellowship. A week later we would return to pray the rosary with the family again, then bring Our Lady’s statue to the next family she would be staying and interceding for over the next seven days. I did not understand it then, but looking back, it was amazing to see the greater sense of peace and unity that a lot of these families had when we returned that following Saturday, as well as hear about how their prayers were answered through Our Lady’s stay with them.
As a very sensitive child who really wanted to please my mom and her friends, I really enjoyed the praise that I got from knowing how to kneel down and pray the rosary at such a young age. But other than feeling that I was obligated to pray the rosary because it was “good for me” and made my mom happy, I did not feel a real desire to pray the rosary, or a true connection to God and to Mother Mary at that time. God and Mother Mary just felt distant, superior and unable to understand me.
In my later elementary school to middle school years, however, various events happened that started to shake my life and my faith. When I was 10 years old, my mom was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. My mom then promised that in order to be healed from her cancer, she was to pray 2000 Hail Mary’s on one day each month for 20 intentions (two rosaries each intention) for the whole world and for her own healing. We then, as a family with some friends began setting aside a certain Saturday each month for 12 hours of praying (since I thought 15 minutes was long, 12 hours was absolutely crazy!) Yes, it was a challenge, but reading about the vast needs of the world through those intentions and praying those rosaries for them gave me the faith to believe that my prayer to God was making an impact on the world, and most definitely, my mom’s healing.
Two years after my mom’s cancer diagnosis, my dad passed away and it left me feeling very lost and vulnerable. It was also the very first time I saw how fragile life was and how much I needed something or Someone greater than myself and what was in front of me to help me make sense of it all. The daily praying of the rosary that my mom, sister and I did for the repose of my dad’s soul was a great comfort to me at that time. No longer did God feel faraway… I felt that starting with that event in my life, God became a true Father to me Who took me in and Who is continually caring for me, and that Mother Mary, because she is so close to God, was and continues to nurture me in all of these seasons and crosses of life (the passing away of my mom when I was 19, graduating from college, my journey of singleness to my vocation as a wife and mother and its daily challenges, etc.). Praying the rosary both then and now continues to be a great source of consolation because in both joyful times and especially dark ones, it truly feels like I am holding our Blessed Mother’s hand.
Now as a wife and mother in need of continually growing in my conversion and faith life, the closing sentence found at the end of the rosary’s final prayer (the prayer following the Hail, Holy Queen) is one of the truths about the rosary that continually encourage me to pray it:
“Grant that we beseech thee, that by meditating upon these mysteries of the most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise, through the same Christ our Lord, Amen.”
When we study and reflect on what the rosary means to us as Catholics, we see that it is scriptural and catechetical—through it, God teaches and assists us in living out and building our faith life and our virtues. When we meditate on the mysteries and see how Jesus, Mother Mary, St. Joseph and the early Church responded, we have a model of how to respond in situations of uncertainty, when others are in dire need, the deeper meaning behind the Sacraments, how to respond in suffering and above all, how much God loves us.
In addition to helping us grow in our faith life and love of God and neighbor, the rosary is definitely a link to the true peace that God alone can give us. Our world and our lives are very busy. Taking the time to intentionally pray the rosary especially “forces” us to slow down, to contemplate, to put aside the distractions and the world for some time in order to make space for this special time with God and with our Blessed Mother. As a person who struggles with anxiety and the self-defeating script that anxious thoughts bring, asking for our Blessed Mother’s intercession and protection regularly by praying the rosary obliterates the fear and evil of these anxious thoughts and always helps me to move forward. There have been too many times to count where I have started a rosary so crushed by my anxiety and finished it feeling completely transformed.
As October is the month of the rosary, we are again challenged to take up this necessary devotion and, if we are already praying the rosary, to pray the rosary daily and with more fervor. In his 2017 article, “Our Lady of Fatima's 3 Secrets: What You Should Know About the Fatima Centennial, Jethro Higgins wrote:
“Our Lady of Fatima urgently desired for all of the faithful to pray daily for the salvation of poor sinners, and for the whole world. That message from Our Mother Mary is a challenge – no matter where you are in your own personal prayer life – to go deeper, to pray often, and with greater fervor.”
Whether it is praying the rosary in parts throughout the day when we are unable to finish the rosary in one sitting, or using apps like Hallow or Laudate and scriptural rosary meditations to dive deeper into each mystery, it is very possible for us to make praying the rosary a priority each day and to dive deeper into this devotion. Also, using picture books on the rosary, especially ones that show an image for each Hail Mary of each mystery are very helpful in fostering in young children an understanding of and love for the rosary.
A telling meme I saw on Facebook stressed the profound importance of the rosary and Mother Mary’s role in our salvation. It was a comic of Mother Mary pulling up people into Heaven, who were clinging for dear life onto these life-sized rosary beads, which she was using to hoist them up from earth into Heaven with. As Catholics and people of faith, I believe we are called to practice our devotion to the rosary and our reliance on Mother Mary (as the path to Heaven and to Jesus) with the same loving trust and ferocity as the people in this comic clung to those rosary beads. May this October be that time we again and with more intentionality, turn to God, take our spiritual health seriously and pray the rosary more frequently and with more devotion. I can assure us that those 15 minutes we spend in praying the rosary will be one of the best ways we will spend our time.
Normie Jean Taylan has been a part of EPIC Ministry since the earlier days of its founding. She has served in the past on the EPIC Core Team, and really contributed much of her gifts and talents to the growth of this Ministry. She also met her husband John Taylan through this ministry, and is now a mother of three, with two beautiful girls, and expecting a son, to complete their growing family of 4. She works full-time as a Program Support Coordinator for Family Education Centers of Hawai'i (FECH). We are so thankful to her as she is a model of prayer and steadfast faith.
by Josh and Jesica Kapika
September 15th is the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. On this day the Church remembers and recognizes the great sorrow of our Blessed Mother, but we should also recognize her courageous actions on one of the deepest and darkest days of her life.
The Blessed Mother, from the moment she herd the prophecy of Simeon, knew that she would have to go through great sorrow as the Mother of Jesus. She understood that her only responsibility in life was to raise and care for her son, the Son of God. Even though she knew that she would have to endure so much pain, she accepted willingly her role in the story of salvation. On the day her son was condemned to death, she chose to follow Jesus all the way to the hill of Calvary. She witnessed her son beaten and forced to carry a heavy cross. She stood there in the midst of the crowd as he laid naked on the cross as the nails were driven into his hands and feet. She could have stayed hidden with all the other disciples. She could have run back to Nazareth never to be heard of again, but instead she stood at the foot of the cross crying in anguish.
There is no doubt that we have all gone through some sort of pain or sorrow at some point in our lives, but only a few have had the same paralyzing feeling that Mary felt, that day along the Via Dolorosa (the painful way). Regardless of how much sorrow she was dealing with as she witnessed the passion of her son, she chose to continue along the way of the cross. She stood by him amongst the crowd in great despair all the way to end. How many of us have the same courage as our Blessed Mother?
Our Blessed Mother needed to show us that nothing should ever keep us from following Christ. How many times in our lives has fear of suffering or sorrow kept us from living for Christ? We all know it’s not easy being his disciple, but is difficulty ever a reason to stop following him? We have to ask ourselves. If Mary, even in her deepest sorrow can choose to follow Christ, then why can’t we? Our beloved Mother has left us no reason to ever back down from our responsibilities as Christian disciples. She knows how hard it is to follow her son, but she also knows what joy awaits us if we do.
The great thing about being a Christian and being human is that we have every opportunity to make things right, to do them the right way. If you are going through anything that is keeping you from doing more for Christ, it’s not too late to follow the example of Mary. We can all look to our Blessed Mother in times of sorrow and take from her the painful lesson of the Way of the Cross. Take courage and fear not!!! Trust in the Lord’s promise and remember that even in the most difficult moments of our lives, there is never a good enough reason to stop following the Lord.
Josh and Jesica Kapika are long time active members of EPIC Ministry serving at different capacities to help promote the overall mission of EPIC Ministry. Josh is currently serving as the Coordinator of the Central Oahu Chapter and Vice President on the Board of Directors for EPIC Ministry. Josh is also the Pastoral Associate for St. Michael’s Parish in Waialua, and he also serves as the Grand Knight and State Family Director for the Knights of Columbus. Jesica is on EPIC Ministry staff serving as the Vice Director of Operations, and she also works full-time as the Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent to Hawaii Catholic Schools. Jesica also serves as the Vice Chair for the Woman’s Auxiliary for the Knights of Columbus. Both of them devoting much time, energy, and love in serving the Lord, their communities, and modeling discipleship and servant leadership. They are celebrating their 3rd year Marriage Anniversary this coming November.
by Matt and Johana Copas
The Immaculate Conception refers to “Mary being enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role.” The angel Gabriel at the moment of the announcement salutes her as “full of grace”. Mary, “full of grace” through God, was redeemed at the moment of her Conception. Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854: The most Blessed Virgin Mary, was from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God. In view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, preserved exempt from all stain of original sin” (Ineffabilis Deus).
For us as members of the Catholic faith, the Immaculate Conception is not just any feast day that we celebrate, but it is a day that is essential to our faith. Because Mary was preserved from sin, she was prepared to be the mother of Jesus. Jesus' life, death, and resurrection have saved us from sin.
As we grow up we have each gone to our mothers (or in some situations auntie’s or grandma’s) for motherly love and support. They have provided advice, support, and comfort during difficult times. How much more during these times should we also go to our spiritual mother? Being free of original and actual sin the Blessed Virgin Mary was able to more closely unite herself to the Holy Spirit and listen to the guidance on how she is to live her life. Even though, Mother Mary was free from sin was not to say there weren’t difficulties throughout her life as shown in the devotion of the Seven Sorrows of Mary. The prophecy of Simeon, the flight into Egypt, losing Jesus in the Temple, and the Passion. During these moments, God was able to give Mary the grace to endure and draw closer to Him. Ultimately, completing the mission for her life and spending eternity in Heaven with Him.
As a family, we are constantly going to her during our times of trial. During the first year of marriage, numerous doctors had told us that we were going to have a difficult time conceiving due to our family's medical history. Some recommended IVF and other methods, contrary to the teachings of the Church. As we know others that have waited years to be blessed with a child and others that are still struggling, we were preparing for a long wait of what may never come. Through prayer to Mother Mary and many other saints, we have personal devotions; God blessed us with a child. During pregnancy, we struggled with not only distance with Matt being stationed in Guam, but as well as finding out that William had a 1 in 12 chance of having down syndrome. Compared to a normal 1 in 1,000. The doctors asked if we were “sure” we wanted to continue this pregnancy.
While we didn’t consider the option to terminate at 13 weeks, it was still a shock. But we knew in our hearts that no matter the outcome, we would love William no matter what. We continued in prayer, praying to Mama Mary and going to Adoration for peace and wisdom over our lives. Trusting that Mama Mary knew our fears of being first-time parents, and having a long-distance marriage, God would equip us with all the graces we would need to raise our family. We had to heavily rely on our faith.
As Catholics, we live in the world but are not of the world. This is our temporary home till we make it to heaven through the merit of our savior Jesus Christ and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We should each reflect on the difficult moments in our own lives and how these are a grace from God to draw us closer to Him. Our ultimate goal is to reach Heaven and we should continually pray to the Queen of Heaven and Earth for the graces needed to persevere to the end as mentioned in the Memorare:
Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother. To thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.
Matt and Johana Copas are a young couple currently residing in our EPIC Community House at Paewalani. They have been married now for almost 2 years and are navigating a lot of new seasons, with being new parents to baby William, moving into a new home, and transitioning into new careers, yet they both have remaining active and strong in their faith and in ministry. Johana is a part-time teacher at St. Michael's School in Waialua, she also coordinates the regional group Blessed Is She Hawaii. Matt is now retired from the Navy, and will be starting a new job at the Pearl Harbor Shipyard this coming August. We ask for your many prayers for them, and we thank them for the commitment and gifts they bring to EPIC Ministry.
by Fr. Richard McNally, SS.CC., Spiritual Director of EPIC Ministry
I have forgotten who said many of the wise things that have stuck in my mind in the course of life. One of those was that the Greek word often used for sacrament was “mystery”. In that sense a mystery is something that involves both God and humans. And so at the beginning of Mass every day, I invite the congregation to prepare themselves to celebrate “these sacred mysteries.”
It was in the third grade, I believe, that I learned that a sacrament is “a sign instituted by Christ that gives grace.” There you have it. Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, institutes the sacraments and I/we receive grace, a share in God’s divine life. God and humanity all mixed up together.
A sacrament is a sign, i.e. something that we can experience with one of the senses of seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling or touching. Most of the time several senses are involved in perceiving the sign.
From the beginning of his ministry, Jesus proclaimed repentance and the forgiveness of sins. His whole life culminated in his death on the cross for our salvation from sin. On the night of Easter, he came to the frightened disciples in the upper room. He said to them, “ Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” (Jn 20:22-23) The Church would continue his work of forgiveness through the Sacrament or Mystery of Penance. I bring sins and repentance. The Lord brings forgiveness and grace to be holy. The sign is the word of absolution that the priest says over me. There are other accompanying gestures, e.g. a hand raised in prayer and blessing. The priest does not make up the words and gestures. They are not his but the Church’s. He speaks and does what the Church speaks and does, not just the Church today but the Church stretching back centuries. In the simplicity of it all the Lord acts.
One final thought. As a priest I receive the sacraments as well as celebrate them. Penance is a prime example. I am a sinner who goes to another priest for confession of my sins. Jesus loves us so much that he works through imperfect and even sinful humans to give his grace and love. It’s the mystery.
by Rhea Quemado, Program Associate for EPIC Ministry
May is the month of motherhood and the month in which we especially celebrate the motherhood of Mary. It was Mary who by her fiat or great “YES” became the Mother of God and assumed a special role in our lives, becoming our mother too. Not only is she a model of motherhood, but an inspirational figure to St. John Paul II’s famous term “The Feminine Genius.” According to St. John Paul II, the Feminine Genius includes the special qualities and capabilities that are inherent to womanhood, such as strength, gentleness, humility, beauty, intuition, fidelity, self-giving, acceptance, and receptivity. These are qualities that God calls us, especially women, to embrace. The Church sees in Mary the highest expression of the “feminine genius” and finds in her a source of constant inspiration.
When I was asked to do this reflection for the month of May, I felt challenged because I kept focusing on the aspects of motherhood, which I, myself, am not in that season. But I forgot about Mary’s role of being a servant to the mission through her motherhood to Christ and to us. Mary, by her obedience and faith, not only placed herself at God’s service, but also at the service of others, which was a service of love. In my present vocation, I am a Campus Minister at Chaminade University, Program Associate for EPIC, and a House Mom at the Mercy House, all of which I was called to for the service and love of others. Mary inspires me in her obedience to serving God. She reminds me that sometimes our “yes” may look different. Sometimes our “yes” is not only for a big decision; sometimes it's saying “yes” in the little decisions too. God utilized Mary’s desire, and her “yes”, to accept His will in her life, and sent her to communicate His loving plan for all of humanity. He does that with us too, utilizing us to communicate his will and his glory in whatever vocation we are presently called too.
God aligns our desires to his will. I love serving. I love ministering and supporting our young adults in college and our ministry in EPIC. Wherever you may be in your life, I pray that in this present moment, your will, like Mary, may align with God’s will and that you know you are exactly where you’re supposed to be. Sometimes we don't have that one great “yes”. But every small “yes” we make every moment of every day leads us closer to doing God’s will.
by Yvonne Fukumoto, Finance Officer of EPIC Ministry
(Reposted from May 2021)
Motherhood teaches us everything we need to know about faith. Being a parent helps us to understand how God, our Father, relates to us. The innate emotions we have of love, frustration, and compassion for our kids, is the same way God feels about us, as His children. I have felt stressed and anxiety many times during my journey as mother and I have equally lifted numerous prayers to God because of my children. Being a mother challenges you in ways that you cannot study or prepare for, and of course, each child comes with difference experiences.
I came into motherhood with no real expectation at the age of 21. It was a surprise and a blessing as new parents to have our first baby girl, Maile, because she was extremely easygoing, and our lifestyle didn’t change much. Then we thought Maile needed a sibling and planned the birth our second baby girl, ‘Ōlena, who graced us with a lively personality that refreshed our lives. Just when we thought our family was complete, God surprised us with our last baby girl, Lehua, who is a bundle of energy that tested our patience.
My children bring joy and laughter into my life and their playful smiles always make my day. However, at the same time, they push me to my limits. Luckily, I am married to one of the best people I know, who has taught me from the beginning of our relationship, to “Have Faith”. Through the most difficult times, it may seem like you’ve had enough, but it is in these moments that we must turn to God and find comfort in knowing that you are not alone. I also find that connecting with other mothers in a community of faith and sharing in the joys and the pains of motherhood together helps keep your sanity in check.
My constant prayer to my children is that they not only be physically protected but also to build their own relationship and faith in God. I hope through our example as parents, they find peace, hope, and reassurance that God is with them. Motherhood and faith go together. I couldn’t do one without the other. You need faith in God to get through motherhood. Wine helps... But faith is essential.
Happy Mother’s Day!
Please continue praying for a complete and speedy recovery for Yvonne who has been in the ICU for five months now battling anti-NMDAR encephalitis, a rare neurological autoimmune disease.
by Dallas Carter Jr., President of EPIC Ministry
“Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart” (Joel 2:12)
Aloha mai kākou,
As the Lenten season comes to a close and we near the celebration of the Sacred Triduum and Easter, we begin, as a Church, to more deeply reflect on the life, death, and resurrection of Our Lord and the salvation that he offers us through the great Paschal Mystery. I would like to offer you a brief reflection on salvation for you to consider as you finish your Lenten journey and look to arise anew in Christ on Easter Sunday.
I often reflect on salvation as simply a chance to NOT go to hell. I certainly don’t want to go to hell and it is helpful to have guidance from our Holy Church on what we can do to avoid eternal punishment and to make it to heaven! I know the rules of God and the Church, I try really hard to follow those rules, and I try to frequent the sacrament of Confession when I go off track.
However, salvation is about so much more than simply an acquittal of the punishment we rightly ought to receive as a result of sin…Salvation is so much more than just a get-out-of-jail-free card. Jesus gives himself completely on the cross. It was the supreme self gift. As He says himself in Jn 15:13, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
"Jesus gives himself completely on the cross. It was the supreme self gift."
What more then is there to salvation that we ought to reflect on during this special time in our liturgical calendar? The compendium of the catechism says, n.85 (cf. 2 Peter 1:4), that one of the reasons that God became man and died for us on the Cross was so that we could be partakers in His Divine Life. This means that a big part of embracing our salvation in Christ is for us to share in the very life of God and not necessarily only after we die; but now, here on earth. He entered our plight as mankind, died our death, and rose again to new life. He assumed our humanity so that he could infuse it with his divinity. In which ways do you partake in the Divine Life? In which ways do you live out your salvation now while you journey with Christ here on earth?
We are all wounded, we are all broken in some way. Salvation then is not just about forgiveness… It is about filling us with Divine life. Salvation is not only about how to get to heaven, it is about healing our brokenness and making us whole. Our Lord wants us to be with Him. He wants us to return to Him; but He wants us to return to Him with whole hearts. Imagine a piece of wood into which a big nail is hammered. Removing the nail would be like the forgiveness we receive through salvation. However, even after the nail is gone, there is a big hole left in the wood. The salvation God offers us is more than just removing the nail. God removes the nail but also desires to fill the hole that is left behind. If we embrace our salvation daily and give Jesus access to all parts of our life, He can begin the process of not only offering us forgiveness, but also filling the holes left behind from the brokenness and wounds of our lives.
"God removes the nail but also desires to fill the hole that is left behind."
As we “look toward heaven” as an EPIC community this year, and as we near the celebration of the Sacred Triduum wherein we remember the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord, the question for us should not only be “what must I do to be on the path to heaven?” but rather it should also be “what can I do to be a greater partaker in the Divine Life that God is offering us? What can I do to allow God access to my life so that He might heal my brokenness? What can I do to allow God to make my heart whole?”
Ad Jesum Per Mariam,
Dallas Carter Jr., MPT
President, EPIC Ministry
by Kainoa Fukumoto, founder of EPIC Ministry
Wow, it's been a while since I wrote a reflection for an EPIC newsletter. As I write this particular message, I'm sitting in a hospital room on the 90th day since my wife, Yvonne, was admitted due to a neurological autoimmune disease. Three months have gone by, and yet, very little improvement has been made with her condition.
My wife has, in so many ways, been the pillar of our home. I'm kind of just the comic relief. She took care of our finances, arranging our three daughter's extracurricular activities, and even though I'm the principal of the school, she's actually the one who made sure the girls kept on top of their studies. So you can imagine the adjustment our family has gone through without her around. On top of my responsibilities of being a principal, parish and ministry leader, and business owner, I functionally became a single-father almost overnight. And my kids were left without their mother.
Shortly after Thanksgiving, what I thought would be a short hospital stay turned into days, weeks, and now months. Due to the surge of COVID-19 during the holidays, hospital visitations were suspended, so we could not see Yvonne through the holidays including her birthday, our youngest daughter's birthday, and Valentine's Day. Our home life was turned upside down as I struggled to manage everything that Yvonne normally took care of, such as figuring out which bills weren't paid, how to sign-up my kids for swimming and gymnastics, and making sure homework was done completely and accurately (meeting Yvonne's high standards). Most of the time, I think I got things together, but other times, I was a complete mess.
"Most of the time, I think I got things together, but other times, I was a complete mess."
I didn't have my parenting partner to help me when the kids were getting on my last nerve. I was clueless when it came to Christmas shopping. But I just miss having my best friend, my confidant, around. She put up with all my shenanigans and listened to my venting. She's always much more reasonable and practical than I am, but she still entertained my crazy ideas, larger-than-life views, and religious/political rants. Some nights, after the girls went to bed, we'd stay up to just talk and laugh.
We've been married for 10 years, and honestly, I still feel like were just getting started. She wanted to travel more after our amazing 10th year anniversary trip to Napa/Sonoma Valley and San Francisco in November. Our kids were finally at that age that they aren't super dependent on us. We were planning for major renovations on our home to make it our "forever home" (because it might take us forever to pay it off!). And those of you who know us know that we never stopped dating. We always put our marriage first. Our marriage was never better, and our love was never stronger.
Over the last several months, I would pray in ways that I never did before. I would beg and bargain with God to heal her, to let her come back to us, even to make us trade places. But that didn't happen. Instead, she at several points became worse. I haven't heard her speak for nearly three months. She is catatonic and on a ventilator with too many drugs for me to properly list. She's gone through so many treatments and procedures, yet three months later, it doesn't feel like we've made any traction toward recovery. I felt myself starting to give up, questioning if she'll ever make it out of the hospital. I prepared myself mentally and spiritually for the worse.
"I felt myself starting to give up, questioning if she'll ever make it out of the hospital. I prepared myself mentally and spiritually for the worse."
Throughout these past months, I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support that so many have extended to me and the girls. So many people have shared their own testimonies of similar experiences, many of which were stories of perseverance. Friends and family have reached out and stepped in so that we never ever felt isolated or overburdened. It helped me to put things back into perspective. Even though we're going through all this, God still has a greater plan. God has not abandoned us. And there may be many blessings in disguise that come from everything we are going through.
As we prepare for this upcoming season of Lent, I often think of how God definitely has a plan. Lent is a time that we should purposefully and meaningfully look toward the Cross of Christ, and reflect on what it means for our lives personally. "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16) God has always had a plan and that plan is one that is designed to bring us eternal life. By His own example, it's a plan that involves struggles, challenges, and trials, but it's one that will lead us to something much, much greater. Jesus said, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (Matthew 16:24) To follow Christ is to take up our crosses and follow him.
It is so tempting to just give up sometimes. Things are too hard and our cross is too heavy. But we forget that Jesus invites us to follow him. He didn't keep his cross, he transformed it! We're not meant to keep our crosses; his invitation to follow him is also an invitation to give our crosses to him so that he can also transform them. Don't give up; give it up to Jesus. He can take it.
"It is so tempting to just give up sometimes. Things are too hard and our cross is too heavy."
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)
This experience has not only made me appreciate Yvonne more, but it in many ways has also strengthened our marriage. Our marriage is still never better, and our love never stronger. And through it all, I know God is with us every step of the way. When things get hard, he says, "Come to me, and I will give you rest." When I feel like giving up, he challenges me to give it up to him. I don't know what God has in store for us, but I'm confident it will be amazing even if it's not easy. Not my will be done, by Thy will be done. Amen.