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.
by Kainoa Fukumoto
Around this time every year, we often start asking the question, “what should I give up or do for Lent”. I already started asking this very question. There were certain years that I gave up meat, chocolate, coffee, and yes, even alcohol for the whole season. I’ve made Lenten promises to set aside time each day for intentional prayer, attend daily Mass, and go to adoration more frequently. I’ve also done other not specifically spiritual exercises such as limiting what I spend money on, limiting how I spend money, or unplugging from social media. All of these are great things, but I want to challenge us to something even greater this year.
This Lent, I’d like to propose something slightly different. Continue asking the question of what you’re giving up or what you’ll do differently, but challenge yourself to make it a little more “radical”. For example, if you plan to give up meat everyday, perhaps make an intentional effort every week to also personally reach out to and help feed the hungry such as the poor and homeless. If you plan to pray more, perhaps make an intentional effort to lead prayer at gatherings, such as at family events or ministry meetings, if you’re never one to do so. If you plan to unplug from social media, perhaps consider intentionally reaching out to, reconnecting, and actually meeting up with people who you haven’t kept in touch with regularly especially those who no longer come to church or who you may need to reconcile with.
Perhaps the most radical part of committing to this is a sacrifice of our time. To be a true follower of Christ (a.k.a. a Christian) requires us to give Jesus our whole heart and lives so that He can transform us and mold us into a more perfect creation of our Creator. In order for us to allow that to happen, we need to sacrifice our own desires and especially sacrifice our time to Christ so that He can be ever present in us, and we can be Ever Present In Christ (EPIC). This year, I challenge you to a more radical Lent than you ever had before, and I guarantee that Jesus will radically change you when Easter arrives.
by Kainoa Fukumoto
On this day every year, I think about my first trip to Rome. Those of you who will be joining EPIC on our Italy Pilgrimage 2020 will be visiting and seeing some of the world's most impressive churches and incredible works of art. Rome is stooped in so much history and culture that it's very easy to get lost in it all.
One evening, a small group of us decided to have a nice dinner at an unassuming little Italian restaurant off the Piazza Navona, blessed with a great view of its 17th-century Fountain of Four Rivers (also one of my favorite fountains in Rome). After placing our orders, I decided to take an evening stroll around the piazza while waiting for our food to arrive.
I didn't walk too far when I heard a very familiar song faintly playing off in the distance. I couldn't quite place it immediately, but I decided to follow it. As I neared the music, I found it led me to a beautiful quaint church that I never noticed in previous visits to the piazza earlier in the week (and by "quaint," I mean in comparison to the other churches in Rome; this church was still probably twice the size of OLS).
Lit votive candles lined the steps up to the church's vestibule. As I ascended the steps, the music became clearer and clearer. Upon entering the church, the first thing I noticed was it was full of young people! I had been traveling on this pilgrimage with people three times my age, so this was a welcome sight. They were all kneeling, and when I looked up at the altar, I realized this was a Eucharistic adoration. Immediately, I found a pew and joined them in adoration.
The music played on and on. It was then I finally realized why the music had sounded so familiar to me. They were singing praise and worship songs, like "Here I Am to Worship", in Italian! The music, Eucharistic adoration, and the candle-lit atmosphere was already enough to lift my spirit to a new high, but something pulled me closer to the altar.
On a little plaque, I found out that the church was dedicated to St. Agnes, who I knew nothing about. Luckily, there was a book in the back of the church that spoke about this 3rd-century saint. St. Agnes was born into a wealthy family and blossomed into a beautiful young girl who caught the eye of many high-ranking suitors. But even at a very young age, she declared that her heart belong to Jesus.
During that time, Christianity was illegal. Many people tried to force her to denounce her faith until finally she was threatened with death. Still, her faith held firm. There are several legends that surround her end circumstances. When some men attempted to rape her, an angel protected her innocence. When they tried to drag her through the streets naked, her hair miraculously grew in order to keep her from being exposed. When they tried to tie her to the stake and burn her alive, one account says the fire couldn't start, while another account says the flames parted and didn't touch her. She was finally beheaded by the sword.
The one detail that stood out to me, however, was she was only 12 or 13 years old! The faith she possessed at such a young age and through a tumultuous time was inspiring. I could see why so many young people were drawn to her church, built on the place where she was said to have been martyred and her remains kept under the high altar. During her martyrdom, witnesses commented on the radiant joy that shone from her face.
I didn't want to leave. I felt that same deep joy for Christ swelling in my heart. I'm sure I could have easily stayed there all night, but I thought my dinner pals would worry about me and I didn't want my dinner getting cold, so I went back to dinner. But after dinner, I returned to St. Agnes. And a couple other times during that trip, I returned again and again, and I was sure to return during my second trip to Rome.
Today is the feast of St. Agnes, patroness of young girls, chastity, and rape survivors. There were many grand and captivating places in Rome, such as St. Peter's Square and Basilica or the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, but none captured my heart quite like St. Agnes on the Piazza Navona.
This small church is one of my biggest inspirations to looking forward to our pilgrimage in 2020.
by Mark Paul Albano Pilar
“He must increase, I must decrease.” A lot of us have heard it and some us have worn the clothing brand “HE>i”. We hear it and we wear it, but can we actually do it? Now what I mean when I’m writing this is, “can we deny ourselves of the worldly things so that God can increase in our lives?” For example: Can we stop scrolling on social media for an hour so that we can pray the rosary? Can we stop buying unnecessary things and use that money to buy a meal for a homeless person? Can we stop the occasion of sin through some of these worldly activities? The truth is a lot of us will have second thoughts right then and there in that exact situation and continue to bask in the pleasures of the world.
If we continue to bask in the pleasures of the world, how can God increase in our lives?
About a month ago, I said “yes” to the Exodus 90 challenge with a fraternity of men. Prior to this challenge, I’ve noticed that I have not been praying the rosary daily, going to adoration weekly, and even not praying in the morning or at night. I’ve felt like I was losing my faith in God and putting more of it in social media, buying unnecessary things, engaging in sinful acts, and just being passive with my faith journey. This was all because I put God on the back burner. Fast forward to present day: because I said “no” to the world and “yes” to God, I’ve noticed a huge difference in my prayer life--God being my top priority--and being more positive in my personal life.
Now you may be thinking that you have to do Exodus 90 or Nineveh 90 (for the women) to have God increase in our lives, or you may be thinking “it’s too hard” or “no thank you”. You don’t have to do a long 90-day challenge; we can all make some sacrifices such as putting down our phone for an hour and go to adoration, eating no meat every Friday, not going on social media for an hour a day, etc. There are many opportunities to deny ourselves so that God can increase in our lives, but we must stop having these second thoughts and put God as a top priority in our lives.
In the Gospel of Luke (9:3), Jesus gives instructions to the Twelve Disciples before they take off on their mission to spread the good news: “Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic.” This does not just show obedience to Jesus, but it also shows the denying of their worldly things so that they can carry out the mission.
Let us deny the things of the world, take nothing for the journey, and let God increase in our lives so that we may be able to hear him in the silence of our hearts and carry out the plans He has for each one of us.
MARK PAUL PILAR is a member of ROL EPIC Ministry.
by Kainoa Fukumoto
Whispering is an intimate action. Recently, I was in adoration and I found myself whispering the words to the Anima Christi, a prayer I often say during adoration or after receiving communion. As I gazed intently upon the monstrance holding the Blessed Sacrament, I whispered slowly and deliberately, "Soul of Christ, sanctify me." I continued praying every word and phrase in the same manner.
A thought entered my mind. Whispering is an intimate action. We often whisper when we want to communicate something to someone without being heard by others. Friends and lovers often whisper to each other secrets. Whispering is an intentional act that requires us to move closer, sometimes very close, to the person we desire to speak with.
In our prayer, do we "whisper" to our God who draws near to us everytime we call upon Him? Does our heart desire to move deeply and closely to Him? Do we reveal our deepest, perhaps even darkest, secrets to Him and not just trust Him to keep it, but transform it?
This month, we align our faith sharings with the Sunday Gospel readings on the Bread of Life. There is no action more intimate than receiving Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. But for many of us who are unable to receive Holy Communion daily, perhaps challenge yourself to "whisper" to God in your daily prayer life, and may that prayer lead you more deeply and intimately in Christ.
by Kainoa Fukumoto
My kids often drive me nuts. The worse is when all three decide to throw tantrums at the same time. Those are the moments I go searching for that bottle of whiskey I must have stashed somewhere. You don't need to have kids to realize that life can be crazy at times. And truth be told, it's in those moments that the true test is given--how do you handle it?
There's a story in the Gospels about Jesus almost nonchalantly drawing on the ground while a mob was gearing up to stone a sinner woman to death. That had to be a crazy moment. Yet, Jesus didn't react in the same way the people were. He calmly said, "he who is without sin cast the first stone." And almost immediately, the situation was diffused.
In another scene, while the disciples are in a boat with Jesus, a storm is raging. The disciples are freaking out because the wind and waves were tossing that boat around like a toy in a tub, and there was Jesus just snoozing away. When the disciples called on the Lord, He basically told them to relax and then told the storm to relax too, both of whom listened to Him.
It's been critically important in my life to take a breath in those crazy moments and relax rather than react. When my kids are driving me nuts, I try to stay calm and relax in the midst of that situation. Then again, I try to do that in any crazy situation. Stay calm and relax. I find that it's less draining and more fruitful. And most importantly, I need to constantly rely on the Lord who is able to calm any storm in our lives.
I am not always the perfect father, but I know that I have a perfect Father in heaven that I can call upon in my crazy moments. My kids may drive me nuts, but I'm sure I drive my Heavenly Father nuts too. And just as I love my kids through it, God loves us through it all as well.
Happy Fathers' Day to all our EPIC dads.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
President & Founder of EPIC Ministry
Thank you for joining us on this Adoration Pilgrimage! Over the next couple of hours, we at EPIC Ministry would like to challenge you to spend these moments like pilgrims on a journey rather than tourists on a trip.
This journey will take us to Jesus and help us in our final preparation for Easter. We will be visiting several different altars of repose. Along the way, we encourage you to maintain a prayerful setting and keep the events of Jesus' Passion at the forefront of your mind. To aid you in this, we have picked out the following excerpts from Dynamic Catholic's "Best Lent Ever" series.
Feel free to reflect on these videos and discuss them with your fellow pilgrims along the way! Have a blessed Triduum!
OLGC - ROL
Reflect on Matthew’s invitation to pick a word to define your Triduum experience. Choosing a word will bring focus and intentionality on this Pilgrimage.
Pray: Lord, help me to listen to your voice. I know if I do, I will go out focused, energized, and invigorated.
Reflect on this quote - "God wants you to be happy even more than you want it for yourself." How have you stopped "resisting God?"
EPIC ANNOUNCEMENTS FOR JAN 15-21:
1) BISHOP BARRON: The much anticipated presentation by Bishop Robert Barron will be on Monday, January 16, at 7:00 PM at the Co-Cathedral of St. Theresa. Bishop Barron is a prolific Catholic speaker whose many online videos are often used at our Faith Sharing nights. You can expect this event focus on the "Seven Keys to the New Evangelization" to be nothing short of intriguing and engaging.
If you can't make the Monday evening event, Bishop Barron will also be the keynote speaker at this year's Red Mass on Tuesday, January 17, at 9:00 AM at the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace.
2) THE ANNUAL MARCH FOR LIFE happens this Friday, January 20, coincidentally the same day as the Inauguration of President-Elect Donald Trump. Join us anytime from 3:00 PM - 8:00 PM at the Hawaii State Capitol as we stand together for the right to life from conception to natural death. Following the March for Life, we will be heading over to Honolulu Beerworks for this month's Catholic Beer Club (see below for more info).
4) EPIC RETREAT: The journey has begun...join us for our next EPIC Ministry young adult retreat, "JOURNEY," on February 10-12, at the St. Anthony Retreat Center. CLICK HERE for more details or to sign-up.
5) NEW SHIRTS: EPIC shirts have been ordered for those who had placed their orders. HOWEVER, we do expect to put in our next order in March or April, so if you were not able to order this time around, you can put your order in on our homepage for the next shipment!
6) ADOPT-A-SEMINARIAN: Our seminarians are back at school once again, and EPIC Ministry is teaming up with the Co-Cathedral of St. Theresa's Young Adult Ministry for their Adopt-a-Seminarian Project. The two seminarians we are sponsoring are Deacon Alfred Guerrero and Romple Emwalu. Drop off any donations (as listed above in the flyer) to Kainoa by January 31. We will also accept monetary donations which will go towards purchasing goodies.
by Kainoa Fukumoto
This past year, 2016, has been both a year full of blessings as well as challenges for EPIC Ministry. Many of you are very much aware of the great things EPIC Ministry does in continuing its mission of “empowering young adults to follow Christ.” Some of you have even been there since its inception four years ago. Throughout the short time this ministry has existed, we have seen tremendous growth and countless hearts turning toward the Lord. And I thank each and every one of you for your continuous prayers and support of EPIC Ministry.
EPIC ANNOUNCEMENTS FOR DEC 25-JAN 1:
1) A special farewell to Fr. Chris Kaitapu, ss.cc., and our EPIC Community Night at St. Michael on Monday, December 26, from 5:00 PM to whenever.
2) If you haven't reserved your spot to this year's Christmas Banquet, there are still spaces left. Don't miss out on this night of 'ono food, live entertainment by Jelayne Shelton & Annette Oasay, games and prizes, a photo booth, and special presentations. CLICK HERE to reserve your tickets today!
HELP US SELL TICKETS: If you sell tickets for the Christmas Banquet, you have a choice of one of these awesome incentive prizes for every five (5) tickets you sell:
3) If you've been thinking about your vocation or are curious about what different types of vocations there are for you, then come to the Vocational Awareness Retreat Day being sponsored by the Benedictine Monastery of Hawaii on Tuesday, December 27, from 9:00 AM - 9:00 PM.
4) Join us for our Faith Sharing at Resurrection of the Lord on Wednesday, December 28, on "Holy Innocents" with dinner at 7:00 PM. Hope to see you there for our last Faith Sharing of 2016!
5) The Women of EPIC ("WEPIC") are hosting their Christmas Gathering at the ROL Rectory this Thursday, December 29. All young women are encouraged to join them! Contact Us for more details.
6) Our young adult friends from Our Lady of Good Counsel are hosting their Christmas Celebration on Thursday, December 29. Click Here to RSVP TODAY!
7) The EPIC Food Fight is heating up and wrapping up! The FINAL DAY for donations will be Friday, December 30 (you can bring your items to the banquet where the final tallies will be done). This week's "hot items" are:
8) Order the latest official EPIC dry-fit shirt today! You can also order our original teal polo shirts as well. See the bottom of our Home page for more details.
9) VOLUNTEERS NEEDED!!! Please volunteer to help remove and store the diocesan City Lights display on Monday, January 2, at 10:00 am. Lunch will be provided at St. Stephen Diocesan Center. If you are able to assist, please Contact Us today.
10) The journey has begun...join us for our next EPIC Ministry young adult retreat, "JOURNEY," on February 10-12, at the St. Anthony Retreat Center. Register by December 31st for a special early bird price. CLICK HERE for more details or to sign-up.