About 10 years ago, I attended my first mass at Morris Hall Chapel on the grounds of St. John Catholic Center in Little Rock. It was during my first Diocese of Little Rock retreat and I ended up visiting the center multiple times over the next year as a staff member for the following retreat.
Last Friday, a candidacy mass for my cousin Stephen reintroduced me to the chapel. We arrived really early (my dad was afraid of traffic despite my repeated assurances that we would be fine) so we had plenty of time to learn about the chapel’s history.
It’s actually pretty neat. Architect Thomas Harding Sr., whose father designed The Cathedral of St. Andrew in the 1880s, designed the Little Rock chapel. Following a 1951 dedication, it was originally used to serve seminarians attending St. John Home Mission Seminary. The seminary closed in 1967 and the St. John Catholic Center is now the site of the Diocese of Little Rock’s administrative offices.
The chapel, renovated in 1989, is gorgeous. It has statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph (see above picture) that a German artist near Interlaken, Switzerland, carved out of lindenwood while Italian artist Lenatori made the altar in 1910 in Rome. Bishop John B. Morris purchased the altar in 1915 and it was originally used in the Little Rock College chapel before being moved to Morris Hall in 1952.
There are also 12 stained glass windows depicting saints whose lives are associated with the church’s priesthood or missionary work. The most meaningful one to me was the one portraying St. Theresa, the Little Flower.
St. Theresa (1873-1897) became a Carmelite nun at age 15 and is the patroness of missions. She is known for her “little way” of quiet acts of love, humble suffering and simple trust in God alone.
She is definitely some one worth being like.
I have an amazing, extraordinary family. One example of this is my cousin Stephen. Stephen and I were in the same grade during our school years and, after high school, he went on to join the U.S. Air Force. Pictured above, Stephen and I pose for a picture during my March 2007 visit when he was stationed at Ramstein Air Force Base in Kaiserslautern, Germany.
Stephen has since become a seminarian with the Diocese of Little Rock, the Catholic Church of Arkansas. It’s a step that is not really surprising for those who know him. In May, Stephen graduated from Saint Joseph Abbey and Seminary School in Saint Benedict, La.
Today, Stephen began the next step in his journey to priesthood. He is headed to Rome, Italy, to study at North American University. The past week has been busy as our diocese and our family prepared for his departure.
We attended his candidacy in Little Rock last Friday where he took an oath to become a priest. Two days later, a sending forth mass was held in our hometown parish where our pastor gave Stephen a special blessing. It’s kind of exciting to think that Stephen, the little boy I grew up with and had wheelchair races with, will be an ordained pastor in only four more years.
My list of the top 12 activities I enjoyed the most continues down with my top four favorite activities:
4. The Catholic faith
I attempted to attend mass at St. Peter’s of the Sea Catholic Church, located just down the road from my townhouse in Kailua Kona. However, I ended up going a bit further down the road to St. Michael the Archangel Church.
The parish is known as the “The Church in the Tent” since their church was torn down because of age deterioration and damage from a 2006 earthquake. They are presently working to rebuild it, which once built, will resemble the former building that stood on the site for more than 150 years. It’s the first mass I’ve attended where the pastor competed with a nearby rooster for my attention. The pastor’s sermon won, which says how great of a job he did.
However, my interaction with the local Catholics didn’t end here. Another neat feature was the Painted Church in Captain Cook, an active parish whose church was erected in 1899. It’s absolutely gorgeous with funds raised through visitor donations and the sale of handcrafts, such as rosaries made out of wood native to the island.
I attend mass at Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Arkansas so I was also excited to find a similarly-named church in Hawaii.
The Big Island’s beaches were probably bumped up to the No. 3 position simply because I was finally able to see not one, but two sea turtles resting on a beach. I absolutely love turtles. The island’s beaches are made up of four different types of sand: Ili Ili (beach pebbles); green (Olivine Crystals); black (ground lava); and white (crushed shells, corals). I experienced all but the green sands — which I now truly regret.
2. Hawaii Volcano National Parks
Who doesn’t want to see an active volcano? While there, I saw the Thurston Lava Tube, the Steaming Bluff Overlook, steam vents as well as Halema’uma’u Crater (where lava boiled for 100 years in this crater within a crater). I hate that I didn’t get to the see the live lava flow — I now wish I had completed the hike there or taken a helicopter over.
1. Coral Reef Adventures
I loved our morning boat ride that had us swimming in 300-foot deep water with spinner dolphins. I am not a great swimmer so the initial plunge into the ocean freaked me out until my aunts joined me (I was one of the first off the boat). It took several tries to find pods of dolphins to swim with — we first discovered a floating white bottle and a coconut — but when we did find the dolphins it was absolutely amazing.
My list of the top 12 activities I enjoyed the most continues down from No. 8 to No.5.
I’m not a big water person so I’m surprised at how much I enjoyed snorkeling. It was fun and, each time I went out, I was excited to see what new fish I would discover. My pictures are of fish, but I also saw a turtle and possibly a manta ray.
The landscape was gorgeous whether you were in the air or on the ground.
6. Farmer’s Market
I love farmer’s markets so we had to visit the local ones while in Kona. We ended up purchasing a ton of fresh produce and hand-crafted items as well as listened to local musicians. My favorite find was a small vial of perfume that my aunt bought me. She said she knew I wouldn’t even though I loved it (she was correct).
5. Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park
I didn’t spend enough time here: I wanted to snorkel and kayak here. It’s the home of the Captain Cook Monument and is 12 miles south of Kailua-Kona. The park is also a marine life conservation district that’s pretty much perfect looking as well as great for snorkeling, scuba diving and kayaking. While there, we saw dolphins, crabs and a man carving wood. I also fell in love with the place.
Spinner dolphins. Swimming with these fabulous guys was probably the best activity I did on the big island of Hawaii. I’ve meant to publish this last Hawaii post for a while, but here goes my top 12 activities I enjoyed the most:
12. Manta Rays
My grandmother (GiGi) and I spent an evening dining out at the Sheridan so we could view their gardens and eventually watch the manta rays feed after dark.
It wasn’t a traditional luau, but a Hawaii teacher who travels internationally to teach students to dance traditional Hawaiian steps. The sole guy (last picture in this section) was the instructor.
10. Coffee Plantation
You have to visit a coffee plantation while in Kona and we chose Holualoa Kona Coffee Company, which offers a self-guided tour. I was interesting and the chocolate covered coffee balls were yummy. It was interesting to learn that they roast 600-900 pounds of beans per day, up to 40 pounds of beans per roast. I also enjoyed the stop because of the chickens hanging around and because we got to try sweet bananas — so good!
9. Parker Ranch/Anna’s Ranch
It was interesting to see the ranching side of the island. My aunt and uncle raise cattle so I traveled with her to tour two ranches: Parker Ranch and Anna’s Ranch. Both are pretty cool just for the history alone although the views are nice as well. The drive was split between pastures filled with cows and goats. Some parts allow open grazing. Parker Ranch is also the site of Camp Tarawa from 1943 to 1945 where the 2nd and 5th Marine Divisions actually trained. The 5th Marine Division trained for the 1945 Battle of Iwo Jima there since the terrain was similar.