Sisters grateful to remain at St. Francis convent in Manoa for now

Local News

Nuns who have called a Manoa convent home for decades are calling it the best Christmas gift they could receive.

Twenty-five nuns live in Saint Francis School’s convent. On Tuesday, they were told they won’t have to move out, at least for the time being.

Last week, KHON2 reported plans to move the sisters to The Plaza at Pearl City assisted living facility.

The plan had the sisters moving to the Plaza in Spring 2016 with the option to move to an assisted living facility proposed by the St. Francis Healthcare System at Kupuna Village. The health care system had indicated that Kupuna Village could be ready within two years.

The announcement sparked outcry in the community. An alumni network of nearly 4,000 people fought for them to stay, sending letters to leadership with the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities, even going as far as sending letters to the pope.

Ultimately, the congregation announced Tuesday, it is reconsidering its original decision.

The sisters were notified that they will not move to the Plaza but will remain at the convent in Manoa until Kupuna Village is ready for occupancy. At that time, all the sisters living at the convent will move to Kupuna Village.

Sister Helen Agnes Ignacio taught for 41 years at the school. She says the news is a blessing. “(The others) were so happy, they started praying, they started singing. I don’t know if they danced, I wasn’t in here,” she said.

Sister Joan of Arc Souza, head of Saint Francis School, said moving twice wouldn’t have made sense, especially for “people who are in their late 80s, 90s. It has to be tough, so we’re just happy they heard our plea and changed their minds.”

Carol Caspillo was just one of the thousands of former students who helped the sisters get their message out.

“My reaction to them was thank you, because you were the ones that taught us,” Caspillo said. “You’re like mothers and aunts to us. That was like pulling the rug out from under us when that happened. They have a vow of obedience, so they really could not voice their opinion, so we thought as alumni, we could be their voices because no one is going to stop us.”

Souza said the sisters were all relieved to hear the news. “Today is God’s gift. It’s the best Christmas gift we could have gotten.”

“Leadership heard the concerns the sisters expressed regarding the plan to move two times within a short time frame,” said Rochelle Cassella, congregational director of communications for the sisters. “In addition, the sisters expressed a strong desire to support the health care system’s expansion into assisted living and the sisters have agreed that they will move to Kupuna Village when it is ready.”

The sisters said they sent a letter to the leadership expressing their gratitude.

In the meantime, leadership will continue to assess and consider facility, staffing and maintenance needs at the convent and make such adjustments as necessary for the continued health, safety and well-being of the sisters currently residing there.

“We would like to thank The Plaza at Pearl City for their support and flexibility in working with us to identify options that would accommodate our Sisters’ needs. The management, staff and residents were all very welcoming and we greatly appreciate their efforts in this process,” Cassella said.

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