Support grows for nuns being evicted from Manoa convent

Land owners closing convent, evicting nuns at St. Francis School

MANOA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - People continue to show their support for nuns at Saint Francis School who are being evicted from their longtime convent.

One of Hawaii's richest women -- Princess Abigail Kawananakoa -- has written a letter backing the nuns.

And the school's board of directors also wrote a letter, saying "The Sisters of Saint Francis have voiced their desire to 'remain in their home' and this board supports their wishes."

The 24 nuns are being forced to move from the convent at St. Francis School in Manoa to a senior center because the organization that owns the 11-acre property wants to close the convent permanently.

The nuns, who range in age from their 70s to their 90s, have lived at the convent for decades.

The Mainland-based Sisters of St. Francis says the convent, built in the 1960s, is "not really appropriate right now for an aging demographic."

"It doesn't make financial sense to put money into the building that will become less and less populated as we go down the line," said says SOSF communications Director Rochelle Cassella,

The sisters will move to the Plaza Assisted Living Center in Pearl City, where they will have their own floor.

Each will have her own room and a chapel will be built for them. Financially, the SOSF says it's a good move; the monthly per-room cost at the assisted living center is $4,000.

St. Francis School Principal Sister Joan of Arc Souza has lived in the convent for 36 years.

She says nothing can replace the sense of community there.

She won't be moving to Pearl City with the rest of the sisters because she still has to run the campus. The others don't have a choice.

"The majority of the sisters are quite upset. I think a number of them have no concept of what's happening, what's going to happen, until they're put into a car and told they're not coming back anymore," Souza said.

The distance from the Pearl City center to the Manoa campus means it will be hard for the aging sisters to maintain their relationship with the school and its students.

"They come to our Christmas shows," said Souza. "They participate in the life of the school. That part of their lives is over. ... I'm kind of like in a state of shock. I can't believe it's happening, but it is."

SOSF says this should be seen as a positive move because it will allow the nuns to share their faith with new friends at the retirement center.

"We look at it as a new opportunity to minister in a new way," said Cassella, "To live among people, to minister to people and to share the word of the Lord."

The six employees who work at the convent will also be losing their jobs when the sisters move out in March. The building will be leased out or used as classrooms.

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