MANOA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Sisters of Saint Francis School will not be evicted in March as originally planned.
The convent on the Manoa campus was going to be closed in the spring, but the parent organization on the mainland reversed their decision Tuesday after numerous protests and petitions from the public.
The 24 sisters were going to be moved to the Plaza Assisted Living Center in Pearl City because the convent needed costly repairs.
"I prayed furiously every day," says Sister Rose Annette Ahuna, an 85-year old nun who joined the convent in 1948. About the decision to move them, she said, "We were shocked, disappointed, we felt sad."
And even that move was only supposed to be temporary, while an old building on the St. Francis Hospital campus in Liliha was renovated for the nuns.
Many said two moves in about two years would be devastating for the sisters and difficult considering they are all between 70 and 91 years old. Now, the aging sisters will be allowed to remain in the convent until that new facility is ready.
The group's parent organization, The Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities, out of Syracuse, New York, admitted in the letter sent out Tuesday that they reconsidered the move after hearing from the nuns themselves and from the outpouring of support from groups like the school's alumni association.
"The petition itself had over a thousand signatures, and that made an impression," says Carol Caspillo, president of the association.
Sister Joan of Arc Souza, head of Saint Francis School and a resident of the convent, says she's grateful the nuns are staying put.
"They heard us and we say 'thank you' to them for doing that," she said.
The new facility in Liliha, called Kupuna Village, will take at least two years to renovate.
While the nuns will be sad to leave the school campus when it Kupuna Village is ready, they accept the plan because it will keep them on property owned by St. Francis.
"We're moving to what is ours," says Souza. "It's home, it's St. Francis Health Care."
The oldest nun in the convent, Sister Agnes, was visiting with a former student when she was given the news. The 91-year old says she is thrilled to be staying and looks forward to another Christmas in the convent.
Sister Rose says she's excited that the nuns can continue to cheer on the students in athletic competitions. Several of them have been attending school basketball games recently, "The games start at 6 p.m. and we eat at 5:30, so it's just in time for the game," she says.
The entire group of nuns celebrated the news in the dining room Tuesday afternoon, eating together, singing and praying.
Sister Joan says the celebration will continue into the night, "I think we're going to pop the champagne cork tonight," she said with a laugh.