Tuesday, July 20, 1999

nun chosen to head
Franciscan order

Sister Marion Kikukawa
is meeting with St. Francis
physicians and local sisters

By Mary Adamski


For the first time, a Hawaii woman has been chosen to head the religious order that founded St. Francis Medical Center and several island schools.

Molokai-born Sister Marion Kikukawa was elected general superior of the Third Order of Franciscan Sisters of Syracuse earlier this month in New York. In Hawaii this week, she is meeting with St. Francis Healthcare System staff and physicians and local sisters of the 340-member organization.

She laughingly flashed a military salute in describing public misconception of the traditional title which differentiates general from local responsibility.


"My primary relationship is still of sister," said Kikukawa. "There are administrative, corporate responsibilities, but first and foremost, I am concerned with perpetuating the Franciscan charisma. St. Francis' whole concept was fraternity . . . how we are in community wherever we are, how do we build relationships in the workplace, in our local communities, within the church, within society."

Kikukawa has taught at St. Theresa Elementary School in Honolulu and St. Joseph High School in Hilo, but she spent most of her 32 years as a Franciscan on mainland assignments. She worked at the New York headquarters for the past eight years as an elected member of the congregation's advisory council.

The chapter meeting that concluded July 11 in Syracuse also elected Sister Agnelle Ching, vice president of the St. Francis Healthcare System of Hawaii for the past seven years, to the advisory council. Ching, of Honolulu, served much of her 41 years as a nun in New Jersey as teacher, school administrator and on assignments with the Newark archdiocese. She will relocate to New York for the Aug. 15 installation of the new leaders.

The two are among 50 island women who are spiritual heirs to Mother Marianne Cope, superior of the Syracuse Franciscans who brought six nuns to Hawaii in 1883 in answer to the Hawaii monarch's call for help in caring for leprosy victims.

The Syracuse group is one of hundreds of congregations around the world founded on the teaching of 13th century monk, St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Clare of Assisi.

It is the sponsor of three hospitals and a rehabilitation center, of two schools including St. Francis School in Manoa.

Its members work in many parish and diocesan schools here and elsewhere.

St. Francis Medical Center is now a separate corporate entity, but in their role as its sponsor, the nuns promote a standard based on the teaching of the Catholic church and its namesake.

"We're more than a business, it's more than a job, it's a ministry," said Ching. "There's more to this than just looking at the bottom line."

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