By ANDREW HANSEN
GLEN CARBON — Alexandra Uram loves Hawaii. Vacationing to the island of Maui with her family several times, most recently in 2021, the Father McGivney Catholic High School (Glen Carbon) sophomore has especially fallen in love with Lahaina, a town on the island.
“Great restaurants, fun activities including snorkeling and dolphin and whale watching, art galleries, and museums,” Uram said. “I thought it was a welcoming community with friendly, awesome people. My family and I love Maria Lanakila Catholic Church. It is architecturally beautiful and has vibrant parishioners. The singing at that gorgeous church, not just by the members of the choir, but by the entire parish, was angelic every time we attended. You just felt awesome and uplifted after attending Mass at Maria Lanakila, because God's presence was so powerful.”
Her personal connection to the island and its people made the images of the August wildfire that engulfed Lahaina and other parts of the island, killing at least 115 people, “hard to believe” and “absolutely chilling,” she said.
Miraculously, Maria Lanakila Catholic Church was spared, despite that everything around it had been reduced to ashes.
“That beautiful church, which is in the heart of Lahaina, will remain the heart of the city,” Uram said. “You just knew that God's hand was present when you saw that the church was unharmed.”
With the people of Maui and Lahaina in particular experiencing devastating losses, including family members, friends, pets, homes, possessions, schools, and jobs, Uram wanted to do something to help. So, she came up with an idea.
Father McGivney Catholic High School has a program that encourages students to support worthwhile causes. That program allows students to have dress down days (school uniforms do not have to be worn) in return for a contribution. A $5 donation is suggested, but students regularly exceed that amount. Principal Joe Lombardi further encourages participation by allowing the students to suggest the charitable causes to be supported. So, Uram suggested raising money for the people of the island. After getting the approval, the school held a dress down day, raising at least $2,300.
“It is important to let them (the people of Lahaina) know that people care about them and want to help,” Uram said.
The money will go to the Hawaii Knights of Columbus. Uran said they chose the Knights because they are already soliciting donations and distributing funds directly to those in need in Lahaina. For example, the Knights have already constructed a temporary school, as the school which was adjacent to Maria Lanakila Church, Sacred Hearts School, was destroyed in the fire. They are also distributing funds directly to those in need.
Uram’s efforts to help victims aren’t ending with just her school, expanding the scope across the diocese. She says Marquette Catholic High School in Alton agreed to have their students join the fundraising effort, as well as St. Mary School in Edwardsville, so that $2,300 donation will only grow.
“My Catholic faith, first learned at home and reinforced through years of Catholic education, has taught me to pay attention to the needs of others,” Uram said. “It has also taught me that we are called to help those in need, not just to sit on the sidelines. I would also like to ask anyone who reads this article to pray for and to support the Lahaina families.”