In Hawaiian culture there is a word, kuleana (koo-leh-ah-na). Literally, it means responsibility. As chaplains and teachers in Episcopal schools our kuleana may be to plan and organize chapels, teach classes, etc. In Hawaiian culture, kuleana is more than just the job description. There is a sense of ownership; a sense of active responsibility, rather than a checklist of things that belong to someone in their job description. At its heart, kuleana is sacred duty.
Kuleana can also extend to the institution. As Episcopal schools we regularly talk about our identity and what it means to be an Episcopal school. We raise issues of academic rigor and preparation for the next stage in a child’s academic career—be it elementary school, middle school, high school, or college. These most definitely are part of our kuleana.
But also in our kuleana is the need to form and shape young people who themselves will discover and take on their kuleana as moral citizens in this society. By forming and shaping, I don’t mean another course in Ethics, Service, World Religions, or even Biblical studies—though such courses are integral to establishing a global perspective. Our kuleana as Episcopal schools is to build communities: communities that are inclusive, diverse, and nurturing; communities that pray and bear witness to the Love of God; communities that strive for justice and peace; communities that recognize and respond to the needs of the world in ways appropriate to the students and their context; communities that are rooted in and modeled after the Kingdom of God.
What is your kuleana? As a school? As a member of the faculty or staff? As a religious and spiritual leader (yes, that applies to all of you and not just the clergy folk). What is the sacred duty that God has entrusted to you and the community in which you live and work? Whatever it is, kuleana is a living thing. It is more than a job description or a list of duties and responsibilities. It lives in our call from God. Kuleana lives in the heart.
The Rev. Daniel L. Leatherman is Chaplain at ‘Iolani School in Honolulu, Hawaii.