Caring for the Community

Authored by: 
Laura Dunn


Caring for the Community

A conversation with Anthony Makana Paris (MA, ’11)

by Laura Dunn

From the Spring 2019 edition of Skylight

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Recently, we caught up with GTU/JST alum, Anthony Makana Paris (MA, ’11) in Honolulu to learn how he uses his experiences and education at the GTU toserve the Native Hawaiian community. Born and raised in Hawaiʻi, Makana calls himself a true conossieur of learning, having studied engineering at MIT, law at the University of Hawaiʻi, as well as theology and philosophy at theGTU/JST. Makana has served as a farmer and fisherman, as a teacher, minister, and lab specialist, as Vice Chair of ‘Aha 2016, and currently as President of the Prince Kūhiō Hawaiian Civic Club. A former advisor to the Hawai‘i Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee, Makana works across the islands as anentrepreneur, consultant, and research analyst for the Iron Workers Stabilization Fund.

What motivated you to attend the GTU? 

I wanted to lay foundational written worksfor the study of Hawaiian Catholicism.I grew up in it, but there is no palapala—no written papers outside of old sermons and homilies. Iwanted to articulate foundational principles and methods to the approach of Hawaiian Catholic theology. I also found that a lot of young Native Hawaiians were struggling with being a Christian or religious of any sort because they saw that religion—especially Christianity—was in conflict with their cultural identity. I asked myself, “What has happened to the narratives we Hawaiians tell ourselves to be more human--more kānaka?” I would look at elders and they didn’t have this problem. This problem was manifesting in younger people. 

“My aim at the GTU was to voice Hawaiian Catholicism authentically in the language my community of accountability at home has chosen to use.”

My aim at the GTU was to voice Hawaiian Catholicism authentically in the language my community of accountability at home has chosen to use. I chose to be Catholic, but the Divine made me Hawaiian. I understand my kuleana—the privilegesI have—which call me to care for my home and for Native Hawaiians in particular. That has been my true north—what I believe I am supposed to do. As Mother Teresa said, if you want to bring peace to the world, go back home and love your family, so with the best of preparation that I received from our ancient society and from that of today, I wanted to make sure I was preparedt o do that. 

Did your experience at the GTU influence your decision to go to law school? 

When I taught in Hawaiʻi, I realized there was a problem with curricula support, financing, materials, and facilities, so I wanted to work through decision-making structures in order to help alleviate these problems. In my journey to gather intellectual tools, such as science and engineering at MIT and theology and philosophy at GTU, I asked myself, “What’s the other major language that affects society today?” I saw in boardrooms that when a lawyer would say “no” to our proposed solutions to a problem, everyone would acquiesce, and I thought, “Wait a minute. How canwe find a solution?”  I currently work in policy, law creation,and analysis. I intentionally set out knowing I was not going to work in litigation, because I could go into courtand have one transaction, or I could learn how to adjust the system to increase societal well-being and flourishing, as well asto address social injustice.

Author Laura Dunn is a third-year doctoral student at the GTU and a Native Hawaiian.