Year of the Saint-Joseph pilgrimage: Saint-Joseph parish, Makawao

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St. Joseph’s Church in Makawao, Maui (Photo courtesy of Dann Ebina)

Rooted in the heritage of Portuguese immigrants

By Anna Weaver
Catholic Herald of Hawaii

During this “Year of Saint Joseph” why not try visiting one of the Saint Joseph churches in Hawaii. In this issue, we head to Makawao, Maui, for the second St. Joseph Church on this island.

The central Maui parish of St. Joseph in Makawao owes its beginnings to a large number of Portuguese settlers on the island.

Prior to their arrival, “in the 1840s and 1850s, Makawao was almost unknown” outside the region, according to the book “Pioneers of the Faith” by the late Father of the Sacred Hearts Robert Schoofs. Most references to Catholic activity in the region during this period focused on Ulumalu and Haliimaile. The first baptism recorded in Makawao did not take place until August 24, 1851.

As the sugarcane and pineapple plantations of Maui’s hinterland grew, workers were brought in from Portugal. Some became ranchers and farmers, and most were Catholics. As their numbers increased in Makawao, the priest assigned to Wailuku could no longer manage the two areas on his own.

The first permanent priest in Makawao was the father of the Sacred Hearts of German origin James Beissel who arrived in 1882. (He would also build the Church of the Holy Spirit in Kula.) He was young and active and obtained men. locals to help him build chapels and churches that “have mushroomed” throughout Makawao District, according to “Pioneers of the Faith.”

It is not known exactly in what year the first permanent Catholic church was erected in Makawao, but it was probably in the early 1880s. This church has been described as “a beautiful but small church just above the current Catholic cemetery. “. It was a 6 to 7 foot wood-frame church on top of a rock face without a rectory. This did not bother Father Beissel as he traveled a lot throughout the region. Instead, he stayed in a room attached to the church sacristy that served as an office and bedroom. A meeting room and workshops were then added.

What was the attraction of the church for Portuguese immigrants? They had to “get used to a foreign country, adjust to many new ways, new surroundings and new daily activities, deal with a variety of nationalities and face many strange views on religious matters.” , according to “The Pioneers of the Faith.”

“All these difficulties made their church and its basement very dear to immigrants from Portugal. It was the only place outside their homes where they could meet old friends and make new ones, remember the old country and share together the news of friends and relatives from whom they were separated by two huge ones. oceans.

The number of Catholics in the parish continues to grow. According to the history of the parish on the St. Joseph website, from 1906 to 1913, approximately 6,000 Portuguese immigrants arrived in Hawaii. And so a second priest was assigned to the district. The Dutch Father of the Sacred Hearts Justin Van Schayk was based in Saint Joseph.

Immigrants are welcome

Father Beissel and Father Van Schyak actively welcomed Portuguese immigrants to Makawao and Saint-Joseph. Father Van Schyak spoke Portuguese so well that he was considered a resident expert. He also learned Hawaiian and built a cottage to live near the church.

But the parish needed a bigger church for its growing congregation. The perfect place for this seemed to be where the nearby plantation’s forge was located on a large “high and dry” plot of land. Initially, the manager did not want to let go of the place. But, according to parish tradition, after Father Van Schayk helped lift his car off a pile of deep mud during a rainstorm, the director agreed.

This Gothic-style church, which remains to this day, was erected in 1911 and was designed by an experienced builder and Father of the Sacred Hearts Jean Couturiaux, who came from Kauai to manage the project. The church steeple took over a decade longer to build due to a lack of funds. Finally, the parish priest at the time, the Father of the Sacred Hearts James Beynes, made his wealthy parents pay for it.

Photo: Saint-Joseph Parish, Makawao

“Now engulfed by parking lots, St. Joseph’s presides over a still spacious front lawn with a cypress-lined driveway that rises from Makawao Avenue,” Don J. Hibbard wrote for the Society of Architectural Historians. “A well-proportioned academic Gothic reinforced concrete church, its basilica plan, its strong corner tower, its buttresses, its arched stained glass windows and its heavy portico are characteristic of its time.”

A permanent rectory was built in the mid-1930s. Father of the Sacred Hearts Louis Boeynaems, the nephew of Bishop of Hawaii Libert Boeynaems, added a gymnasium to increase recreational options for local youth.

The Sisters of Saint Joseph of Orange came to work at the new parish school in 1945 and remained until 1968. That year, the Dominican Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary of the Philippines resumed teaching at the school. Saint Joseph. In 1986, the seventh and eighth grades closed, but a nursery school began. Grade 6 was dropped in 2007 and the entire elementary school closed in 2010. The St. Joseph Early Years Learning Center continues.

The parish has also long been known for its Holy Spirit / St. Feast and feast of Joseph, including a cattle auction.

The research for this story came in part from “Pioneers of the Faith” of Father of the Sacred Hearts Robert Schoofs, editor of the Hawaii Catholic Herald from 1936 to 1943, “A Pilgrimage through Time” edited by Dominican Sister Malia Dominica Wong.


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