Foundations of Faith

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Foundations of Faith

After 16 years of planning, praying and waiting, the St. Damien Parish is finally seeing the first signs of construction on a new church, on the site of the former St. Sophia church in Kaunakakai. Last week, community members, parishioners and construction workers gathered to clear the ground and began erecting a dust fence to ensure safety of the construction area, according to Gil Hoopii, Senior Superintendent of Nordic PCL Construction, the company contracted to build the new church.

“It’s happening before our eyes and it’s almost like a miracle,” said Leoda Shizuma, council chair of St. Damien Parish.

In keeping with Father Clyde Guerreiro’s goal of holding a Christmas Eve service in the new church this year, the structure is expected to be completed by October, said Hoopii.

“I won’t be taking vacation for a while but it’s unbelievable – feels great,” said Guerreiro, dressed in overalls to help with the ground preparations.

As construction began, “All I could think about was praise be Jesus, Alleluia!” said Shizuma. “It’s been a long dream for a lot of people in our parish.”

Community members may stop by the next door Damien Center for construction updates in the coming months.

Father Damien’s St. Joseph Church Rescued

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Father Damien’s St. Joseph Church Rescued

Community Contributed

By Maria Sullivan, St. Damien Parishioner

St. Joseph Church at Kamalo is a State Historic site and one of the most visited on Molokai.  Each year more than 4,000 Hawaii residents, visitors and pilgrims visit the church, built in 1876 by Father Damien and the Kamalo community. Today, due to the grace and generosity of many people, this 134-year-old church is being saved, so it can continue to tell the story of Molokai, and of one of its most famous residents, Father Damien. 

In addition to his work with the Hansen disease patients on the Kalaupapa peninsula, Father Damien also served as pastor and church builder for the Catholic faithful who lived on topside Molokai.  Of the churches built by Father Damien, St. Joseph Church at Kamalo remains in the most original condition.  However, due to time, weather and termites the church was at risk of being lost. A windstorm this past April complicated matters by blowing off the cross and tearing a large, gaping hole in the church’s eight-sided steeple spire.

There are still substantial costs ahead to evaluate the structural integrity of the steeple, and to reinstall a new top spire. Father Guerreiro and the parish are hopeful that donors will come forward and join the parish in its effort to “Save the Steeple” at Father Damien’s historic St. Joseph Church.

Help Save the Steeple
Make your check payable to: “St. Joseph Church Fund”
Attn: Fr. Clyde Guerreiro
Saint Damien Parish-St. Joseph Church Fund
P.O. Box 1948
Kaunakakai, HI  96748
For more information about the church and project, contact Maria Sullivan, St. Damien Parishioner (808) 553-5181;

Rummaging for Treasure

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Rummaging for Treasure

“You never heard the story of the white elephants?” asked a puzzled Claire Iveson. “During the civil war, the Siamese kings sent Lincoln elephants for the war.”

have a good quality rummage sale – the whitest of the elephants.”

That included heaps of clothes, a few pairs of weather-beaten shoes, jewelry, books and kitchen goods, all of which were donated by parishioners in the week leading up to the sale.

Church Exceeds Campaign Goal

Monday, October 18th, 2010

As the Diocese of Honolulu wraps up its capital campaign to raise $30 million – which actually received $57 million in pledged funds – parishes around the state will begin to reap the benefits.

The diocese, a collective of Hawaii’s Catholic churches, launched the ambitious campaign in 2008, a time when the entire nation was - and still is - shoulder-deep in an economic slump. But with the help and participation of 66 Hawaii parishes, including Molokai’s St. Damien Catholic Parish, the results were nothing short of surprising.

“It was quite a big shock,” said Cynthia Lallo, director of development and stewardship of the diocese. “We’re amazed by what this group has accomplished.”

Parishioners Mourn Loss of Kalaupapa Priest

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

Parishioners Mourn Loss of Kalaupapa Priest

Father Felix Vandebroek, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Church in Kalaupapa, was found dead on Aug. 28 at the Sacred Hearts Center in Kaneohe. He was 82.

Originally from Belgium, Vandebroek served parishes in Hawaii for more than 50 years, and presided over the Hansen’s disease settlement at Kalaupapa for the last three. He had recently returned to Hawaii after a month-long stay in Belgium, where he was visiting family.

While resting at the center before returning to Molokai, Vandebroek wasn’t feeling well, said Father Chris Keahi, provincial superior of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Keahi knocked on Vandebroek’s door the night before he was supposed to return to Molokai, but the priest did not respond. He was found dead the following morning.

always nice to the people.”

Willing to Serve
Vandebroek was born in Belgium on Feb. 29, 1928. He entered the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts in 1949, and later moved to the Hawaiian Isles in 1956. Vandebroek’s ministry in Hawaii spanned across all islands except Lanai.

His longest assignment was at St. Raphael Church in Koloa, Kauai, for 24 years. He was later appointed to St. Francis of Assisi Church in Kalaupapa in 2007, and was formally installed by Bishop Larry Silva on May 10, 2008 – the feast day of St. Damien de Veuster. Vandebroek was the latest priest to follow in the footsteps of Damien, his fellow countryman, who was canonized in 2009 for his work with Hansen’s disease patients.

Keahi said although Kalaupapa was one of the most challenging ministries to preside over, Vandebroek went willingly.

“It was a little high for him coming from Hana,” Keahi said. “He lived somewhat of a lonely life, especially with no children. He loved children.”

Keahi said Vandebroek enjoyed helping the isolated community, and recalled him being a “warming, friendly and caring” person.

As Leoda Shizuma, council chair of St. Damien Parish, shuffled through photos of Vandebroek on her phone, she, too, remembered him fondly.

“He really had a sense of humor,” Shizuma said, as tears began to swell. “He had a connection with the local people.”

Shizuma had last seen Vandebroek at Kalaupapa in May for St. Damien’s feast day. She recalled his sermon, saying that when he spoke, she could feel the presence of Damien among them.

“He was so cute,” she added. “At the end of every service he would say, ‘Mass pau.’”

While Keahi has yet to find another priest for Kalaupapa, he said he would send volunteers over on a weekly basis in the meantime.

The funeral is Thursday at St. Patrick Church, 1124 7th Ave. in Kaimuki. Visitation is at 5:30 p.m., followed by Mass. The burial is set for Sept. 10 at 9 a.m. at the Valley of the Temples in Kaneohe.

Following in His Footsteps

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

Following in His Footsteps

It was an eventful week for a group of French Catholic priests from the Fraternity of Molokai, marking the first time they had ever visited their namesake island and home of their patron, Saint Damien de Veuster.

These priests were part of a group of 35 priests, nuns and lay people from an international Catholic movement called Heart’s Home comprised of nearly 400 global members and volunteers. They came to Molokai to learn about Saint Damien’s life, gain a deeper understanding of his mission and the people he served, that inspires them in their own missions around the world.


Heart’s Home, inspired by St. Damien’s work and dedicated to compassion for those in need, has 45 centers in 22 countries around the world.

Sylvie Muller is a lay-consecrated member who made the journey to Molokai. Muller’s current mission is in Brooklyn, New York. She began with Heart’s Home, as many do, as a volunteer, first sent to serve in Argentina over 10 years ago. She said though her work with Brooklyn’s elderly, under-privileged and home-bound is often difficult, she is inspired by Saint Damien’s closeness to the people he served and how much he loved them.

“You don’t know how I was longing to be closer to Damien and follow in his footsteps,” said. St. Damien “gives meaning to what I do and what I am.”

Praising In The Heart Of Town

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

Praising In The Heart Of Town

Community Contributed

By Randy Manley

The moon was aglow and the cool breezes were blowing as hundreds of people gathered at the Kaunakakai Ball Field for the first ever Molokai Summer Praise Concert last Friday evening. The free concert featuring various musical groups from around the island was sponsored by eight Molokai churches as a way of sharing the ministry of music with the island community.

Concert goers filled bleacher seats, reclined on blankets spread on the field, and sat at picnic tables enjoying a mixture of musical styles which included contemporary praise, choir, reggae, and gospel.

While the adults listened to the tunes, the keiki had the opportunity to participate in various games and activities that were designed to keep them entertained and occupied throughout the night.

As the musical smorgasbord was being served from the stage those looking for physical food needed only to follow their noses to the large food tent where musabee, chili and rice, and fresh malasadas were available free of charge.

Adding a special touch to the event was Dawn O’Brien master of ceremonies for the evening. O’Brien, the morning DJ for Christian radio station 95.5 The Fish, entertained the crowd with her quick wit and stories of growing up in the islands as she helped transition between performances.

If you missed the opportunity to attend be assured that the organizers of this event plan to make this an annual affair.

Blessed Feast

Monday, May 17th, 2010

Blessed Feast

May 10 was a day of celebrations all over the world in honor of the feast day of Saint Damien De Veuster. But none were more poignant or relevant than those held on Molokai, the island Hawaii’s first saint called home. Last Monday, parishioners gathered at Our Lady of Seven Sorrows Church to extend prayer and gratitude to St. Damien. 

The evening was filled with vibrant images and vignettes of St. Damien as Mass commenced inside the faintly lit church on Molokai’s east end – one of four topside churches built by Damien himself.

Father Clyde Guerreiro, pastor of St. Damien Parish, led the ceremony alongside Deacon Michael Shizuma. The service was followed by a potluck supper, where guests enjoyed ono grinds and engaged in light conversation.

feel present among us. The day was beautiful.”

St. Philomena Church, located in Kalawao, began as a small chapel where Damien spent his first few nights on Molokai. He added on to the church twice, more than doubling its size, while parishioners refinished and painted the interior. Today, the church stands in homage to the priest.

Leoda Shizuma called it an “experience of a lifetime” for the Kalaupapa patients, to be right in the midst of his memory, where he set foot for many years.

“I thought they were moved and touched,” she added.

Michael Shizuma reflected on the experience as a good way to remember everything Damien has done for the isle.

“I feel very grateful to be a part of it,” he said.

According to Your Faith

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Opinion by Pastor Mike Raines, The Lighthouse Church

Then Jesus touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done unto you.” And their eyes were opened.  (Matt.9:29-30)

Aloha to the Grand Old Lady

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Aloha to the Grand Old Lady

For over 70 years, St. Sophia’s Church had held baptisms and funerals, weddings and sermons – a spiritual hub for Kaunakakai town. Now, there’s a bare spot where the structure once stood. Last Tuesday, the church was demolished to make room for a new church building, to be called Saint Damien Church.

“Yes, we’re saddened,” said Leoda Shizuma, pastoral council chair. “But it’s just a building – we, the people, are really the church.”
A fire on Feb. 10 caused extensive interior damage to St. Sophia’s. Shizuma said the demolition had to take place anyway, but “the fire moved it along.”

In a gathering Sunday evening, referred to by some as “saying aloha to the grand old lady,” parishioners bid farewell to the church. Father Clyde Guerreiro brought charred pieces of the crucifix, stations of the cross, and other relics to an area behind the building he called the “garden of sorrows.” He asked people to share reflections and memories of the church, and closed with a prayer. While it was sad to see it go, parishioners said it was also a time of hope and anticipation for the new church, and especially full of symbolism in the Easter season.

The demolition was completed as a community service by Maui Master Builders. The company is on-island to construct the new fire station, and thanks to Wayne Pe`elua, an equipment operator for Maui Master Builders, employees did the work free of charge. Pe`elua grew up on Molokai and was baptized in the church. He said he asked company higher-ups if they would consider doing the demolition about a month ago, and they agreed. The demolition and clean-up, which took about half a day’s labor, was valued at $50,000, according to Pe`elua.

Shizuma said the new church is in the permitting stage and a date to begin construction on Saint Damien church has not yet been set. Father Clyde Guerreiro has set a completion goal for Christmas 2011.