Parishioners Mourn Loss of St. Sophia’s Church

Investigators are still searching for cause of fire.

It wasn’t the way parishioners wanted to bid aloha to their beloved Catholic church, but to some, the loss of St. Sophia’s Church to a fire last Wednesday may come as a blessing.
“I don’t think anybody ever imagined the chapter of Sophia closing this way,” said Maria Sullivan, a long-time parishioner who has led fundraising efforts. “But when I looked up and saw the cross, it looked untouched ? like a pillar of strength.”

,” Guerreiro said. “It’s sad because of all the memories here ? the marriages, sacraments, communions.”
The parish council called an emergency meeting Thursday night to determine where Saturday’s and Sunday’s Mass, along with Ash Wednesday, would be held. And while “generous” offers poured in from other churches and one nonprofit in Kaunakakai, the council chose to hold future church services and activities at the former Pau Hana Inn ? recently taken over by the Molokai Community Health Center.
 “We’re going to utilize this site until further notice,” said Leoda Shizuma, parish council member.
Before Wednesday night’s fire, St. Sophia’s Church, built in 1937, was slated to be demolished and replaced later this year with a new worship structure named St. Damien Church, in honor of Father Damien, who was canonized just four months ago.
The Molokai Catholic community has been raising funds to contribute to the $3 million project since 1995.
“It should advance our progress,” Guerreiro said.
While the new church’s design plans are being reviewed by the Maui County Planning Commission, the parish hopes to celebrate Christmas Mass 2011 in the new St. Damien Church.
“We’re sort of homeless right now,” Sullivan said. “It’s important that people come through for us financially.”
While plans to rebuild excite some, the loss of St. Sophia’s Church is still difficult to fathom for others.
“My heart hurts,” said Kanani Negrillo, long-time parishioner who was born only a year after the church was built. “I was born and raised in this church ? there are too many memories.”
“We feel loss, we feel sorrow,” Shizuma added. “But you can also see the beauty in it ? the community coming together and asking, ‘How can we help?'”


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