Maui’s wildfires miraculously spare Catholic church

Maui wildfires

Maui’s wildfires destroyed almost everything in their path – people, buildings, land. But Maria Lanakila Catholic Church in Lahaina survived. It’s like a symbol of hope, a miracle.

So far at least 111 people, including children, have been confirmed killed. Authorities expect the death toll to rise as the search for victims continues.

Lahaina, a town with fewer than 13,000 residents, was particularly devastated.

Miraculous survival

Named for Our Lady of Victory, Maria Lanakila was built in 1873. The stone church building appears to have escaped destruction, according to post-fire photographs

Monsignor Terrence Watanabe, vicar forane of Maui and Lanai, says the neighbouring rectory also appears intact.

“For us, it’s like a miracle. When we saw the news and saw the church steeple rise above the town, it was a great sight to see.”

The church’s wooden roof looks damaged and the building’s structural integrity may be compromised.

“We won’t know until we get in there and make an assessment,” Watanabe says.

Maria Lanakila Catholic Church serves 700 to 800 families at its six Sunday Masses. It also hosts weddings for numerous international visitors.

Fortunately, its pastor and all the parish staff escaped the deadly fire.

Lost to Maui’s wildfires

Near to Maria Lanakila Church is Sacred Heart school. It might not have survived.

It had already suffered “significant damage” from strong winds, an 8 August letter on the school’s Facebook page says.

Another church burned to the ground. Waiola Church, had celebrated its 200th anniversary in May. It stood on the site of Wainee Church which Queen Keopuolani established in 1823. She was the first Hawaiian baptised as a Protestant Christian.

Hawaii’s kings and queens are buried in the church graveyard, the first Christian cemetery in Hawaii. Many missionaries’ children are also buried there. The latest church building dates back to 1953.

A Protestant church in Lahaina was destroyed. It was also founded by Hawaiian royalty.

The town is a major tourist destination. Most of the town corridor and its historic buildings were burned, along with people’s homes and even boats.

“Without a doubt, it feels like a bomb was dropped on Lahaina,” Gov. Josh Green says.

Everyone’s related

Robert Van Tassell of Catholic Charities Hawaii says the fires’ effect on the Hawaiian community is “very dramatic.” Every one of his 300-employee agency has been affected by Maui’s wildfires.

“All of them have family there. Everybody in Hawaii is related. Everybody calls everyone auntie, cousin, uncle, friend, family. It’s a very connected, very family-oriented community.

“The … community outpouring from people here in Hawaii already is overwhelming.

“But a lot of us are still dealing with the initial shock … we’re preparing ourselves for a long recovery period.”



Additional reading

News category: World.

Tags: , ,