PAIA - The iconic Holy Rosary Church will be celebrating its 85th year at its current upper Paia site and its 125th year of existence on Oct. 29 with a Mass and luau.
The Most Rev. Larry Silva, Bishop of Honolulu, will celebrate the Mass at 5 p.m. A luau will follow with food and entertainment, featuring George Kahumoku Jr., Uluwehi Guerrero and his halau and Benny Uyetake.
The beginnings of Holy Rosary Church may be traced to the current site of a Catholic cemetery in Kuau. In 1886, Father James Beissel built the church on 15 acres donated by a Native Hawaiian named Keakome, according to the book "Pioneers of Faith." It could seat about 350 people and was built to serve the Portuguese immigrants in Hamakuapoko and surrounding areas.
This photo shows the Holy Rosary Church in 1920 at its old site in Kuau.
Back then, Kuau and Makawao were the Catholic centers of the island, said Bill Tavares, a longtime parishioner. The construction of the Paia Mill in 1905 and the establishment of several large plantation camps in upper Paia led church leaders to move to the current site on Baldwin Avenue, across from Paia Elementary School.
Father Jules Verhaeghe led the beginning of construction in 1926; the Gothic-style church was blessed a year later by the Most. Rev. Stephen Peter Alencastre, then bishop of the diocese.
Membership grew to as many as 300 families in the 1940s; currently, there are about 130 families supporting Holy Rosary. There was an elementary school, run by the Sisters of St. Joseph Carondelet, which closed in 1962. The phasing out of the plantation camps siphoned off students and parishioners
Holy Rosary has several exquisite artistic and religious touches. Light shines into the church through stained glass windows, crafted in Belgium. Inside is a Stations of the Cross, depicting Christ's walk to his crucifixion, carved out of wood by Brothers of the Sacred Hearts Sylvester Barbe and Wenceslavs Van Vorst in 1927.
Under the direction of Sacred Hearts Father Roland Peters a marble statue of then-Father Damien was made in Italy in 1976. Father Damien, who helped the sufferers of leprosy in Kalaupapa and later died of the disease, was cannonized in 2009.
The long history of the church will be celebrated on Oct. 29. The luau, prepared by parishioners under the guidance of the Kekiwi family, will begin at 6:15 p.m. with food pickups starting at 5:30 p.m.
Tickets for the luau are $15. To obtain tickets or for more information, call 579-9551.