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Amplify God’s Voice of Hope in Maui: Part Three

September 11, 2023

From the Office for Social Ministry

“In everyday life we keep looking for signs of God’s love and presence... The aftermath of this fire is an unimaginable time of suffering and mourning. Our faith is being tested as never before. Nevertheless, we draw inspiration from the towering presence of our beloved Maria Lanakila Church. It stands as a miraculous symbol of God's mercy and the indomitable strength that overcomes adversity." - Msgr. Terry Watanabe, Vicar Forane of Maui/Lanai (adapted from Hawaii Catholic Herald Talk Story Column)

The “miraculously” surviving Maria Lanakila Parish Church symbolizes a beacon of God love and presence in Lahaina. It is inspiring to witness the community of suffering families come together to support each other in time of need. Lahaina’s diverse population of Hawaiians, Filipinos, Tongans, Vietnamese, Latinos working alongside people from the mainland USA, Europe, Asia, South Pacific, Latin America and other regions worldwide offers all the opportunity to rebuild together as One Ohana.

When half of Maria Lanakila’s Sacred Hearts School burned down to the ground, the parish mobilized immediately to find a new place of learning for the children while locating and assisting teachers and parents who lost their homes in finding shelter. Principal Tonata Lolesio worked tirelessly with the diocese and a dedicated team of volunteers to communicate school updates and ensure the safety and welfare of all families. She gratefully spoke about this experience with the Hawaii Catholic Herald "I thank God that I can report that all our students and families are safe and accounted for." She shared how her strength comes from her faith and the support of parish staff and volunteers.

Principal Tonata also passionately pointed out that how they are all motivated by the school’s diverse, resilient children with their need for a stable learning environment --a safe place to grow in God’s love. Shelley Lee is an parish volunteer at the Maria Lanakila’s Sacred Heart mission church hosting the temporary school and she echoed this faith-focused reflection in an interview for Hawaii Catholic Herald. “It is so important that our children have access to a Catholic education as they may be the ones to help their parents stay strong in their faith and the knowing of a loving God.”

The Maria Lanakila parish and school, along with many diocese supporters, are now focused on and committed to an ambitious mission: restarting classes and temporarily relocating the parish school to Kapalua. The faculty has heroically stepped up to work seven days a week, providing learning opportunities not only for the students who were previously enrolled but also for many from the public school that was entirely consumed by the fire. The children in need are nourishing a collective passion, as the parish community comes together to establish a fully functioning temporary school—another beacon of hope for the present and future of Lahaina.

Local and national media have begun to shine a spotlight on this uplifting new narrative of strength, resilience and aloha unfolding in the hearts of the children and the parish community.

Click to see a report from ABC News Live: https://twitter.com/abcnewslive/status/1700297980543119753?s=46

Meanwhile, the vicariate of Maui and numerous other parishes throughout the diocese are rallying around Maria Lanakila school. The parish is seeking donations to help cover tuition and operational costs for the school’s diverse population devastated by the fires. To learn more, please visit www.shsmaui.org.

To directly support the Diocese's Maui relief efforts, including rebuilding the parish school in Lahaina, please make a contribution to the Hawaii Catholic Community Foundation at https://tinyurl.com/MauiCatholic.

As we continue to pray for all impacted by the wildfires and ask for kokua as we witness to Jesus by helping the resilient Maui ‘ohana rise once again, let us remember Bishop Larry Silva’s inspiring message immediately after the Maui wildfires. “In our collective prayers, we ask for strength, resilience, and healing for the fire victims and their families. May we find the grace to rebuild our families, their livelihoods, and the physical structures that were lost. Let our faith guide us as we navigate the challenges ahead, knowing that with the grace of God, all things are possible. May God bless you all abundantly, and may our efforts bring comfort and hope to those in need. Maria Lanakila (Our Lady of Victory), pray for us! Mahalo.