On the day after our family wedding several of us who were staying at various Waikiki hotels got together to attend Mass at 5pm and then go out to dinner at a nearby restaurant. My wife and I only had to walk three blocks from our Hyatt Place hotel on Paoakalani to reach St Augustine by-the-sea Catholic Church on Ohua Ave just off Kalakaua Avenue.
This is the third St Augustine church in Waikiki. The first was built in 1854, the second in 1901. The second church was blessed on August 28, 1901, the feast of St Augustine. The present church was designed by architect George W. McLaughlin and built in 1962. I remember going to this church for mass in 1977 but I don’t remember an ABC store and a Burger King in a building right in front of the church on the corner of Kalakaua and Ohua, across the street from Kuhio State Beach.
French Catholic missionaries arrived in Hawaii in 1827 but they were not the first. Protestant missionaries from New England got here in 1820 and consequently most native Hawaiians today are Protestant. Hawaiian Catholics were persecuted in the 1830s but a law passed in 1839 allowed them to practice their faith freely.
The parish is run by the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, the same French missionaries who came to Hawaii in 1827. There is a museum on the second floor of the ABC store building in front of the church that is called the Saints Damien and Marianne Heritage Center in honor of two recent Catholic saints with Hawaiian ties. Saint Damien (born Joseph de Veuster in Belgium in 1840) was ordained a priest in Honolulu in 1864 and in 1873 he went to Molokai to serve the leper colony there. He contracted the disease in 1884 and died in 1889. He was canonized in 2009. St Marianne (born Barbara Koob in Germany in 1838) was a sister of St Francis who arrived in Molokai in 1888 and died in 1918 after serving 30 years among the lepers. She was canonized in 2012.
The two altar boys were bigger than the priest who later introduced himself as Father Ed. He also told us that he had just celebrated his 25th anniversary of priesthood a few days earlier. The boys were dressed in their formal Tongan skirts called tupenus. The Tonga Choir provided the pleasant church music including drums and guitars. Antiquated speakers made the sound a bit too loud and harsh, however.
There is a mass every day at 5pm at St Augustine’s. I think all who attended the Sunday we were there were tourists from the mainland. Locals must go to mass in the mornings.
The church runs a soup kitchen for the homeless and provides a hot meal from 11am to noon every weekday. Honolulu seems to have a lot of homeless people. We have seen them across the street at the beach. The cops shoo them away every now and then and they then find a doorway to sleep. You usually find a lot of them around the church, probably because they know they will be fed once a day. You see some of them along Kalakaua, too, where they walk among the tourists and beg.
The church maintains the Saints Damien and Marianne Heritage Center on the second floor of the ABC building in front of the church on Kalakaua Ave. The museum is open Mondays thru Thursdays from 9 to 3, Fridays from 9 to 12 noon, Saturdays from 9 to 12 noon and 4 to 7pm, and Sundays from 7am to noon. There is no admission charge.