History of St. Anthony of Padua Church
St. Anthony of Padua Church in Wailuku, Maui, Hawaii was established by the Fathers of the Order of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, whose arrival from France on July 7, 1827, marked the start of the Catholic Mission in Hawaii. After more than two decades of political and social upheaval as well as religious persecution, the first High Mass was celebrated at St. Anthony in Wailuku on July 13, 1848 in a thatched structure.
In 1854, St. Anthony was built in wood to replace the native church. It was reported that 6000 baptisms were recorded on Maui that year.
In 1858-59, King Kamehameha IV deeded 16 acres of land in Wailuku to Bishop Louis Maigret and on May 3, 1873, under the direction of Father Lenore Fouesnel, SS.CC., the third church (now in stone) that took six years to build, was blessed. It is said that it was here at this event that Father Damien de Veuster SS.CC, made his commitment to go to Kalaupapa Leprosy Settlement and thus, began his remarkable journey to sainthood.
The church building continued to be improved and expanded over the years. In 1919, it was remodeled into a gothic style with a sanctuary, semi-rotund baptistery and bell tower. In 1940, it was enlarged on both sides under the direction of Father Bruno Bens and stood majestically as a major landmark in Wailuku for over a century.
In 1976, the Society of Mary (Marianists) assumed leadership of St. Anthony Parish from the Sacred Heart Fathers. The Brothers of Mary were already a big part of life here at St. Anthony, having founded the Wailuku School for Boys in 1883 at the invitation of the Sacred Heart's Fathers and staffed what later would become St. Anthony Junior-Senior High School. Over the years, in addition to the Marianists, our children have been taught by the Franciscan and Maryknoll Sisters. Currently, we are blessed with the presence of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet on our staff and teaching at our high school.
A year later, on November 1, 1977, the historic church was destroyed by an early morning fire set by an arsonist. It was a sad and traumatic loss for our parish, as well as a shock to the entire community. But through prayer, hard work and the generosity of many wonderful parishioners and Maui community leaders, St. Anthony Church rose from the ashes. The present, modern structure was dedicated on June 13, 1980, St. Anthony's feast day, just three years after the tragic fire.
Today, as we enter the 21st century, the Marianist spirit and influence is alive in our growing and diverse parish of over 900 families. The parish, along with its many ministries, includes a Preschool, Grade School and Cemetery. We also have on our beautiful campus, the only Catholic High School on Maui. We pray that the Lord continues to bless our tranquil island, church and the people who come to worship here.
Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.