Kauai’s Catholic Churches

This summer you’ll need a scorecard to keep track of all the changes happening at Catholic churches on Kauai.

A shortage of priests has prompted Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo of the Diocese of Honolulu and various orders of priests to recall several long-time Kauai priests to Honolulu or to the Mainland, leading to a situation known as “pastor sharing” at two Kauai churches.

According to DiLorenzo and leaders of various orders of priests serving the islands, only St. Theresa’s Parish in Kekaha and Immaculate Conception Church in Kapaia near Lihue will continue with the same religious leaders after Friday, Aug. 1.

Beginning Tuesday, July 1, the Rev. Christopher Keahi, SS.CC., now pastor of Holy Cross Church in Kalaheo, will become pastor of St. Michael Church in Waialua on Oahu.

The Rev. Felix Vandebroek, SS.CC., pastor of St. Raphael’s Church in Koloa and of the same Sacred Hearts order as Keahi, will also move to Oahu at the beginning of next month.

Effective July 1, the Rev. Napoleon “Nap” Andres, M.S., of the La Salette Fathers who also administer St. Theresa’s, becomes pastor of both Holy Cross and St. Raphael’s, in the first-ever, pastor-sharing arrangement for Kauai parishes.

Andres, 45, is currently pastor of St. Anthony Church in Kalihi, near Honolulu. A native of the Philippines, he has been a priest for 18 years.

Also effective at the beginning of next month, the Rev. Rene Bisaillon, M.S., will become associate pastor of both Holy Cross and St. Raphael’s.

Keahi was born in Hawaii, and has been a priest for 38 years.

A public meeting with DiLorenzo and other religious leaders is tonight, Thursday, June 12, at the Holy Cross Church hall, to discuss the changes.

The changes were announced concurrent with a decision by the Sacred Hearts Fathers to pull nearly all their priests from the Neighbor Islands to serve larger Oahu parishes.

The order, which brought Roman Catholicism to Hawaii 150 years ago and built the island’s first Catholic church at Koloa, has priests assigned to Immaculate Conception Church in Kapaia near Lihue (the Rev. Paul McLeod, SS.CC.) as well as Holy Cross and St. Raphael’s.

The Rev. Clarence Guerreiro, Hawaii provincial, announced that, effective July 1, the congregation will relinquish administration of St. Raphael’s and Holy Cross.

Holy Cross priests also serve the Sacred Hearts Church in Eleele. St. Theresa’s priests also serve Catholic mission churches in Waimea, the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary; and St. Joseph’s in Kaumakani.

Effective Friday, Aug. 1, St. Catherine Church in Kapaa, which runs St. Sylvester’s Church in Kilauea and St. William Church in Hanalei, will lose its Marist priests, the Rev. Bruce Lery, pastor; the Rev. Vincent Curtain, associate pastor; and the Rev. Patrick Coyle, pastor emeritus.

A shortage of priests necessitated the Marist move, which has had priests on this island for 50 years. Most will be assigned to parishes on the Mainland.

The Rev. James Orsini, 63, now pastor of St. Jude Church in Kapolei on Oahu, becomes pastor at St. Catherine, effective Friday, Aug. 1. It will mark the first time St. Catherine parish will be administered by a diocesan priest.

There have been no announcements about replacements for the other departing priests at St. Catherine, but one island priest said he believes priests will be flown in from Oahu to conduct Sunday services at various parishes.

Escaping the Sacred Hearts recall is McLeod, pastor of Immaculate Conception Church, which is the island’s largest parish in terms of parishioners.

“I am not leaving,” said McLeod, who as vicar is DiLorenzo’s designated representative on Kauai.

Many in the Catholic community have expressed concerns about the changes, particularly those in the St. Raphael’s and Holy Cross parishes that will soon be sharing pastors.

But McLeod thinks the transition will be smooth and orderly.

“My take is that it doesn’t look like it’s going to be a big problem. Everybody’s going to miss their priests, because they like them,” said McLeod, 63.

But there will be five long-time priests leaving and four new ones coming, so the Catholic community will be served adequately by the new priests, McLeod feels.

“It has to really do with numbers” of priests and parishioners, McLeod said of the need for the changes, particularly those affecting the Sacred Hearts fathers.

“Most of us are living alone. In community living, as we do, there’s usually at least two priests in the house. Over here, that has not happened,” he said.

“We are fewer in number, and we are getting older,” and are responsible for some large Oahu parishes, some with schools, McLeod said.

There were 215,000 Roman Catholics in Hawaii in 1999, according to a state estimate. That year, the resident population was 1,210,300, so Catholics made up an estimated 18 percent of the state’s population.

Kauai’s population in 1999 was 58,264, and if the state estimate holds true on Kauai, that means 18 percent of the island’s population, or around 10,000 people, could be Catholic.

Business Editor Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).


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