The Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary Church in Waimea is the “sister” church of St. Theresa’s Church in Kekaha, said Chantal Duarte of the St. Theresa’s Jubilee planning committee.
“This is the second-oldest Catholic Church on Kauai,” Duarte said. “Our mission church, Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Church, located across the Kaumuali‘i Highway from the Waimea Canyon Park, was built in 1899. Some stories which we have been unable to verify indicate the church burned down some time in the 1920s. It was rebuilt to the one we still use today.”
In 1941, Sacred Heart Father Raphael Smulders negotiated an exchange with the Kekaha Plantation for a parcel of land owned by the church for one more centrally located.
The progress of the church on Kauai was symbolized on Jan. 21, 1941, when in the 100th year since its founding in Koloa, a new parish was created at Kekaha with the dedication of the Church of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus by the Very Reverend Victoriunus Claesen, pro-vicar of the Hawaii vicariate with the Kauai clergy assisting.
“We are celebrating the 75th anniversary of the St. Theresa Parish,” Duarte said. “Novena to St. Theresa will be held 10 minutes before all Masses from Sept. 22 to Sept. 30 at St. Theresa in Kekaha. On Sept. 30, we will celebrate Youth Night with food, fun, music, and more food from 6:30 to 10 p.m. It is free, and entertainment will be by Still Watah and there will be lots of affordably-priced food.”
On Oct. 1, the St. Theresa Church will host its 75th Jubilee Celebration with a 5 p.m. Mass followed by a paina under the stars on the grounds of the St. Theresa School. Entertainment on tap include The Kama‘aina, Frank De Lima, and Wally Rita & Los Kauaianos.
A parish appreciation brunch at 10 a.m. Oct. 2 wraps up the Jubilee Celebration.
Father Emerson Delos Reyes is the parish administrator for St. Theresa, appointed by the Diocesis.
“He prefers to be called ‘Father Boyet,’” Duarte said. “He tells us of the story of how when he was growing up, his father used to always say, ‘You’re still a ‘boy, yet.’”
“I was baptized at St. Theresa Church,” said Dean Remata. “I was an altar boy, and I remember fighting for the honor of ringing the bell at Sacred Heart Church. The bell tower is now closed because the termites are holding hands, but I went to all nine years at St. Theresa School. My aunt, Sister Florence Remata, was among the first graduating class at the school in 1952.”
Duarte said the St. Theresa Parish numbers about 300 people — a lot being in care homes and nursing facilities.
“We are an aging parish,” she said. “A lot of the members have stories to tell, but are now unable to talk.”
Remata said when he was baptized, it was in the old church before it burned down in 1977. The facility became the cafeteria, and after the new church was built, the social hall.
“St. Theresa School, and our parish hall were built in 1946 by the hard work and dedication of many parishioners before us,” Duarte said. “We have been blessed to have the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity with us since the beginning, and thank God for Sister Janet Rose, OSF, local director, Sister Michael Ann O’Donnell, director of religious education, and Sister Mary Ann Tupy who teaches at St. Theresa School, today. Their dedication over the years has been a blessing for everyone.”
Duarte said the committee is putting together a souvenir book on the colorful history of the St. Theresa Church and Parish.
“We have been blessed tremendously by the generations of parishioners that are still a part of our parish today, and those who have become a part of our parish ‘ohana over the years,” Duarte said. “As ‘intentional disciples’ of Jesus, we will continue the hard work and dedication of those that came before us in spreading the Gospel message and helping others on their discipleship journey.”