A look back at the events and images from the past year in the Diocese of Honolulu

A Saint Francis senior gestures to the audience as he goes up to receive his diploma at the final Saint Francis High School graduation, May 25. The closing of the 95-year-old Catholic school at the end of the 2018-2019 school year due to financial and enrollment issues was one of the biggest stories of 2019. (HCH Photo | Anna Weaver)

Compiled by Anna Weaver
Hawaii Catholic Herald

Here is a month-by-month review of the Catholic news in Hawaii in 2019 as reported in the Hawaii Catholic Herald.


  • A landslide on the Kalaupapa trail, which was discovered on Christmas Day 2018, closed the trail indefinitely and made travel to the peninsula possible only via air or boat. There is no expected date yet for the trail’s repair and reopening.
  • The chancellor’s office, which coordinates an October count of Mass attendance, tracked 107 parishes, missions and ethnic communities. Of them, 85 saw a drop in Mass attendance over the past three years, from 2015 to 2018. The diocese recorded an average of 46,890 people in church each weekend last October. That’s 2,998 fewer than 2015’s count of 49,888, and 11,547 fewer than 2008’s total of 58,437. The difference over the past decade amounts to a nearly 20 percent drop.
  • After Hawaii’s physician-assisted suicide bill went into effect Jan. 1, the Diocese of Honolulu scheduled discussion sessions throughout the islands on the pastoral implications of the new law. Around 700 people attended the nine meetings held between Jan. 3 and Feb. 12 in Honolulu, Pearl City, Kailua-Kona, Hilo, Koloa, Kaunakakai, Kahului, Kihei and Kailua.
  • Bishop Larry Silva installed two new Oahu pastors in mid-January, both among the newest and youngest of the Diocese of Honolulu’s priests. Father Alfred Guerrero was installed as the new pastor of the Newman Center/Holy Spirit Parish at the University of Hawaii-Manoa on Jan. 13. Father EJ Resinto was installed as the pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Punahou on Jan. 12. Sacred Heart and St. Pius X Parish unlinked themselves as of Jan. 1. The two parishes were previously clustered under one pastor and known as the Manoa-Punahou Catholic Community.
  • Cardinal Peter Turkson, head of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, gave the homily at Hawaii’s Red Mass, Jan. 15, at the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace in Honolulu.
  • Superintendent of Hawaii Catholic Schools Michael Rockers announced Jan. 21 the appointment of Llewellyn Young, the principal of St. Joseph School, Hilo, for the past five years, as the new associate superintendent. Young succeeded Betsey Gunderson after she retired June 30.
  • A small group of islanders traveled to Panama City, Panama, for World Youth Day, Jan. 22-27. A local committee held events on Oahu that coincided with the international young adult gathering.

The full community of seven Hawaii Carmelites, with Sister Mary Elizabeth in the center, pose with Bishop Larry Silva and the priests who concelebrated the Mass of Sister Mary Elizabeth’s final profession Oct. 15.


  • Close to half of the priests serving in Catholic parishes in Hawaii are on loan from other largely foreign dioceses, according to the 2019 Directory of the Catholic Church in Hawaii.
  • It was announced on Feb. 14 that all grades at Saint Francis School in Manoa would close at the end of the academic year. Initially, the Saint Francis board of directors made a Jan. 7 announcement that only grades 7-12 would close after the school year, but reenrollment goals for the lower grades were not met.
  • In a Catholic schools sweep, both Maryknoll School’s and Damien Memorial School’s boys high school basketball teams won their respective divisions at this year’s state championships on Feb. 23. This was a first-ever state title in the Division II final for Damien and the first in 35 years for Maryknoll in the Division I final.
  • The Catholic Women’s Guild Hawaii, the Islands’ oldest Catholic charitable organization, convened its last meeting on Feb. 28 before disbanding due to low membership numbers.
  • After Kilauea’s unprecedented eruption in 2018, elderly evacuees continued to find a welcoming place at Sacred Heart Shelter in Pahoa on the Big Island in a complex of 20 small homes, a communal cooking and dining pavilion, and bathroom facilities, all built on a vacant, diocesan-leased lot adjacent to Sacred Heart Church in Pahoa. HOPE Services Hawaii, an affiliate agency of the diocese, oversaw the project, which came together quickly thanks to community, non-profit, diocesan and county support.


  • Good Shepherd Mission in Honomu marked its 100th anniversary of its present church on March 9 with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Larry Silva.
  • St. Joseph Parish in Hilo celebrated the 100th anniversary of the dedication of its present Spanish baroque-style church with a weekend-long centennial celebration March 22-24 including Mass with Bishop Silva.

Fathers Romple Emwalu and Vincent Ahn Vu stand on each side of Bishop Larry Silva during the consecration at their priestly ordination on May 17.


  • One hundred ninety-six people received the sacraments of initiation at the Easter Vigil, April 20, throughout the Diocese of Honolulu. That was 10 fewer than the number baptized last year according to the Office of Worship.


  • Bishop Larry Silva ordains Father Romple Emwalu and Father Vincent Ahn Vu to the diocesan priesthood at the Co-Cathedral of St. Theresa on May 17.
  • Damien Memorial School graduate Chris Yakkel was ordained a diocesan priest in Columbus, Ohio, on May 25. He plans to become a U.S. Air Force chaplain after three years of pastoral work with the Diocese of Columbus.
  • Saint Francis School in Manoa graduated its final senior class on May 25. The 95-year-old Catholic school closed at the end of the 2019 school year due to financial issues and low enrollment.


  • The Diocese of Honolulu launched a new task force to look at centralizing Catholic cemeteries and the potential to create parish columbariums.
  • During Pentecost weekend, June 8-9, the second of three groups of Hawaii parishes made the transition to administering the sacraments of initiation in their “proper order” — baptism, confirmation, holy Eucharist — by confirming children and youth in the second grade and older. Twenty parishes, four missions and one Catholic ethnic group, made the move. The remainder of Hawaii’s parishes will make the transition in 2020.


  • With this year’s new clergy appointments, the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts took over the administration of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Pearl City and handed back to the diocese the pastoral care of St. Michael Parish, Waialua, and Our Lady of Sorrows Parish, Wahiawa. The moves were made to build a better sense of community among the Sacred Hearts priests.
  • Bishop Larry Silva ordained Maui resident Dario Rinaldi a transitional deacon during an evening Mass July 5 at St. Joseph Church in Makawao, Maui. He is set to be ordained a diocesan priest in summer 2020.
  • The first annual “Sun Light, Sun Bright” summer reunion for women inmates and their children took place at the Women’s Community Correctional Center in Kailua, July 27, sponsored by the diocesan prison ministry.
  • Betty White, long-time head of school at Sacred Hearts Academy in Kaimuki, retired after nearly 50 years of working at the all-girls school. Scott Schroeder, a dean and professor at Chaminade University of Honolulu, was named as the first male head of school.

Cardinal Peter Turkson speaks at the Jan. 15 Red Mass.


  • A promotional push was made for the under-construction Damien and Marianne of Molokai Education Center. The $6 million, 5,900-square-foot museum, educational and gathering space next to St. Augustine Church in Waikiki is set to open in early 2020.
  • Hawaii’s Catholic advance healthcare directive was approved by Bishop Larry Silva last December and was introduced to the public in a series of 11 seminars from August to November at churches on all the major islands. The Catholic healthcare directive gained additional urgency when Hawaii’s new physician-assisted suicide law, “Our Care, Our Choice,” went into effect on Jan. 1. Catholic teaching is morally opposed to physician-assisted suicide.
  • Chaminade University of Honolulu received a $478,464 grant on Aug. 19 from the Clarence T.C. Ching Foundation in support of the school’s new doctor of psychology (PsyD) in clinical psychology program. The grant will provide tuition assistance to former PsyD students of Argosy University, which suddenly closed in March.


  • After 40 years of sharing churches, Hawaii’s Korean Catholic Community officially got a church of its own on Sept. 20 during the blessing and renaming of a former Episcopalian church now owned by Holy Family Parish and newly named the St. Andrew Kim Taegon Oratory.
  • Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Honolulu’s Ala Moana district celebrated its 50th anniversary Sept. 28 with Mass with the bishop and a banquet at a nearby hotel.

Newly ordained Father Esitio Niuliki at his ordination Mass Nov. 23. Standing at his left is Bishop Silva, who presided at the Mass and ordained him, and Sacred Hearts U.S. provincial superior Father Herman Gomes, at right.


  • Bishop Larry Silva commissions a new diocesan Evangelization Task Force led by Dominic Olaso to work on teaching Hawaii Catholics how to evangelize.
  • Bishop Larry Silva conferred the ministry of acolyte on 13 candidates for the permanent diaconate Oct. 13 in the chapel at St. Stephen Diocesan Center. The same group were designated lectors in the Rite for the Institution of Lectors back on Jan. 13.
  • The Oct. 15 profession of final vows of Carmelite Sister Mary Elizabeth capped off a year in which the recruitment of five sisters from the Philippines, three arriving last November and two in May, prepared the way for the Aug. 9 re-founding of the Hawaii’s Carmel of the Holy Trinity monastery, 46 years after it was originally established.


  • Lanakila Multi-Purpose Senior Center in Liliha, the largest senior center in the state, managed by Catholic Charities Hawaii, celebrated its 50th anniversary caring for Hawaii’s kupuna.
  • Catholic Charities Hawaii selected a new chief executive officer and president, Robert “Rob” Van Tassell, who left his job as vice president of Catholic Housing Services of Western Washington, to start in his new role Nov. 4.
  • On. Nov. 8, HOPE Services Hawaii blessed and opened a new shelter and assessment center for homeless men on the Big Island that was converted from an old Hilo hospital. Also in November, HOPE Services Hawaii received a $2.75 million grant from the Bezos Day One Fund, its biggest-ever one-time donation.
  • The third annual Life Symposium took place Nov. 9 at the Kroc Center in Kapolei, this year with a new track especially for teens.
  • Thirty-five young adults, chaperones and one priest from Hawaii attended the biannual National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis from Nov. 21-23.
  • Bishop Larry Silva ordained Sacred Hearts Father Esitio Niuliki on Nov. 23 at St. Ann Church in Kaneohe.

A temporary wall goes up in the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace on Nov. 7 as Phase 2C of the historic cathedral’s renovation gets underway.


  • The “Star Light, Star Bright!” Christmas party for women inmates and their families celebrated its 20th year.
  • Bishop Silva presided at the Dec. 21 Mass and dedication of the new One Community Center at St. John Apostle and Evangelist Parish in Mililani.
  • New portraits of Sts. Damien and Marianne were dedicated and blessed at the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace at midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. The portraits were the biggest part of Phase2C of the cathedral’s ongoing renovation.

Faithful departed

We remember in prayer the priests, religious and lay people in our church ohana who died in the year past. Here is a list of faithful departed whose obituaries appeared in the Hawaii Catholic Herald in 2019 and late 2018.

  • Sister of St. Paul of Chartres Judith Abique
  • Carmelite Sister Mary Veronica of Jesus Arakaki
  • Maryknoll Sister Joan Chatfield
  • Marianist Brother William J. Farrell
  • Adelaida “Ida” Barboza Freitas, Hawaii Carmelites helper and former CYO Camp Hauula caretaker, at age 107
  • Maryknoll Sister Bernadette Higa
  • Marianist Brother Robert Hoppe
  • Terence Knapp, actor, director and retired UH professor
  • Sister of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities Sister Rose Fatima Leite
  • Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet Tomasa Marcos
  • Father Vincent Kien Nguyen
  • Deacon Michael David Ross
  • Maryknoll Sister Irene E. Solzbacher
  • Sulpician Father Joseph Truong Ky

Read the article direct through the Hawaii Catholic Herald here.