The project to resurrect St. Sophia Catholic Church as St. Damien of Molokai Catholic Church made dramatic progress yesterday.
In February of last year, Catholics on Molokai lost St. Sophia, their spiritual center, to a late night fire. The tragedy actually accelerated the Catholic community’s fundraising efforts — going on since 1995 — to raise the $3 million needed for a new church.
Work began in early January when Nordic PCL Construction cleared the ground and put up a black plastic fence around the property at 115 Ala Malama in Kaunakakai. Basic groundwork has been completed and yesterday the first wall of the concrete exterior shell could be seen being lifted into place by a giant crane.
The 6,000 square-foot building is expected to be completed by December. It will include an open plan worship space (nave), thrust stage sanctuary and sacristy, four multi-purpose rooms, restrooms, bell tower, and a sheltered, raised entry courtyard (narthex).
According to Territorial Architects in Wailuku, the company hired for the design, the architecture attempts to reflect upon and expand in modern context the features St. Damien incorporated in the churches he personally built on Molokai. Some of these features include intimate seating spaces, elevated sanctuary, high vaulted ceilings, narrow pointed arch openings and an iconic bell tower.
To ensure that the new structure does not fall victim to fire, the St. Damien Catholic Parish Building Committee chose concrete and steel for structural materials. This will also help with termite resistance, energy efficiency, sound abatement and lower shipping costs for materials by using on-island concrete production. Further costs savings are reflected by the extensive structural components, for enhancements to interior and exterior finishes during future fundraising campaigns.
The building will go up using the concrete “tilt-up” technique in which individual wall panels are formed on the floor slabs, inlayed with steel reinforcement bars, poured with concrete, let to cure and gain strength, then lifted into place by means of an overhead cane.
Once these perimeter walls are vertically plumb, braced, welded together at their corners, and connected by another perimeter footing, then the steel roof frame ties all the pieces together to stabilize a structural skeletal frame ready to receive the many layers of roofing, siding, windows, doors, interior and exterior finishes.