The Molokai Catholic Community returned home on Friday for the dedication of the Saint Damien of Molokai Church.
Talk about extreme makeovers. The new structure of steel and concrete bears little resemblance to the old wooden St. Sophia Church that sat at 115 Ala Malama Avenue since 1937. Before fire gutted the structure in February of 2010, the green, termite-infested building only seated about 100 parishioners.
Topside Molokai, which is composed of the entire island except for Kalaupapa peninsula, has been in need of a new church since the 1990s when an expanding congregation outgrew St. Sophia. Fund raising and planning began in 1995 under pastor Father James Orsini.
The new, 6,000 square-foot building still has an intimate feeling but now seats 250 people. The $3.4-million church features an elevated sanctuary, high vaulted ceilings, narrow pointed arch openings and an iconic bell tower. The new church includes an open plan worship space (nave), thrust stage sanctuary and sacristy, four multi-purpose rooms, restrooms and a sheltered, raised entry courtyard (narthex). A new parking lot in the back will help accommodate the larger crowds.
Bishop Larry Silva, whose guarantee of the final payment to contractor Nordic PCL allowed construction to go forward, welcomed all comers in the entry courtyard starting at 6 p.m. Before the official unlocking of the church door, the gathering congregation sang “All are Welcome.”
Bishop Silva then received the key and legal documents followed by Father Clyde Guerreiro’s unlocking of the door. Bishop Silva invited all to enter to the strains of the song “Come to the Feast.”
The overflowing crowd then witnessed the official blessing and sprinkling of water ceremony. After singing “One Lord” and “Glory to God,” the congregation heard the first liturgical service in its new church.
The decree for the Dedication of a Church and Altar states:
“The rite for the dedication of a church and an altar is rightly considered to be among the most solemn of liturgical services. A church is the place the Christian community is gathered to hear the word of God, to offer intercession and praise to him, and above all, to celebrate the holy mysteries, and it is the place where the holy sacrament of the eucharist is kept.
“Thus, it stands as a special kind of image of the Church itself, which is God’s temple built from living stones. And the altar of a church around which the holy people gather to take part in the Lord’s sacrifice and to be refreshed at the heavenly meal. Stands as a sign of Christ himself, who is the priest, the victim and the altar of his own sacrifice.”
After the presentation of the lectionary to Bishop Silva by lectors and psalmist, a reading from Nehemiah 8 and 1 Corinthians followed. The Gospel of John 4: 19-24 was then read.
Depositing of the church’s relic was followed by a chorus of “Kamiano.” A prayer of dedication to the new church and the anointing of the altar and walls of the church took place. “Sing a New Church” was then sung.
The order of the ceremony continued with an incensation of the altar and church, lighting of the altar and church and the dressing of the altar. Flowers were then brought forward and the deacons lit candles.
Church deacons in attendance were Michael Shizuma, Clarence DeCairs, Jr. and Wallace Mitsui. Lectors were Amanda Adams and Eugene Santiago. Joan Lasua served as psalmist.
A liturgy of the eucharist was then performed followed by the preparation of gifts. Communion was then held to the song “One Bread, One Body.” A final blessing and remarks ended the service.