Honolulu Bishop Larry Silva visited the town of Lahaina August 15 to celebrate Mass and meet survivors of the wildfires that he said “shockingly devastated” the town.
While the scope of the crisis has been “overwhelming,” the response from the local community has been “remarkable,” the prelate told CNA.
Bishop Silva’s bishopric encompasses the entire state of Hawaii, including Maui, the second-largest of the Hawaiian islands and the third-most populated. That island has been ravaged by wildfires in August, with at least 99 lives lost and major buildings and communities burned and destroyed.
The bishop told CNA via email that he celebrated Mass at Kapalua, Maui, on Sunday for about 200 Catholics gathered there.
“In order to arrive in Kapalua, we had to drive on the upper road above Lahaina town,” he said. “At several places along the road, we saw spots that were destroyed by the fire, whether homes or businesses, it was hard to tell. We could also overlook Lahaina town, which was shockingly devastated.”
Law enforcement, including the National Guard, are keeping guard over Lahaina, the bishop said.
Bishop Silva said he heard numerous stories from parishioners “who lost one or more of their loved ones or neighbors, whose houses burned down, or who lost their livelihood.”
Due to the local loss of cellphone towers and internet coverage, Bishop Silva said the assembly had not learned of Pope Francis’ message to the island expressing consolation and prayers. “I read the letter to them, and they were very grateful,” he said.
The bishop also confirmed stories of the astonishing survival of Maria Lanakila Catholic Church in Lahaina.
“[The church] was miraculously spared, as was the rectory,” he said. “The adjacent convent, school, and hall were all burned, along with neighboring homes.”
“The pastor, Father Kuriakose Nadooparambil, MF, was allowed to go in with a police escort, and he reported that not even the flowers in the church were wilted or singed,” Bishop Silva continued. “There was only a covering of ash on the pews. We thank God for this blessing!”
The area around the church will need to be cleared and made safe before parishioners can return to it for Mass, he said.
School officials are working to get the children back into classes quickly, possibly by using nearby hotel conference rooms.
The bishop, who was participating in an ecumenical prayer service at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Wailuku, said that even amid the devastation, people “have been offering prayers, donations, and their own time to help with this crisis.”
“The outpouring of love and care has also been remarkable!” he said.
Catholic faithful who wish to donate to those affected by the devastating wildfires that have ravaged the island of Maui may contribute to the Hawaii Catholic Community Foundation (HCCF). This Foundation was established to support the parishes and school communities in the Diocese of Honolulu.
(Photos by Yuki Iwamura/AFP via Getty Images.)
By Daniel Payne, Catholic News Agency