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The Diocese of Honolulu’s continued efforts to aid Maui

Maui bank burned in August 2023 fires

Silent O | Shutterstock

August 8, 2023 The old bank building and the previous home to the Peter Lik gallery sits gutted after the devastating fires that burned and destroyed Lahaina, Maui.

J-P Mauro - published on 03/04/24

Six months after fires devastated Lahaina, Maui, the Catholic Diocese of Honolulu is grappling with displacement and trauma, but remains hopeful.

Nearly six months after the devastating fires that wrought havoc on the island of Maui, the Catholic Diocese of Honolulu is still working to return to normalcy. A recent report highlighted the efforts of the diocese to tend to its 10 parishes, keeping children in school and administering vital aid to those who are still displaced. 

The Hawaii Catholic Herald, the newspaper of the diocese, reported that the faith of Maui’s Catholics has remained steadfast in the face of the community’s tragedy, which claimed the lives of 101 individuals. The diocese is still conducting funerals, as well as working to fill some 1,700 applications for assistance it has received since October 2023

Toni Rojas, director of Maui Disaster Relief, explained that the relief offered by the applications helps pay for mortgages, utilities, and daily living expenses. Some of the most prized aid comes in the form of Costco gift cards, as the store has become a central site to find food and other essentials. Still, she noted that “long-term rental housing and mental health are the two major areas of need.”

Another important site, in the heart of Lahaina, is Maria Lanakila Church, which still stands after the fires. While she noted that the church will need “tremendous restoration,” before it can welcome parishioners back – the same as much of Lahaina, where residents are still only allowed temporary visits – she hailed the church as “a symbol of hope” for the entire town.

While assisting with mental health and daily necessities is important work, the diocese has not ignored its students enrolled in Sacred Hearts School, the parish school of Maria Lanakila that was completely destroyed. The school was relocated 10 miles north, to Sacred Hearts Mission, where the students now attend classes in temporary tents

Principal Tonata Lolesio explained that nearly half (84 of 175) of the school’s students and more than half of her faculty and staff (12 of 17) remain displaced from their homes. She noted that many of the children are showing signs of trauma, but they see the temporary school as a “safe space.” 

“They’ve accepted that as a makeshift school, there are things we’ve sacrificed for the more significant cause of coming back together as a school community,” said Lolesio. “We have a deeper appreciation of what we have and empathy with those in need who have suffered through this tragedy.”

Lolesio went on to announce that the building of a new school for Sacred Hearts is already in the planning stage, with the hope that it will be ready for the 2024-2025 school year. Meanwhile, the Sacred Hearts School Compassionate Hearts Tuition Assistance Campaign is working to support West Maui families who need tuition assistance over the next two years. Its goal of $4 million was at $1.6 million as of January 30, with the campaign ending Easter Sunday, March 31. 

The Diocese of Honolulu invites all those interested in donating to the tuition assistance campaign, or the greater Maui relief and recovery effort, to do so at the Hawaii Catholic Community Foundation.

CharityNatural disastersUnited States
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