The History of Saint Anthony of Padua Church
Kailua’s Catholic “faith community” dates back to the mid-1920s when priests from St. Ann’s in Kaneohe offered Sunday Mass on an outreach basis in the neighborhood. Then the Campos family, operators of a long-time dairy in Kailua, donated five acres of land for a church.
Construction began in late 1932 with donated materials and labor from parishioners-to-be. Dedication of the original small, wood-framed church occurred on January 22, 1933. St. Anthony of Padua was selected as its patron. Two years later a little rectory was added.
During World War II, an Army Engineer Company was bivouacked in the woods behind the church. In 1944 when the company was engaged in the Battle of Saipan, 25 of the men were killed and 50 were injured. The survivors decided to establish a lasting memorial to their fallen comrades and collected a thousand dollars which they sent to our church for that purpose. The pastor accepted the undertaking and his parishioners matched the amount provided. Located in the garden of our “Lanikai wing,” it is considered one of the earliest World War II memorials dedicated in the United States.
After the war, the church was expanded to accommodate 300 people. Today, the original wood-framed church serves as our school kindergarten, next to the present-day church. Explosive population growth in the 1950s led to the building of an entirely new structure, now our parish hall, as well as a school that started out with three grades and grew to its present size. In 1952, St. Anthony's became the first private school to open in Kailua. Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet served as the teachers. Additional land was purchased for a convent to accommodate the Sisters who staffed the school for decades. Today this two-story building houses the Early Learning Center on the first floor and the parish office on the second floor.
Parishioner Jack McAuliffe was called upon in 1966 as the architect to design a third church after additional property was acquired. McAuliffe's complex design was engineered and constructed by Carl Schuler. Our present house of worship was dedicated in 1968.
On July 24, 1982, in the early morning hours, a fire destroyed the interior of the church. Only the exterior wall and roof with supporting columns remained. The church bell, cast in Paris in 1866, was saved; but, the crucifix that hung above the altar, hand-carved by artist Fritz Aplinalp, was severely burned almost beyond recognition. This cross still stands today in our church.
In undertaking the renovation that followed – the parish hall once more serving as church – reconstruction adapted liturgical concepts, growing out of Vatican II. A Day Chapel, Eucharistic Chapel, and a reconciliation room were added. The church received a new altar, ambo, and tabernacle. The crucifix was preserved from disintegration and restored, thanks to the technical counsel provided by parishioners from Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Enchanted Lakes. The crucifix was then hung above the baptismal font. The baptismal font for total immersion rites was awarded the top prize for font design by a national Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions. The first Mass in the restored and redesigned church was offered on Saturday, March 24, 1984.
On March 21, 2019, the crucifix was relocated from above the baptismal font to the sanctuary where it now hangs behind the altar.
- Derived from multiple sources:
- "Aloha Ke Akua: The Love of God," by Kathleen Marie Shields, C.S.J., 2004.
- History of the parish written by Ed Greaney
- News clippings on the parish
- Historical parish bulletins
- Oral history as remembered by parishioners
Several prayer gardens surround the church sanctuary.
World War II Prayer Garden
At the end of World War II, an Army Engineer Company established a memorial to their fallen comrades who were once bivouacked in a wooded area behind the church. This memorial is believed to be one of earliest World War II memorials in our country. A plaque describing the memorial reads:
"Sacred to the memory of our comrades who gave their lives for our country in World War II. Company A, 102nd Engineer Battalion, 27th Infantry Division, U.S. Army."
Stations of the Cross Prayer Garden
The original Stations of the Cross which once hung in the church now hang in a prayer garden within the church walls, creating a serene, peaceful and elegant atmosphere for meditation and prayer.
St. Francis of Assisi Prayer Garden
St. Francis of Assisi’s love for God was expressed in his devotion to all of God’s creations. This courtyard is graced with the statue of St. Francis of Assisi to help us be mindful of the beauty of God’s creations and the importance of being grateful to our Lord for all his blessings.
Reliquaries: St. Anthony of Padua & St. Damien of Molokai
Our parish is privileged to have two reliquaries in the Lanikai wing of the church. One contains a rare relic of St. Anthony of Padua, consisting of a small authenticated fragment of bone from his earthly remains. Our parish also has a relic of St. Damien of Molokai (coffin wood). The relics are displayed for public veneration. Parishioners and visitors are welcome to prayerfully seek the intercession of these saints and, for a minimal donation, also light a votive candle.
Several years after the fire of 1982, a new baptismal font was added to our church. This font was awarded the top prize for design by a national Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions.
Cast in Paris in 1866, it served in a north Kohala church that had been dismantled. The bell found its way to our parish where it was rung for the first time on January 22, 1933, when a small crowd gathered for the dedication of St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, then a little, wood-framed church.
The Parish Office is located on the second floor of the former convent that was dedicated on October 7, 1952 and that housed the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet who were the first teachers at St. Anthony’s school – the first private school in Kailua.