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1941: The First Catholic Bishop of Hawaii

1941: The First Catholic Bishop of Hawaii
Photo Credit To http://www.pacificislands.com/images/packages/HNLPKPACISLHWST01.1.jpg

Catholicism caught very strong roots in Hawaii so that, today, the Catholic Church is the largest religious community in the state. There are more than 240,000 Catholics in Hawaii.

On this day 1941 the first Catholic diocese in Hawaii was founded. The first Catholic missionaries came to Hawaii back in 1827, when the islands were still a British colony. One of the most renowned Catholic missionaries in Hawaii was the famous saint known as Father Damien (St. Damien of Molokai). He worked in a leper colony in Hawaii. He volunteered for this assignment because the vicar apostolic did not want to send any one person “in the name of obedience” to be surrounded by lepers.

Father Damien arrived among the lepers in 1873 and was their only priest. He took care of them not only in the religious sense but also the material. They turned shacks into painted houses, and schools were established as well as agricultural production. Being surrounded by lepers, Father Damien himself contracted this disease. He spent the rest of his life amongst them nevertheless, serving as a priest, although his illness worsened. He died at the age of 49 and was canonized in 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI.

Hawaii eventually came under American rule and, finally, became a U.S. state (the last of the 50 U.S. states). Catholicism caught very strong roots in Hawaii so, today, the Catholic Church is the largest religious community in the state. There are more than 240,000 Catholics in Hawaii.

The first Catholic Bishop of Hawaii – Bishop of Honolulu to be precise – was James Joseph Sweeney. The same year that he became Bishop (1941) the Japanese carried out the infamous destructive attack on Pearl Harbor – a port located right next to Honolulu, where the seat of the Hawaiian Bishops is situated.

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