Year of the pilgrimage of Saint Joseph: Hawaiian style


By Anna Weaver
Catholic Herald of Hawaii

During this “Year of Saint Joseph”, why not try visiting one of the Saint Joseph churches in Hawaii. You’ll find one on Oahu, Hawaii Island, and Molokai, and two on Maui. There have also been Saint Joseph churches in the past on the islands that have closed.

In the next issues, we will present these Saint-Josephs to you. First up: the St. Joseph mission in Kaupo on Maui.

St. Joseph, Kaupo, Maui

St. Joseph’s Church in Kaupo was blessed again in 1938 after repairs. The original rectory is visible in the foreground. Today, only the stone walls remain. (Public domain via

The fifth Sunday of the month

At the back of Haleakala facing the ocean is St. Joseph’s Church in Kaupo, Maui. Today, this small church is a mission of the parish of Sainte-Marie in Hana. Catholicism settled in the region of Hana and Kaupo in the 1840s with the arrival of the missionaries of the Sacred Heart.

In 1846, on Pentecost Sunday, the Father of the Sacred Hearts Modestus Favens baptized 171 people and presided over 22 weddings. A mountain school and a village school were also built and well attended. From 1850, the first permanent priest of Hana was the Father of the Sacred Hearts Grégoire Archambaux.

Saint Joseph’s Church was built from local wood, stone and “molten” coral cement. Bishop Louis Maigret blessed the new church in 1862. The single-lane gravel Hana highway was widened in 1937, allowing the parish priest to switch from horseback riding to driving. A year later, the Father of the Sacred Hearts Cyril Eraly repaired the Saint-Joseph church and Bishop Stephen Alencastre blessed it.

In the 1970s, Kaupo’s population was so small that the church closed. But over the next two decades, repairs were made to the old building and it was consecrated again in 1991. Bishop Larry Silva celebrated the church’s 150th anniversary in 2012. In 2013, the party roof top has been replaced with new cedar shingles. The church again falls into disrepair accelerated by the tropical climate. The stone walls of what was once the rectory remain near the church, and there is also an old cemetery.

Due to its remoteness, Masses are only celebrated on the fifth Sunday of a given month, a day that falls approximately four times in a calendar year. But you can still visit anytime and take in the views over the Kaupo Gap where lava once flowed from Haleakala and across the area where Saint Joseph is now located.

“The church and rectory now stand on their own on a flat expanse of land, above sea level,” as Saint Joseph describes in the 1978 book “Pioneers of the Faith”. aside, there is a vast ocean, with Hawaii’s Mauna Kea ridge piercing gray clouds far on the horizon on a clear day. On the other side, rising high and basking in the sun, we can see the summit of Haleakala. Now nothing is moving; everything stops. There is silence, a silence as deep and wide and threatening as the mysterious ocean and the verdant slopes of dream mountains.

“Yet once upon a time there was a hive of activity.”

The sources for this story came in part from “Pioneers of Faith” by Father of the Sacred Hearts Robert Schoofs, editor of the Hawaii Catholic Herald from 1936 to 1943, and “A Pilgrimage Through Time” edited by Dominican sister Malia Dominica Wong.

Postcard from Kaupo

Greetings from one of Hawaii’s most remote churches

St. Joseph’s Church in Kaupo, Maui, a mission of St. Mary in Hana, celebrated the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity on Sunday, May 30. Since Mass is only celebrated when there is a fifth Sunday in a given month, this was our second Mass in 2021.

It truly is a blessing when Mass attendees gather here, one of the most remote places in the Hawaiian nei church! Faithful to Maui came from parishes across the island: St. Mary in Hana, St. Rita in Haiku, Holy Spirit in Kula, and St. Anthony in Wailuku.

We were also very happy to have a California couple join us. They found the Mass schedule on our website and planned their Maui vacation so they could attend Sunday Mass in Kaupo!

After Mass, we gathered in the cemetery of the church that the pastor of St. Mary, Father Jun Postrano, blessed in homage to our deceased faithful on Memorial Day.

Everyone enjoyed our traditional fellowship and post-mass lunch, which included “Grab & Go” lunch bags provided by the Friends of Saint-Joseph – Kaupo.

It was then time to return to our original parishes with an “a hui hou” and a promise to “see you at our next mass” – Sunday, August 29, 2021!

– Marvy Marciel Gibbs, Friends of Saint-Joseph – Kaupo

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