About Our Church

Saint Rita Parish

Haiku is a former sugar plantation district that converted to pineapple in 1921. Over the years, Haiku and the surrounding areas were served by a number of Catholic churches including St. Ann in Hamakuapoko, St. Gabriel in Keanae, Holy Rosary in Paia and St. Augustine in Kailua. St. Ann and St. Augustine no longer exist. 

St. Rita was built in the 1920's by Sacred Hearts Father Jules Verhaeghe. It was first a mission of Holy Rosary and then of St. Joseph, Makawao. It was elevated to parish status in 1950. It has been in existance since 1922.

Saint Gabriel Mission Church

Father Cyril Eraly erected this attractive church in 1937. The work lasted six months starting in October 1936, and was completed at the end of March 1937. Bishop Alencastre came over for the solemn blessing, which took place on April 4, 1937. Over the years the church was deteriated and is unsafe to hold mass. 

To the East of the church, still stands the original stone church which had become too small for Keanae's Catholic worship. Very early in the 1940s there was a chapel to which Bishop Maigret refers to in his diary as "a pitiful chapel'" under date of June 26, 1856. No doubt, Bishop Maigret talked over with Fr. Leonor Fouesnel, who was his companion on this Confirmation tour of Maui, for not long afterward there was action in Keanae. It is a fascinating and perhaps fantastic tale. A new church was built from coral that had washed up on the shore. Then when the construction was complete, the remaining coral washed back into the ocean. The popular name for this building is "the Miracle Church."

"Sacred Hearts Fr. Leonor Fouesnel must have loved celebrating Mass in Keanae at Kapuuwai Hemolele O Iesu e Maila Church, later known as Our Lady of Fatima Shrine as one could gaze down to the sea and up to the majestic Waikani Falls in one turn of the head. The Sacred Hearts Church is known as the miracle church as on two occasions just enough white coral washed up on the non-beach shore of Keanae to help them finish the construction of the church. With two oxen, and old cart and numerous neophytes, Fr. Leonor led the procession down to the sea for the gathering.

Previously it took them diving to 6-10 feet depths with iron bar in bare hands to loosen the coral. When the Protestants went down the next day to gather the extras for their church, huge waves stirred and took the coral away. This happend twice. On another occasion, white sand miraculously appeared on the top of the black rocks, easing the completion of the mission church.

In 1940 the Hana District which extended from Kailua to Kaupo was cut in half, with Keanae becoming the hadquarters and the residence of the priest in charge of the Keanae district. Then in 1950, St. Gabriel Church became a mission station of St. Rita Church in the Haiku District.