National News

‘Like A Miracle,’ Catholic Church on Maui Survives Killer Wildfire 

Maria Lanakila Catholic Church stands in the scorched town of Lahaina on the Hawaiian island of Maui after wildfires caused more than 90 deaths and extensive damage.

by The Tablet Staff

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — Amid the ashen rubble on Hawaii’s island of Maui from the deadliest U.S. wildfire in a century, a Catholic Church miraculously survived. 

The fires killed more than 90 people, displaced hundreds, and scorched thousands of acres of land but Maria Lanakila Catholic Church, in the devastated historic town of Lahaina, remains standing. 

Initial reports were conflicting about the fate of the church aptly named for Our Lady of Victory, but Msgr. Terrence Watanabe, pastor of the nearby parish of St. Anthony’s told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser Aug. 11: “For us, it’s like a miracle. When we saw the news and saw the church steeple rise above the town, it was a great sight to see.” 

By Aug. 10, the diocese had received enough ground and aerial photographic evidence to determine that the church and rectory survived intact. The school was heavily damaged, according to the Hawaii Catholic Herald, Honolulu’s diocesan newspaper. No one from the church had been able to initially visit the site because the area has been closed off indefinitely amid the ongoing search for victims. 

According to the parish website, Maria Lanakila Church was established in 1846. 

Social media posts shared by people on the ground showed the area around the church scorched by flames, but the church’s main structure seemed intact and in fairly good condition. 

Msgr. Watanabe told the Star-Advertiser that “while the church is still standing, it’s hard to say how much damage the building actually took,” noting that there could be structural damage inside.

Catholic Charities Hawai’i in the Honolulu Diocese has appealed for donations to help the agency meet housing, food, and other needs of what could be thousands of victims from wildfires raging on the island of Maui. Donations can be made at: 

Pope Francis offered his prayers, his encouragement to firefighters and rescue workers, and invoked “upon all the people of Maui Almighty God’s blessings of strength and peace,” in an Aug. 14 telegram sent by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, to Cardinal-designate Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States.