From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Friday, December 7, 2012

Mele Kalikimaka: Christianity in Hawaii

(Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace)
Although "Mele Kalikimaka" is the phonological approximation of "Merry Christmas" in Hawaiian, Christmas wasn't always as merry there as it is today.

Wikipedia reports that when Congregationalists had arrived in Hawaii back in the 1820s, they "had been embraced by the chiefs of the kingdom."  However, when Catholics began arriving several years later, the Protestant clergy encouraged these chiefs to impose "heavy penalties, such as forced labor, beatings and imprisonment on their people who embraced Catholic practice."

This resulted in the establishment of a Catholic underground which held secret Masses in private homes - and culminated in the expelling of "the priests of the community on Christmas Eve 1831."
Lay brothers were allowed to remain in Hawaii, and one of them (Irish seminarian Brother Columban Murphy) kept the mainland priests advised of the changing political climate.  By the mid-1830s, the time seemed ripe for trying again.  Therefore, Irish priest Arsenius Walsh (one of the "Picpus Fathers") arrived in Hawaii in 1836.

Acceptance of the Catholic faith continued to grow slowly.  Religious persecution continued for years.  After nurturing a successful congregation in Honolulu, Walsh was sent to the island of Kauai. His first Mass on that island was celebrated on Christmas Day 1841.  However, Walsh's overall energies had to be divided "between preaching the Gospel to the populace and defending his followers against the local chiefs" (the island's governess, Amelia Kekauonohi, was a "staunch Protestant").

According to a 2009 Gallup poll, the Christian demographics of modern-day Hawaii are as follows:
Protestant/Other Christian 37.8%; Roman Catholic 22.8%; and Mormon 3.3%.  Christmas can now be
celebrated by all these members of the Body in a far more peaceful manner.

Copyright December 7, 2012 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

No comments:

Post a Comment