Vicariate Apostolic of the Sandwich Islands


Comprises all the islands of the Hawaiian group

Sandwich Islands, Vicariate Apostolic of THE, comprises all the islands of the Hawaiian group. They lie just within the northern tropic, between 18° 54' and 22° 15' north latitude, and between 154° 50' and 160° 30' of longitude west of Greenwich. These islands form the present Territory of Hawaii, and belong to the United States. Honolulu, the capital, is on the Island of Oahu. Eight of the islands are inhabited, viz., Kauai, Niihau, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Maui, Kahoolawe, and Hawaii. Their population (1910) was 191,909.

The first Catholic priests arrived at Honolulu on July 9, 1827. They were the Rev. Alexis Bachelot, prefect Apostolic, the Rev. Abraham Armand, and the Rev. Patrick Short. The first two were natives of France, and the third of Ireland. All three were members of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, called also the Society of Picpus, from the name of the street in Paris in which its motherhouse is situated. They had been sent by Pope Leo XII. Protestant missionaries had arrived from New England as early as 1820, and had gained the king and chiefs over to their cause. As soon as the priests began to make converts a fierce persecution was raised against the natives who became Catholics. They were ill-treated, imprisoned, tortured, and forced to go to the Protestant churches, and the priests were banished. Fathers Bachelot and Short were taken to a solitary spot in Lower California, far removed from any human habitation. In 1836 the Rev. Robert Walsh, an Irish priest of the same Congregation, arrived at Honolulu, and through the intervention of the British consul, was enabled to remain on the islands in spite of the ill-will of the Protestant party, which wanted to send him back on the vessel in which he had come. In 1837 Fathers Bachelot and Short returned from California, but religious persecution still continued. In the same year there arrived from France the Rev. Louis Maigret, who afterwards became bishop, and first Vicar Apostolic of the Sandwich Islands. He was not permitted to land, but was obliged to leave the country, together with Father Bachelot. Who was in very feeble health. The latter, worn out by labor and trials, died at sea shortly after (December 5, 1837). In the year 1839 the French Government put an end to this persecution.

On July 9 the twelfth anniversary of the arrival of the first Catholic priests, the French frigate "Artemise", Captain Laplace, arrived at Honolulu. A few hours after anchoring, the captain dispatched one of his officers to present to the king the following summary request: (1) that the Catholic religion be declared free; (2) that all Catholics imprisoned on account of their religion be set at liberty; (3) that the Government give a suitable site at Honolulu for a Catholic Church; (4) that the king place in the hands of the captain of the "Artemise" the sum of $20,000, as a guarantee of his good-will and peaceful mind, said sum to be restored when the French Government should feel satisfied that the above conditions had been fulfilled. Hostilities were to commence if the king failed to comply within forty-eight hours with the terms of this manifesto. All the conditions were readily accepted, and peace was concluded. From this time the Catholic priests have enjoyed a tolerable amount of liberty; but the Protestant missionaries and their friends have been identified with the Government and have had the important positions, using their influence as well as the government emoluments for the advancement of their cause.

In the year 1840 there arrived at Honolulu the Rt. Rev. Bishop Rouchouze, first vicar Apostolic of Oriental Oceania, appointed to this office in 1833, and having jurisdiction not only in Hawaii, but also in Tahiti, the Marquesas, and other islands. He was accompanied by three other priests, one of whom, Rev. Louis Maigret, had been refused a landing at Honolulu in 1837. On July 9, 1840, ground was broken for the foundation of the present Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace. On the same day 280 catechumens received baptism and confirmation. In January, 1841, Bishop Rouchouze returned to France, in search of laborers and resources for his mission. He was successful in obtaining a number of priests and sisters of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts. They left France in 1841 with a cargo of supplies on the schooner "Mary-Joseph", owned by the mission; but, unfortunately, the vessel was lost with all on board, not one surviving to tell the tale. This was a severe blow for the young mission, and retarded its progress for many years. On August 15, 1843, the newly-finished cathedral of Honolulu was solemnly dedicated, and 800 Catholics received Holy Communion.

About this time Oriental Oceania was divided into three vicariates Apostolic: Tahiti, Marquesas, and Sandwich Islands. On July 11, 1847, Pius IX appointed the then prefect of the mission, the Very Rev. Louis Maigret, vicar Apostolic, to succeed Bishop Rouchouze and take charge of the Sandwich Islands Mission as a separate vicariate. From this time on the mission made slow but steady progress, in spite of the odds it had to contend with. The Protestant ministers found the ancient belief of the aborigines in their idols already shaken and partly discarded (owing, probably, to the fact that foreigners broke the dreaded taboos without incurring the wrath of the gods). They taught the Hawaiians to wear clothes, and to read and write the Hawaiian language. After having translated the Bible and given it to the natives, they considered the latter civilized and Christianized, and proceeded forthwith to develop the resources of the country. But this Christianity was superficial. The life-philosophy of the weak and inconstant natives was to shun work and enjoy all the pleasures within reach. If the foreigners had offered them but one form of Christianity and had illustrated it by their good example; if, above all, the efforts at educating these grown-up children had been directed more towards correcting the evil tendencies of their hearts than cramming their minds with knowledge, the aborigines would certainly have received the blessings of Christianity, lived by it, and multiplied. But it was quite otherwise. The mild climate; the inheritance from their fathers of an unrestrained, easygoing, indolent character; the bad example of all classes of foreigners, who brought and spread the germs of disease; the contradictory teachings of the many Christian denominations which tried to establish their respective creeds on the ruins of that of their rivals; the wrong principles of an education which instructs the mind but neglects the heart; the absence of the spiritual aids and remedies of which the Church is the dispenser, to regulate irregular desires of the heart; all these causes combined to produce one dire result, namely, the gradual extinction of the Hawaiian race.

In matters relating to education the Catholic mission of Hawaii has not been inactive. From the very start it established, wherever feasible, independent schools in charge, or under the supervision, of the priest. In 1859 the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary arrived at Honolulu to take charge of a boarding and day-school for girls, which has developed into an institution with 36 sisters, 66 boarders, 125 day-scholars who pay, and 420 in the free department. In 1883-84 the Brothers of Mary, from Dayton, Ohio, took charge of three schools for boys: St. Louis's College at Honolulu, St. Mary's School at Hilo, and St. Anthony's School at Wailuku. The day-schools for girls at Wailuku and Hilo are in charge of the Franciscan Sisters from Syracuse, New York. The latest addition to the educational work is the new boarding and day-school for girls at Kaimuki, and the Catholic orphanage at Kalihi. Besides the work of education the Catholic mission has had also a great share in the work for the lepers. In order to stop the spread of this loath-some disease, the Hawaiian Government established a settlement for the lepers on the Island of Molokai (see Molokai; Father Damien).

Bishop Maigret was succeeded in 1882 by the Rt. Rev. Hermann Koeckemann, under whose administration the mission received a considerable increase by the immigration of Portuguese imported from the Azores as laborers for the plantations. They are now spread all over the islands, and there is hardly a church where the priests are not obliged to use the Portuguese language besides the English and Hawaiian. There are to be found also a number of Porto Ricans, some Poles, a few Italians, some Spaniards, a number of Filipinos, and a small number of Catholics of other nationalities. Bishop Koekemann died February 22, 1892, and was succeeded in that year by the Rt. Rev. Gulstan Ropert, who died January 5, 1903. The present incumbent, Rt. Rev. Libert Hubert Boeynaems, was consecrated July 25, 1903. There are (1911) 35 priests of religious orders in the vicariate, 30 churches, and 55 chapels. The Catholic population is 35,000. There are 4 academies, a college, and 9 parochial schools established by the mission, and the total number of pupils is 2200.

JAMES C. BEISSEL