Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace

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Pope Pius XI blesses Stephen Peter Alencastre as fifth Apostolic Vicar of the Hawaiian Islands.  The bishop served as pastor of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace from 1926 to 1940.
Pope Pius XI blesses Stephen Peter Alencastre as fifth Apostolic Vicar of the Hawaiian Islands. The bishop served as pastor of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace from 1926 to 1940.

The Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace — also known by its original French name Cathédrale de Notre Dame de la Paix, its Portuguese variant Catedral de Nossa Senhora da Paz and its Hawaiian derivative Malia o ka Malu Hale Pule Nui — is a cathedral of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. It is the motherchurch of the Diocese of Honolulu and houses the cathedra of the Bishop of Honolulu in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Formerly the motherchurch of the Apostolic Vicariate of the Hawaiian Islands dedicated on August 15, 1843 and named after the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of Our Lady of Peace, it is the oldest cathedral in continuous use in the United States. It is also the church in which Blessed Damien of Molokai was ordained to the priesthood on May 21, 1864. For these reasons, the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace was declared a National Historic Landmark and much later placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Though older, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Archdiocese of Baltimore was a co-cathedral throughout most of its history.



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The Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace is today the centerpiece of Fort Street Mall, a major pedestrian thoroughfare in downtown Honolulu.
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The Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace has antiphonal seating with pews facing inward towards a simple wooden altar at the center of the nave.
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Our Lady of Peace oversees the cathedral courtyard.

Clarence Richard Silva, fifth Bishop of Honolulu, is the current pastor. He is served at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace by the cathedral rector, in turn assisted by the parochial vicar. A member of the laity is appointed as pastoral associate and manages the church services, parish council and rectory.

Several retired priests in residence at the Chancery and the adjacent Century Square building often dispense the sacraments of the Eucharist and reconciliation during the weekdays. Priests of the Society of Mary also sometimes offer mass when called upon by the cathedral rector.


The church at 1175 Fort Street Mall is just one building in a larger Cathedral of Our Lady Peace campus, owned by the Diocese of Honolulu and purchased during the Hawaiian Kingdom Era from Charles Brewer, Charles Reed Bishop, Julius Anthon, Joseph Carter, Alexander Muir, James Makee and Romila Whiting. Much of the land was formerly used as a boarding and day school in the late 1800s — the predecessor institution of Saint Louis School.

The campus includes the Chancery building at 1184 Bishop Street from which the Bishop of Honolulu administers his executive powers as corporation sole. The Chancery also houses the offices of the vicar general and the Hawaii Catholic Herald newspaper. Within the same high rise building is the rectory, the office and residence of the rector, parochial vicar and other priests serving the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace.

The diocese leased some of the campus to commercial entities. The Century Square building, a modern skyscraper at 1188 Bishop Street, is rented as office and residential space. Among its tenants is the television studio of KIKU, the local UPN television network affiliate. Also part of the campus is the Finance Factors building at 1164 Bishop Street. The diocese provides its space to small businesses as offices and to Hawaii Pacific University as classrooms. One of its tenants is Finance Factors, founded by Hiram Fong, the first Asian American elected to the United States Senate. The parent company of Finance Factors is a minority owner of the land on which the building was constructed. Directly beneath the campus is a cavernous basin dug by early missionaries as a freshwater well. It is now leased to a private company which operates it as an underground public parking lot.


Over 2,500 people flock to the downtown Honolulu location weekly to attend liturgical mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace of which there are several services each Sunday. Mass is scheduled daily at 6:30 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. Saturday services are held at 7:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m. and a vigil mass is celebrated at 5:00 p.m. Mass is celebrated six times on Sundays at 6:00 a.m., 7:30 a.m., 9:00 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 12:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. According to the October 11, 2003 Welcoming Parish Report requested by Francis X. DiLorenzo, fourth Bishop of Honolulu, over fifty percent of the cathedral worship community is Filipino American. Over fifty percent reside outside the normal parish boundaries coming from elsewhere on the island of Oahu. Over fifty percent are over the age of forty.


The cathedral parish adopted the motto of Ke ola mau ka mana‘o i‘o. In the Hawaiian language it means, The faith is everlasting. Its parish council concluded its Welcoming Parish Report by saying, "As one of the largest parishes in the Diocese of Honolulu and the premier place for liturgy and worship, we hope to grow into a stronger, more welcoming community of believers, who greet the stranger and care for the needy. Youth and young adults are encouraged to fully embrace their Catholic faith and to become involved in learning about their faith and in serving in ministries. Our legacy as the Cathedral Church means we must always be faithful to the future."


Parish life includes various programming for its parishioners. One of the most popular groups at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace is its music ministry. The Cathedral Choir practices each Tuesday evening and performs during mass at 9:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. on Sundays. The Cathedral Samoan Choir is especially popular with visitors to the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace. It practices each Wednesday evening and performs during mass at 6:00 p.m. on Sundays.

A lodge of the Knights of Columbus serves as the principal fraternal society of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace. Other societies include the Living Rosary Society, Sacred Heart Society and the Young Ladies Institute. The large Filipino American parishioner base is served by the Filipino Catholic Club. Young adults are served by the Young Adult Ministry open to all young adults of the diocese but based at Hawaii Pacific University.


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Etienne Jerome Rouchouze, whose coat of arms is depicted on a cathedral window, was the Apostolic Vicar of Oriental Oceania that commissioned the construction of the cathedral.
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Bernard Herman Koeckemann was the second Apostolic Vicar of the Hawaiian Islands. His coat of arms and an image of Blessed Damien of Molokai adorn a cathedral window. Blessed Damien was ordained to the priesthood in the cathedral.
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Gulstan Ropert was third Apostolic Vicar of the Hawaiian Islands. The bishop, whose coat of arms adorns a cathedral window, installed the famous statue of Our Lady of Peace in the courtyard.
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Gulstan Libert Hubert John Louis Boeynaems was the fourth Apostolic Vicar of the Hawaiian Islands. The bishop, whose coat of arms adorns a cathedral window, experimented with Gothic construction of the cathedral facade.

After years of persecution of the Roman Catholic Church in the Hawaiian Islands at the hands of Congregationalist and Presbyterian ministers who befriended the reigning monarchs Kamehameha II, Kamehameha III and Kaahumanu, the Hawaiian Government finally issued an Edict of Toleration creating the freedom of religious expression. As an act of reconciliation, Kamehameha III gave the first Roman Catholic missionaries under the leadership of Apostolic Vicar Etienne Jerome Rouchouze a piece of royal estate to build its first church in the Hawaiian Islands.

The missionaries broke ground for the new church to be built on July 9, 1840. It coincided with the Feast of Our Lady of Peace, patroness of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary religious order of which the missionaries were members. A liturgical mass was celebrated on the day of groundbreaking. Native Hawaiians of which there were 280 in number received the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and first Eucharist. The cornerstone was officially laid in a ceremony on August 6 of that year. Construction continued after groundbreaking with devoted Native Hawaiian volunteers harvesting blocks of coral from the shores of Ala Moana, Kakaako and Waikiki. Down the street, Congregationalist missionaries began the construction of Kawaiahao Church.


On August 14, 1843, the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace was consecrated and dedicated. However, it would be decades before the building would be truly considered completed. Several bishops in residence at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace remained unhappy with the construction and often commissioned renovations.

When Louis Desire Maigret inherited the church as corporation sole by virtue of his office of bishop, the interior was furnished with a simple wooden altar, communion rail and pulpit. The floors were covered in lauhala leaf mats. The cathedra, also known then as the bishop's throne, was imported and installed. Throughout his term as bishop, Maigret also raised the ceiling, added a choir loft and galleries overlooking the nave and paneled the ceilings with bronze ornaments. He commissioned the installation of what is today the oldest surviving Aeolian Skinner pipe organ. Extensive marble work was done with the installation of a French marble altar. It was crowned by a triptych featuring statues of Our Lady of Peace looked upon by Saint Joachim and Saint Anne. The most prominent exterior achievement for Maigret was the installation of the first domed bell tower in the Hawaiian Islands. In 1866, the domed bell tower was stripped from the exterior by Maigret and replaced with a wooden spire topped with a cross.

On December 24, 1893, Gulstan Ropert dedicated a bronze statue of Our Lady of Peace, hoisted onto a pedestal with plaques on four sides engraved in English, French, Portuguese and Hawaiian with the words, "In memory of the first Roman Catholic Church, Our Lady of Peace 1827 to 1893." The statue was a recreation of an original 16th century wooden carving still venerated in the Paris convent of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

When Libert Hubert John Louis Boeynaems inherited the church as corporation sole, he idealized the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace to possibly become a beautiful Gothic cathedral similar to the more famous European churches of his homeland. He commissioned the renovation of the cathedral; it's first phase was the construction of an elaborate porch at the cathedral facade. The first phase was completed in 1910. In 1917, Boeynaems stripped the wooden spire from the exterior in favor of a concrete bell tower with clock. Overall, the construction projects were failures. The Gothic architecture did not match the Fort Street surroundings and became too costly for the apostolic vicariate to complete other phases. The Gothic dream died with Boeynaems.

When Stephen Peter Alencastre assumed the episcopacy of the Hawaiian Islands, he stripped the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace of all vestiges of its Gothic experiment. The Gothic porch was torn down, the walls were covered in plaster and painted white. Red Spanish terra cotta tiles covered the cathedral roof. In anticipation for the celebration of the centennial of the arrival of the first Roman Catholic missionaries to the Hawaiian Islands, the Italian government presented a gift of new white marble altar with statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, parents of Jesus. Upon the completion of his construction projects, Alencastre established the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace's present-day Romanesque revival style.

Second Vatican Council

The Second Vatican Council inaugurated major changes in the architectural standards of churches worldwide. James Joseph Sweeney, first Bishop of Honolulu and United States delegate to the ecumenical council that met in the Basilica of Saint Peter at the Vatican City, instituted one of the last renovations of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace in accordance with guidelines agreed upon with other bishops. Sweeney ordered the removal of the marble communion rails and installed a freestanding marble altar that faced the congregation. The canopied pulpit that was perched above the congregation was also removed in favor of a simple ambo and lectern from which the Gospels could be proclaimed and homilies and sermons could be delivered. The wooden cross atop the old altar was stripped and replaced with a sculptured marble crucifix. The Second Vatican Council encouraged churches to use native cultural implements in church architecture. Sweeney's cathedral rector, Monsignor Charles Kekumano, installed koa wood wainscot along the walls. The Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace also removed its doors which were replaced by heavy koa wood doors.


Changes begun by Sweeney in order that the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace could comply with the Second Vatican Council were completed under the pastoral care of Joseph Anthony Ferrario, third Bishop of Honolulu. Ferrario also inaugurated the beginning phases of ambitious restoration work. His cathedral rectors, Monsignor Terrence A. M. Watanabe and his successor Nathan Mamo, were responsible for sending the clerestory statues of saints perched over the nave of the church back to France where they were professionally preserved. When the statues returned, they were returned above the nave of the church but in a new, more logical order of placement in accordance with the Litany of the Saints.

The elaborate canopy over the cathedra was stripped and the cathedra was placed on a simple wooden platform in front of a scrim. It was a symbolic movement of the cathedra above and apart from the people and instead brought him out to sit among the congregants he served. Historically called the bishop's throne, people were discouraged from calling the cathedra as such as a means of humbling the Bishop of Honolulu. Seating was rearranged into an antiphonal design with a plain wooden altar in the center of the nave with pews facing inward as if seated around the altar from all four sides. The change was expected to enhance the participation of congregants in the celebration of the Eucharist.

Francis Xavier DiLorenzo, fourth Bishop of Honolulu continued his predecessor's ambitious restoration projects. Architects were hired to draft plans for an expansion of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace, including the construction of a new chapel using land upon which the famous courtyard statue of Our Lady of Peace now stands. DiLorenzo's capital improvement projects, administered by his cathedral rectors Gary Secor and later Roland Pacudan, included the replacement of the flooring with stone tiles and installation of new sound systems. Pews and kneelers were restored, too. A traditional baptismal font was replaced with the construction of a large baptismal reflective pool and fountain.


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