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Star of the Sea

Belgian Priest Father John Berchmans Velghe came to the Islands in 1899; he served in South Kona and built, and painted, what is known as the ‘Painted Church’ in Honaunau. His health deteriorated and he had to return to Belgium in 1904, he was never able to finish the church. Even throughout his last years he continued to paint and teach. While teaching at the Sacred Hearts’ Apostolic School at Aarschot, Belgium, in around 1924 or 1926, he met the young student Matthias Gielen, who was to become Father Evarist of Hawai‘i. Father Damien Joseph DeVeuster (now Saint Damien) preceded Father John and Father Evarist to the Island of Hawai‘i (he came in 1857.) He is credited with building the first Catholic place of worship for the Puna district.

Sometime in the early 1900s, Father Ulrich Taube, built a wooden church in Kalapana, closer to the villagers and Father Evarist replaced that church, close to the beach and villagers. The church was blessed on April 19, 1931 and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of Star of the Sea. Father Evarist painted stories of the Bible on the walls, columns and ceiling of the Star of the Sea Church; he painted to instruct his parishioners (many could not read.) On January 3, 1983 the Pu‘u ‘O‘o eruption on the east rift zone of Kilauea Volcano began. Almost lost was Star of the Sea. As the lava approached, church parishioners decided to move the building to safety.

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