Catholic Christian worship in Hilo was as early as 1839. The first chapel located on bay front was made from pili grass and was called Saint Martin de Tours. By 1848 the small grass chapel was replaced by a new wooden structure. In 1862 the parish of St. Martin de Tours had once again outgrown its place of worship.
A new larger church was built in the area of Kalākaua Park on Keawe and Waiānuenue Avenue; on July 9, 1862 Bishop Louis Maigret, Bishop of Honolulu dedicated the new church to Saint Joseph. By 1911, A new, larger church was needed in Hilo – the cornerstone was laid in 1917 and the church was dedicated at its present location in February 1919.