On September 26, 1967, the telephone rang with the news the Rev. Edwin Lani Hanchett, the first priest of the Episcopal Church of Hawaiian ancestry, rector of St. Peter’s, Honolulu, had been elected Hawaii’s first suffragan Bishop by the House of Bishops meeting in Seattle; he later (January 18, 1970) became the first Bishop of Hawaiian ancestry of the Episcopal Church.
The eldest child of six (five boys and one girl,) Hanchett was born at Hoolehua, Molokai, on November 2, 1919 to Dr Alsoberry Kaumualiʻi Hanchett and Mary Hazel (McGuire) Hanchett.
His father was the first person of Hawaiian ancestry to graduate from Harvard Medical College; the first doctor of Hawaiian descent to practice in the Islands; first City-County physician in Honolulu and first doctor at the Shingle Memorial Hospital, Molokai.
His grandfather, Salem Hanchett of Massachusetts, went to sea as a teenager aboard a Pacific whaler, and settled on Kauai during the reign of King Kaumualiʻi; he married Aluhua Aka, a descendent of Kaumualiʻi.
In 1848, he was granted citizenship in the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi, and seven years afterward, he obtained a license to operate a Wailua River ferry at a time when no bridges spanned the river. (Soboleski)
Hanchett was baptized in the Holy Cross Chapel and confirmed at St Alban’s Chapel, Iolani School (from which he graduated – Class of 1937.)
He attended the University of Hawaii (1937-1939) and the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, Berkeley (1958.)
Originally a pre-med student, Hanchett worked at the City-County Emergency Hospital (1938-1941) at the corner of Miller and Punchbowl, only a block from St. Peter’s.
On June 21, 1941, Hanchett married Puanani Akana (the fourth of nine children born to John and Julia Spencer Akana (she graduated from the Priory in 1937) of Kalihiwai, Kauai; they had four children: Carolyn, Suzanne, Stuart and Tiare.
During the war, Hanchett took a position in the Navy Yard at Pearl Harbor, supervising for the duration that section of the Supply Department servicing and supplying naval aircraft; he later worked in the Territorial Tax Office in Lihue.
He was a full-time youth worker for Kauai in 1950, becoming a lay-reader, and reading for orders. On July 20, 1952, he was ordained deacon at Christ Church, Kilauea, parish church of his wife’s family.
The ordination to the Diaconate was the fulfillment of a cherished dream ever since his days in ʻIolani School for boys; he had hoped that someday he might study for Holy Orders.
The next day, Hanchett left with his family for Holy Innocents’, Lahaina, Maui. As Archdeacon of Maui, Hanchett assisted the churchpeople of Molokai to establish Grace Church, Hoolehua and was instrumental in helping establish Camp Pecusa at Olowalu, Maui.
“Camp Pecusa” (PECUSA was an acronym for “Protestant Episcopal Church United States of America”) began as a church-sponsored camp for children in 1950 at Fleming’s Beach at Kapalua.
Campers stayed in big Army tents left over from World War II. Five years later, as the popularity of the camp continued to grow, Pioneer Mill leased the site Olowalu to the Church. The church held the lease on the campground until 2005, when the land was bought by a private company (now Camp Olowalu.)
Hanchett was ordained priest by Bishop Kennedy on September 19, 1953 (Ember Saturday). He later presided as vicar of St. George’s, Pearl Harbor during 1960-1961, and as rector of St. Peter’s, Honolulu, beginning in 1961.
Then, on January 18, 1970, he became diocesan Bishop at Saint Andrew’s Cathedral.
When cancer claimed his life in 1975, Rev. James Long, canon of the diocese noted, “We all loved him so and we loved him for what he was — a great friend, a great priest and great bishop and, above all, a man of great spirituality.”
Roman Catholic Bishop John Scanlan said, “The entire Hawaiian community has lost a valiant and gentle Christian man in the passing of Bishop Lani Hanchett.”
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