History

Late in July 1944 Father Joseph J. Roebeck and Father James F. Gilbride arrived at St. Theresa’s parish. Upon arrival in Kekaha the Fathers found a small attractive church surrounded by an acre of well cared for lawn and flowers, but no rectory. A large sacristy served as a kitchen-dining room and office for both priests and as sleeping quarters for one, while an improved room in the belfry was the bedroom of the other Father.

On December 28, 1944, the Father moved from the church to the new rectory. On January 7, 1945, Father Roebeck, the pastor, blessed the new building and the parishioners furnished it with all the necessities of a home.

In the course of the parish work the Fathers became convinced that the great need of the parish was a Catholic School. All construction for the school was completed on August 25, 1946, and four Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity from Manitowoc, Wisconsin, were assigned to St. Theresa’s. They arrived on August 15, 1946, where the parishioners greeted them with leis, Hawaiian songs and dances with lots of good food. School opened on September 3, 1946 – the first Catholic school on the island of Kauai with 135 children attending the first four grades. A grade was added each year until the full elementary school was completed.

The extremities of the parish are Mana and Makaweli (Kaumakani), each of which is about an eight mile distance from Kekaha, the parish seat. The other mission is Waimea, about two miles from Kekaha toward Makaweli. Waimea had a church, whereas Kekaha, the parish center, had no church until 1941. Kekaha was canonically established as the parish on March 1, 1945.  There is some discrepancy regarding this date, as another document states: The original St. Theresa Church was built in 1940 and dedicated/blessed by Fr. Victorinus Clasesen, pro-vicar of the diocese on either January 1 or January 19, 1941 (conflicting dates found in printed documents) as ‘St. Theresa, the Little Flower.’

Makaweli (or Kaumakani), the site of the first parish on the west side of the island, is now a mission of St. Theresa. The old sugar company moved and the new one, the present Olokele Company moved in. The church burned and the owners of the land refused to sell or lease the land to the Catholic Church, hence a church cannot be built there.

Marist Fathers have been at St. Theresa’s from 1944 until 1984 when the Missionaries from Our Lady of La Salette, Fathers Jose R. Nacu and Conrad H. Blanchet, accepted an offer from Bishop Joseph A. Ferrario to work in the parish of St. Theresa.

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