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The Gift of our Catholic Marianist School in Hawai‘i

Laura Koonce, Vice President of Mission & HR and Ministry Lead, Saint Louis School, Honolulu, HI, shares this article from the Summer issue of the Saint Louis School magazine.


Joseph Nugent

Former Dean of Mission and Identity, Saint Louis School


Since the coming of foreign peoples, Hawai‘i has experienced great shifts in its spiritual

landscape. The first years were particularly turbulent. Catholic laity and priests evangelized, Calvinist missionaries converted the royal family; the Kapu system was ended by Kamehameha II and Ka‘ahumanu, and a long period of persecution outlawed Catholicism from the island. In 1839, religious freedom was granted, and with this came an influx of Mormons and Asian religions.


In this scene of rapid religious change, the Sacred Hearts Fathers built a haven at Ahuimanu. Their Catholic approach, inspired by the love of Jesus and Mary, was built on peace and harmony. The love of Jesus resonated with Hawaiians, as they already lived aloha deeply. Ahuimanu expanded as students were drawn to this home of Hawaiian culture and Catholic virtue. When Saint Damien attended Ahuimanu, he was a part of this harmonious atmosphere of culture and faith. Perhaps it was that education that formed in him his love of Hawai‘i and Christ-like passion for the outcast in society.


When the Marianist Brothers came to run three schools in Hawai‘i in 1883, they brought their own gift of faith, expressed intentionally in the community. Saint Louis College expanded as the brothers shared the love of Jesus with their students through the classes and school activities that offered a quality, integral education. This was, in fact, their purpose: to form people in faith through the many parts of human life developed in school. The brothers’ joyful commitment to each other in the community helped students envision how the gospel changes relationships and makes our world a better place. So inspired were the gentlemen by the brothers that they coined for themselves a term we know well, ‘the brotherhood.’ In turn, the Marianist brothers were also touched by the aloha and cultures in Hawai‘i, seeing that God was already present in the islands long before foreign peoples arrived.


This beautiful mixture of culture and faith lived at our Marianist school is a special gift we are privileged to receive and share. There have been many traditions that have come and gone at Saint Louis School, and more will be needed to adapt to the changing needs the world brings us. The most important tradition has stood the test of time: that we encounter the love of Jesus in the community, and we responsibly make our world a better place through our cultures.


Pictured above from left to right: 1. Father Roland Bunda, SM, and Deacon Pat Wheadon at Ash Wednesday Mass 2. Faculty and staff gather for mass with Father Martin Solma, SM.


(Source: Red & Blue, the Saint Louis School Magazine, Summer 2023)



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2 Comments


Dear Laura, thanks for the very interesting history of Catholicism and other religions to Hawaii. Although I have never been there, I do understand how Marianist life fits in well with Hawaiian life and spirit! Great stuff!

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Thomas Spring
Thomas Spring
Oct 30, 2023

Good job, Laura!! We Marianist Brothers have thanked the culture of Hawai'i for accepting us in 1883!! Great growth for both of us!! Aloha, Bro. Tom S.

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