St. Philomena Church, Moloka’i

St. Philomena Church is located in Kalawao on Moloka’i–the site of the Kalaupapa Hansen’s Disease colony. The church was started as a small chapel in 1872, assembled in Honolulu and then transported to Moloka’i. It was added on to twice by the famous Father Damien, who cared for the several thousand Hawaiians exiled to the Kalaupapa peninsula. His additions to the church more than doubled its original size and positioned the church to take advantage of trade wind breezes.

It is said that Father Damien spent his first nights on Moloka’i next to the St. Philomena Chapel under a hala tree. Because of his work on the church and with the community at Kalaupapa, the church is often referred to as “Father Damien’s Church.”

Credit: Photographs in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

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