Our History

Can we tell you about our house? 

Saint Rita Catholic Church in Nānākuli began as a mission church of Immaculate Conception parish in Ewa and was administered by the Sacred Hearts Fathers. Legend has it that in 1928, the OR&L train that ran from Honolulu to Haleiwa by way of Kaena Point stopped at the Nānākuli Depot water tank for a refill for its steam engine (This is the beach site now known as "Depots" by the locals in Nānākuli). On board that train was Bishop Stephen Alencastre, who was on his way to dedicate the new church at Sacred Hearts Church in Waianae. He was approached at the very back of the train by several native Hawaiians who asked the Bishop to put a Catholic Church in Nānākuli. Among the petitioners were Albert K. Akana and his wife Rita Pangelinan Akana. St. Rita was established and attached to Sacred Hearts as a mission church in June of 1928.

The Nānākuli Hawaiian Homestead was opening up homestead lots in the Nanaikapono area in 1931 and the new homesteaders petitioned the Hawaiian Homes Commission for lots for various churches including a Catholic church. Initially, there was a Catholic church to be named in honor of St. Rita of Cascia, Nanaikapono Protestant church and a Mormon church as the very first churches in Nānākuli. Of the three historic buildings, only St. Rita on Farrington Highway and the original Mormon Church building on Nānākuli Avenue survives to this day; although the old Mormon Church building is no longer used as a church. To date, St. Rita in Nānākuli and Mālia Puka o ka Lani in Keaukaha are the only two Roman Catholic churches on Hawaiian Homelands originally founded to serve Native Hawaiians and now also serve their greater neighborhood communities.

The original church building began as a chapel at Schofield Barracks and was moved to Ewa to be used as the Immaculate Conception Church until the construction of the present day Immaculate Conception Church in 1930. The building was then moved to its present Nānākuli homestead lot in 1934. On December 7, 1941, the Japanese planes flew through Kolekole Pass and then over the church on their way to their fateful bombing of Pearl Harbor that began the United States entry into World War II. In 1955, with the help of Mr. Eyre Scott and others, the church building was expanded with two wings off either side of the original building and the twin bell towers were fashioned. The church building style was modeled after similar style churches built by the Sacred Hearts Fathers throughout the Hawaiian Islands.

Needless to say the current condition of our church is a sign of its age (114-year old structure). We are executing the Master Plan with faith, hope and commitment.

St. Rita church must renovate!

History contributed by Fr. Alapaki Kim