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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, August 9, 2001

'Painted Church' restoration next

By Hugh Clark
Advertiser Big Island

KALAPANA, Hawai'i — More than a decade after it was rescued from the path of a lava flow, Kalapana's famed "Painted Church" is about to undergo restoration in preparation for a new life as part of a cultural center.

Star of the Sea Church, moved from the path of a lava flow, rested on the Puna roadside for six years before a permanent site was found.

Advertiser library photo • April 25, 1996

The 71-year-old Catholic church, formally known as Star of the Sea Church, was lifted from its foundation in May 1990 and trucked to safety just hours ahead of slow-moving lava from the Pu'u 'O'o eruption.

For six years, it rested on the side the Pahoa-Kalapana state highway while members of the community tried to determine what to do next.

The first step was decommissioning by the church so it could become a cultural and historic site, no longer to be used for religious services. The next step was to move it to a nearby three-acre site leased from the state.

To raise money for the restoration of the Painted Church, former residents of Kalapana are planning a ho'olaule'a next month in conjunction with the 2001 Aloha Festivals.

The 40-member Kalapana 'Ohana Association has control of the building after purchasing it from the Catholic Church for "$1 and love." Money to build a cultural center on the church grounds is promised by a grant under the federal Native Americans Act.

Noelani Ing of Puna, a leader of the restoration effort, said the project is intended to remind former Kalapana residents of their heritage.

The Painted Church was established in 1930 by the Rev. Evairst Gielen of Pahoa, who was a native of Belgium.

The Kapalana ho'olaule'a, or festive get-together, will be from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 15.

Tickets for a Hawaiian plate lunch and entertainment are $10; meal-only tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for children.