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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, June 6, 2001

Parishioners say goodbye to St. Ann's

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward Bureau

KANE'OHE — Bittersweet emotions flowed through parishioners as they watched the building where they had worshiped for 46 years crumple into a heap this week.

But a grander structure resembling the Ko'olau Range seemed to rise out of the dust and rubble caused by the demolition of St. Ann's Church.

Parishioners wept remembering the weddings, the baptisms and their children's first Holy Communion, said Margaret Ferreira, who stood vigil at the site yesterday. Many witnessed the first blow to the 46-year-old structure Monday, snapping photographs, exchanging histories and collecting souvenir pieces of the old building.

Ferreira collected a piece of koa that was the backdrop for the altar crucifix. Agnes Mello, a parishioner for 47 years, took a decorative tile and a pew. Joe Wuscher, a church member since 1966, said he was hoping to take home the cross from the bell tower.

Everyone expressed sadness about seeing a part of their lives disappear into dust.

"You're so used to that one church that when they tear it down, it's like taking a part of you away," said Ferreira, who attended services at St. Ann's for 24 years.

The congregation has replaced the old hollow-tile building, which one person said resembled an old warehouse, with a grand, $4.8 million church that will seat 600 people, more than accommodating the overflow crowds that St. Ann's sees most Sundays.

The new building sits on a six-acre parcel that also has a school, cafeteria, administration building and living quarters. A campaign to raise funds for the new church began about 13 years ago. The schoolchildren held their own campaign, raising $55,000 to refurbish the bell and build a bell tower.

Barney Mena said he came to the demolition for his brother, Loy Dumadag, who helped raise funds for the new church for 10 years but died two years ago.

"I know he's happy to see everything built because that's what he worked for," said Mena, who has attended daily Mass at St. Ann's for two years.

Sister Ann Clare DeCosta said church officials expected the emotional reaction to the demolition and tried to prepare people, inviting them to watch the process, take pictures and take souvenirs. People are grieving, but they're also seeing new life, DeCosta said.

"For the longest time we've been hearing it built and not seeing the full picture," she said. "As (the old church) comes down you see this glorious future that we're going to have."

Frances Jasquez called the church a grandmother to the community and while she was sad to see the old building demolished she said the grand lady will always be in Kaneohe.

"It's bittersweet, but something wonderful has happened, not for myself but for the community," Jasquez said.

Services at the new church could begin as early as mid-July. Until then, the congregation will meet in the school's cafeteria.