CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL /
"Father JoJo" shows off the newly renovated St. Joseph Church in Waipahu. The year long, $3.5 million project is near completion, and the church plans to hold a rededication ceremony next Saturday.
Dedication & commitment
Parishioners' patience and generosity pay off in a renovated St. Joseph Church
Through rain, heat and wind, parishioners have worshipped in tents the past year while St. Joseph Church in Waipahu was being renovated.
The Rev. Joven Junio called their faithfulness nothing short of "a modern-day miracle."
"I cannot explain their dedication and commitment. Through wind and rain, and if there's snow, they come! ... It's mind-boggling," said Junio, whom everyone calls Father JoJo.
After a year of worshipping in the parking lot, parishioners will attend Mass next Saturday in the newly renovated Catholic church in Waipahu. Bishop Larry Silva will preside at the rededication at 10 a.m. The festivities will continue from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
What is even more amazing to Junio is that the weekly collections have never dropped off since fundraising started in 2002 to expand the 65-year-old Catholic church. Junio said he thought regular operational donations would decrease because of contributions for the construction, but weekly donations stayed the same.
With a 3,000-member congregation, St. Joseph has the largest number of Sunday Mass-goers in the state, he said. They have raised $2.5 million for the $3.5 million renovation project, which might go even higher. They have to pay back another million in loans to the diocese.
"It's just amazing. These people ... are not rich. But all this time, I think people have been holding on to that money until they saw their dream unfolding. ... They needed somebody to gather all their aspirations and dreams, and when the right time came, everybody came out of their shell and gave their two cents," he said.
Junio attributes the commitment of his parishioners to the church's being "very opening and welcoming" and "because we acknowledge the presence of cultural diversity."
Junio regularly wears T-shirt and sandals to work, with a cross around his neck instead of a starched collar, because "casualness is part of who we are."
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
The Rev. Joven Junio says the newly expanded St. Joseph Church in Waipahu can accommodate 750 people per Mass, compared with 450 before.
"At the same time, I'm the janitor around here. I clean toilets, and if I have to sweep the church, I do. I've been doing it for seven years," he said.
Although a majority of his congregation is Filipino, it also includes Samoans, Tongans, Micronesians, Vietnamese, Japanese, Caucasians and Hawaiians. On certain occasions the church includes representatives of these cultures to participate in liturgy celebrations, inviting them to pray in their own dialects and dress in national costume.
Services are offered in Ilocano and Tagalog as well as English. Every quarter a Samoan Mass is held, and Junio hopes to offer a Hispanic Mass one day.
The church also offers a variety of worship styles, from traditional to the more expressive, charismatic type. Parishioners can choose which of the seven Masses, held between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. every Sunday, suits them best, Junio said.
Now that more people can be accommodated -- 750 per Mass versus 450 in the old church -- it might be assumed that Junio would decrease the number of Sunday Masses. But he said, "I'm not moving quickly to do this. I want to see how people respond. Once you expand, people will be assured of a place (seat), and now maybe more will come."
According to Irene Sandry, chairwoman of the fundraising committee, the original church was expanded 15 feet on one side and 25 feet on the other. Its new features include a state-of-the-art sound system, air conditioning, 16 stained-glass windows depicting various saints, an immersible baptismal fountain, a confessional booth and a more intimate "day chapel" behind the main altar.
The "pride and joy" of the project, she said, is a wooden statue specially carved in the Philippines of Our Lady of La Salette, the patroness of the international missionary Fathers of La Salette, who staff the church.
They were sure to keep beloved items from the old church, or else St. Joseph's "wouldn't be the same," Sandry said. They include the crucifix hanging in the prayer room in the old part of the church, which could not be moved because it is on the state Register of Historic Places, she said.
Other items from the old church are the 14 Stations of the Cross -- carved figures depicting stages of Jesus' suffering; statues of St. Joseph and the Blessed Mother; and a large round stained-glass window of magenta and royal blue, she said.