Dedicated in 1855, St. Michael’s Church was a large structure in its day. Built of lava rock and coral sand mortar; the floor was simple, hard-packed dirt. The small second floor was used as living quarters for priests. A bell from France tolled to the faithful in Kailua-Kona. Father Joachim Marechal, who toiled two years to build the church, was interred beneath the building upon his death in 1859.
More than a century later, the church was remodeled with a $100,000 facelift, offering parishioners the comfort of air conditioning. The church suffered damage from extensive flooding in 1968, 1974 and 1982.
In 1993 parishioners and Father Ron Gronowski transformed the dirt parking area into a paved lot with 80 parking spaces. The church grounds were landscaped and the beautification earned St. Michael’s a Kona Outdoor Circle award in 1995. Next, the church’s interior was spruced up with a new altar, pews, statuary and flooring. Local artisans were commissioned to craft several stained glass windows.
In October 2006, St. Michael’s Church was damaged by earthquakes and eventually deemed unsafe and beyond repair. The church was vacated and Mass moved to a tent on the church grounds. The church was decommissioned during a Farewell Service on November 2; demolition will follow shortly thereafter and Father Marechal’s remains will be put in a safe place until they can be re-interred under the new church.
Find more info on St. Michael’s mission churches in the 2009 book, “North Kona’s Catholic Heritage….remembered.” It’s for sale in the parish office and bookstore on the grounds of St. Michael’s Church in Kailua-Kona, 326-7771.