Discovering O Ka Hae Katolika

On the rare occasion of having 'free time' I enjoy reading and translating old Hawaiian kingdom newspapers. Up until the fairly recent digitization of thousands of pages of Hawaiian newspapers, the historiography of Hawaii had been relegated to just a handful of English sources. The translation of these newspapers over the last several decades has revealed a multitude of 'voices', written in the Hawaiian language, which share a very different view of what many of us locals understand as our history. It is always exciting to step into the past to learn how our ancestors thought and how they viewed the developing world around them.

On one such occasion I stumbled upon a Hawaiian Catholic publication from the late 1860s called O Ka Hae Katolika (The Catholic Standard) It was published from 1868 - 1871 by the Pai-palapala Katolika (Catholic Printing Press) This was during the historical period in which Bishop Louis D. Maigret, the Vicar Apostolic of Sandwich Islands at the time, was working hard to evangelize the kanaka maoli (native Hawaiians) and other Hawaiian subjects in the decades following Kauikeaouli Kamehameha IIIʻs edict of religious toleration. This was also the historical period in which the 'Ahahui Hoopuka Nūpepa Kūikawā o Honolulu', a group of independent newspapers founded by native Hawaiians, was actively working to give a uniquely Hawaiian voice to political groups and faith communities. The O Ka Hae Katolika clearly expressed that native Hawaiian Catholics were very proud of being Catholic and were also very proud of being Hawaiian. This newspaper gave them the opportunity to share Catholic news, stories, and insights from a uniquely Hawaiian cosmology as opposed to only reading Catholic news published by foreign presses.

Each issue of the O Ka Hae Katolika is filled with news from the Catholic church around the globe, commentaries on Scripture and church teaching,  stories of the saints, local happenings of the Church here in Hawaii,  stories of beloved local priests, and even letters from Bishop Maigret. In addition, and of very unique interest, some of the issues published mele (songs) and oli (chants) written in honor of some of the beloved priests that brought the Catholic Faith to Hawaii and lived their lives in service to those entrusted to their care.

The tagline to the O Ka Hae Katolika is "A paio aku oe ie ka paio maikai o ka manaoio" which means to "Fight the good fight of faith" – a bold call to mission as relevant today as it was one hundred-fifty years ago.