Bishop Larry Silva

Photo from Emme Tomimbang

Like Roman Catholocism’s new Pope Francis, the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Honolulu is guided by a strong social conscience.

“One of the things we’re working on is trying to find more-affordable housing (for people in Hawaii),” says the Most Reverend Larry Silva, who was featured on MidWeek‘s cover July 20, 2005. “We have an office in the diocese that is working on developing more-affordable housing. I think most people are concerned that we don’t have affordable housing here in Hawaii. We’ve gotten people together to analyze the issue, to look at it and see what people in the grassroots can do.”

The diocese has gathered together volunteers with various skills to repair houses and apartments so they can be habitable.

“It’s just finding ways that people can get involved, because they want to do something, but they don’t know what to do,” says Bishop Silva. “Those who do have skills can train others, and those who don’t want to do that can cook or drive or baby-sit to help with the overall project.”

Bishop Silva relayed a story of a couple in Waimanalo who donated their house to the state. The Diocese of Honolulu now is working with the state to have the house moved to the women’s prison, where it will serve as a halfway house.

“(It will help them) transition into the community,” says Bishop Silva. “It will help them to network with people who can help them to be disciplined and positive and stay on the straight and narrow so they can stay out of prison and be reunited with their families.”

In addition to providing more-affordable housing, Bishop Silva also is working with the Diocese of Honolulu to renovate the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace on Fort Street Mall, which will be 170 years old in August.

“It’s still very historic and beautiful, but we need to give it an update,” he says. “We need to raise about $12 million, because it’s a very complex project.”

The Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace is home to a beautifully stenciled ceiling, which needs to be re-stenciled. The original pulpit needs work, too.

“We’re also going to build an extension of the cathedral that will house the relics of Saint Damien and Saint Marianne,” explains Bishop Silva.

If that wasn’t enough for the bishop and his diocese to take on this year, they also are working to strengthen and build up Catholic schools in Hawaii.

“They’ve been challenged recently with the economy, and we’re trying to build up the enrollments, trying to find scholarships for students to go to our Catholics schools,” he explains. “We have the Augustine Education Foundation, which provides scholarships for children who want to attend Catholic schools and are in need. We want to build that up.”

Next year will be an exciting one for the Diocese of Honolulu, which will ordain a new priest May 21. It also will be the 150th anniversary of Father Damien’s ordination to the priesthood at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace.