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In August of 1938 nine sisters arrived in Hawaii after a five day cruise on the S.S. Lurline and opened St. Teresa’s grade school on September 1.

Sunday Morning CCD Class; Dec. 7, 1941; Hawaii

Written by Ann Carey for Catholic Heritage, March/April, 1999

"The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet were accustomed to traveling the 22 miles from their convent in Honolulu to teach catechism to the children of military personnel at Schofield Barracks. So as three nuns headed there in a taxi in the early morning of Dec. 7, 1941, they weren't too concerned about low-flying airplanes. And they assumed the smoke in the distance was from a burning sugarcane field.

"The horror of the attack on Schofield and Pearl Harbor hit them only after a guard at the entrance told them to keep moving. The taxi carried the sisters past burning hangars to the base chapel where they had planned to attend Sunday Mass with their students. And attend Mass they did, even as the sounds of nearby gunfire and bombing persisted, and worried parents arrived to take their children to safety.

"After Mass, Sisters Martha Mary McGaw, Frances Celine Leahy and Adele Marie Lemon tried to find a way back to their convent in Honolulu. Clutching their rosaries, they took shelter at the taxi stand near the Schofield post office, while just yards away American soldiers fired anti-aircraft guns at the attacking Japanese airplanes.

"Finally, the trio found a taxi driver who was attempting to get through to Honolulu, but the cab was turned back at a military roadblock. On the return trip to Schofield, Japanese planes swooped low over the roadway, and the sisters and their driver were forced to flee for their lives into a field, where they hid in the tall sugarcane. Sister Frances Celine later wrote her superior: 'Sugarcane never felt so good before.'

"Once back at Schofield, the sisters were denied entrance because all women were being evacuated. Their taxi took them on to the next town, Wahiawa, where they also taught catechism. There they found a Chinese bus driver who agreed to try to take them home to Honolulu. The military was allowing buses on the road.

"'All the way to Honolulu we drove through a barrage of gunfire with our own and enemy planes flying above us,' Sister Frances Celine wrote her superior. 'To the right of us was Pearl Harbor with her ships burning and many of our defense projects in ruin, to say nothing of the hundreds of sailors that were rushing to meet their God.'

"The Sisters of St. Joseph, along with many Catholic missionaires from other religious orders, stayed in Hawaii during the war. During those years, they nursed wounded civilians, endured black-outs, encouraged lonesome and wounded American GIs, became civilian defense officers, taught children and, of course, continued to spread the Word of God."

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