SAINT OF THE DAY: SAINT DAMIEN OF MOLOKA’I’

I last took some time off when I went to Chicago and then California for Christmas 2019 but that is about to change. Covid has changed travel plans for millions of people, I’m sure, but I’m finally able to board a plane and I’ll be doing just that tomorrow, destination Chicago, with proof of vaccination and a negative Covid test.

Although I’ll be spending time with a lot of friends and relatives, the main purpose of my visit is to attend the May 15 priestly ordination and then his first Mass on May 16 of Deacon Ryan Brady, a young man I met several years ago and to whom I gave a chalice that had been in my family since 1927. I’ve told that story before on these pages: A CHALICE GOES HOME….. | Joan’s Rome (wordpress.com).

These pages may be dark for a bit but you never know when I might get the urge to post something. I will also probably update Facebook and Twitter (@joansrome and facebook.com/joan.lewis.10420) occasionally. Please say an Ave for safe travels and for the future Fr. Ryan Brady.

Today’s saint, St. Damien of Moloka’i, is very dear to my heart, as you night know if you’ve been following Joan’s Rome for some time. I’ve been to the peninsula of Kalaupapa on the island of Moloka’i many times – Kalaupapa is where the victims of leprosy were exiled for life. Over 8,000 are buried here, though many tombstones were washed away a long time ago in a tsunami. I’ve posted just a handful of photos from one visit there. Most are of the Kalawao side of the peninsula where Damien built St. Philomena church and adjacent cemetery. The tomb of the grandfather of Honolulu’s Bishop Larry Silva is on Kalaupapa.

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This is my incredible friend Audrey Toguchi whose cure of cancer through the intercession of Blessed Damien led to his canonization in 2009.

I am on the Honolulu diocesan guild for the cause of canonization of Servant of God Joseph Dutton. Joseph worked on Kalaupapa for 44 years, several years with Fr. Damien (the ‘other’ Joseph: Fr. Damien was baptized Joseph de Veuster) and then 30 years with St. Marianne Cope. Joseph Dutton has a singularly amazing story and I am honoured to be working for his cause. Will Hawaii have a third saint? Let’s see! To learn more: https://josephdutton.org

SAINT OF THE DAY: SAINT DAMIEN OF MOLOKA’I’

(franciscanmedia.org) – When Joseph de Veuster was born in Tremelo, Belgium, in 1840, few people in Europe had any firsthand knowledge of leprosy, Hansen’s disease. By the time he died at the age of 49, people all over the world knew about this disease because of him. They knew that human compassion could soften the ravages of this disease.

Forced to quit school at age 13 to work on the family farm, Joseph entered the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary six years later, taking the name of a fourth-century physician and martyr. When his brother Pamphile, a priest in the same congregation, fell ill and was unable to go to the Hawaiian Islands as assigned, Damien quickly volunteered in his place. In May 1864, two months after arriving in his new mission, Damien was ordained a priest in Honolulu and assigned to the island of Hawaii.

In 1873, he went to the Hawaiian government’s leper colony on the island of Moloka’i, set up seven years earlier. Part of a team of four chaplains taking that assignment for three months each year, Damien soon volunteered to remain permanently, caring for the people’s physical, medical, and spiritual needs. In time, he became their most effective advocate to obtain promised government support.

Soon the settlement had new houses and a new church, school and orphanage. Morale improved considerably. A few years later, he succeeded in getting the Franciscan Sisters of Syracuse, led by Mother Marianne Cope, to help staff this colony in Kalaupapa.

Damien contracted Hansen’s disease and died of its complications. As requested, he was buried in Kalaupapa, but in 1936 the Belgian government succeeded in having his body moved to Belgium. Part of Damien’s body was returned to his beloved Hawaiian brothers and sisters after his beatification in 1995.

When Hawaii became a state in 1959, it selected Damien as one of its two representatives in the Statuary Hall at the US Capitol. Damien was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on October 11, 2009.