A SPOTLIGHT ON SAINTS DAMIEN AND MARIANNE OF MOLOKAI’I

RECENT PAPAL TWEETS:

Sunday, October 8: When you experience bitterness, put your faith in all those who still work for good: in their humility lies the seed of a new world.

Monday, October 9: The search for peace is an open-ended task, a responsibility that never ends and that demands the commitment of everyone.

Put this on your calendar: At 5 pm Rome time on Thursday, October 26, from a small room in the Paul VI Hall, Pope Francis will have a linkup with the crew of the International Space Station.

A SPOTLIGHT ON SAINTS DAMIEN AND MARIANNE OF MOLOKAI’I

On Sunday I leave for Hawaii to participate in the October 20-22 Saints Damien and Marianne Catholic Conference at the Honolulu Convention Center. I am very excited about the conference because, starting in 2008, I have spent years researching the lives and works of Saints Damien and Marianne Cope, and then covering their canonizations in Rome (respectively 2009 and 2012), and now I can share my stories and listen to the stories of others who also love Hawaii’s two very special saints.

And Hawaii may well have a third saint – Brother Joseph Dutton. He was not a religious brother but rather received that name from Fr. Damien himself who told Joseph one day as they worked together on Kalaupapa, “You are like a brother to everyone here.”

Born Ira Dutton, he took the name Joseph when he became a Catholic. Joseph worked for 44 years alongside Fr. Damien and Sr. Marianne and her nuns, with the leprosy patients on Kalaupapa, this hankerchief-sized piece of land in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Hansen’s disease is the medical name for leprosy. When it came to the Hawaiian Islands, then a kingdom, King Kamehameha V banished all those with the disease to the isolated Kalaupapa peninsula on the north shore of the island of Molokai. The leprosy colonies operated from 1866 to 1969 and had a total of over 8,500 residents over the decades.

At the time of Fr. Damien, a priest of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, people sick with leprosy were exiled to Kalaupapa. It was that exile of so many human beings who needed the hand not only of a doctor but of another human being to comfort them in their dreadful living conditions, both physical and spiritual, that prompted Fr. Damien to go to Kalaupapa in 1873. He served there until his death in 1889.

Damien was joined by Mother Marianne Cope and six sisters from her Order, the Sisters of St. Francis of Syracuse, in 1883. She lived and worked there until her death in 1918.

We see the words “heroic virtues” literally come to life in Damien and Marianne.

More than 8,000 people, mostly Hawaiians, have died at Kalaupapa. Many of their tombs can still be seen today, although many thousands were washed away years ago as the result of a tsunami. Kalaupapa is now home to just a few remaining residents who are now cured, but were forced to live their lives in isolation.

The conference will, as its title says, focus on Hawaii’s two saints, on their heroic virtues but also on human rights because that is really what Damien and Marianne fought for over so many decades – the rights of people who had been ostracized by society and forced to live in totally undignified circumstances.

When we think of sainthood and heroic virtues, we think: this is Mission Impossible – not something I can achieve. And yet, this is what we are all called to do! And this is what the conference hopes to achieve: to inspire all of us to – in our way, with whatever gifts God gave us, in whatever circumstances He placed us – aim high, to look at sanctity as something eminently achievable.

Did Marianne and Damien think like Mother Teresa: “I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much!”

A number of the speakers, as you’ll see from the program, are from the same congregation as St. Damien and the order of St. Marianne.

The special guest of honor is Cardinal Soane Patita Paini Mafi of Tonga. We have been in touch and I’ll be interviewing him!

I’ll also join Bishop Larry Silva on a pilgrimage to Kalaupapa on October 23. I’ve been there several times before, and have written stories and posted videos and interviewed many people.

I am truly looking forward to returning to a place that, for me, is a shrine.

https://www.dmcchawaii.org/

 

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