Father Damien of Kalaupapa, Molokai to be canonized a Saint!
May 13, 2009 · Print This Article
This is Big News for Hawaii - our Own Father Damien will be canonized as a Saint this October 2009. I don’t know if I want to be here or in Rome for the festivities! Ok I’ll go to Rome…then visit Molokai - I had better start making reservation - wouldn’t want to miss the party!
Whether you are Catholic or not, everyone can agree Father Damien changed the world for the suffering cast-offs of the Kalaupapa Penninsula, on the Hawaiian Island of Molokai. He has been a Saint in the hearts of the people of Hawaii (and around the world I am sure) for at least a 100 years.
The Island of Molokai is located in the heart of the Hawaiian Islands. There is a nearly flat, 10 square mile peninsula called Makanalua which juts into the Pacific below the world’s highest sea cliffs. A place of stunning beauty, it’s been blessed by nature’s grandeur, and cursed by humanity’s ignorance and fear.
Kalaupapa’s reputation as a leprosy colony is well-known. The first documented case of Hansen’s disease, (the proper term for leprosy) occurred in 1848. Its rapid spread and unknown cure precipitated the urgent need for complete and total isolation.
Surrounded on three sides by the Pacific Ocean and cut off from the rest of Molokai by 1600-foot sea cliffs, Kalaupapa provided the environment.
In early 1866, the first leprosy victims were shipped to Kalaupapa and existed for 7 years before Father Damien arrived.
The area was void of all amenities. No buildings, shelters nor potable water were available. These first arrivals dwelled in rock enclosures, caves, and in the most rudimentary shacks, built of sticks and dried leaves.
In 1873, Father Damien deVeuster, aged 33, arrived at Kalaupapa. A Catholic missionary priest from Belgium, he served the leprosy patients at Kalaupapa until his death. A most dedicated and driven man, Father Damien did more than simply administer the faith: he built homes, churches and coffins; arranged for medical services and funding from Honolulu, and became a parent to his diseased wards.
Shown here in a rare pencil sketch from December, 1888, Damien contracted the disease, and after 16 years of selfless service, died in 1889.
With the advent of sulfone drugs in the 1940s, the disease was put in remission and the sufferers are no longer contagious. The fewer than 100 former patients remaining on the peninsula are free to travel or relocate elsewhere, but most have chosen to remain in Kalaupapa where they have lived for so long.
In 1977, Pope Paul VI declared Father Damien to be venerable, the first of three steps that lead to Sainthood. Pope John Paul II declared Damien blessed in 1995, the second step before canonization as a Saint. This last year the third step to Sainthood has finally been verified and the date is set for October 11th, 2009.
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