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Hawaii’s Father Damien: From priesthood to sainthood

Damien_Hawaii_Saint_Molokai_Kalaupapa_canonizationHawaii celebrates its first official Catholic saint, Father Damien de Veuster, this weekend in Rome and in the Islands.

Several hundred Hawaii residents have traveled halfway around the world to attend the canonization in Rome on Sunday. (The ceremony will be broadcast live on television and streamed live online. For more on the canonization events and a TV schedule, click here.) In Hawaii, Catholic parish and school groups across the state will celebrate Damien’s sainthood in dozens of parish halls and churches.

Regardless of religious backgrounds, the life's work of Molokai’s beloved priest has inspired many, including HIV/AIDS sufferers. But how did Damien finally attain sainthood? What did this Belgian priest do for the Hansen’s disease (leprosy) patients living in Kalawao and Kalaupapa on Molokai?

On the following pages is a look at Damien's path to sainthood, and the story of how he dedicated his life to an entire community of Hawaii residents cast away from the populace because of their illness—as published in HAWAII Magazine’s September/October 2009 issue.

Web Extra: At the end of the article, you'll find a photo slideshow of Damien's personal artifacts—including a scarf that was given to him by Mother Marianne Cope.

"Honoring Father Damien"

Molokai’s beloved priest dedicated his life to helping many people throughout the Hawaiian Islands. In October, he’ll be officially recognized as Hawaii’s first canonized saint.

By Sherie Char
(from the September/October 2009 issue of HAWAII Magazine)

Damien_Hawaii_Saint_Molokai_Kalaupapa_canonization“You may stay as long as your devotion dictates.” Those words from his superior in the Sacred Hearts order changed Father Damien’s life—and put him on a path to sainthood that will culminate this year on Oct. 11.

In 1863, Damien’s brother, Father Pamphile de Veuster, was headed to Hawaii on a Sacred Hearts mission, but illness prevented him from going. Although Damien (formerly known as Joseph de Veuster) was only a choir brother, he was determined to take his brother’s place. Damien petitioned the highest authority in the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary—and won. His determination eventually led him to spend the rest of his life on a remote Molokai peninsula, where he cared for Hawaii’s exiled sufferers from Hansen’s disease (leprosy). His self-sacrifice certainly influenced his path to sainthood.

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Check out these related HawaiiMagazine.com posts:
Pope clears Father Damien for sainthood
Father Damien’s sainthood: Here's the complete TV and relic tour schedule
Pope clears for sainthood nun who cared for Hansen's Disease patients on Molokai

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