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Hawaii’s Father Damien: From priesthood to sainthood

Damien_Hawaii_Saint_Molokai_Kalaupapa_canonizationBecoming a saint in the Catholic Church isn’t easy. There is a series of steps that must be fulfilled—Servant of God, Venerable, Blessed and Saint. In 1995, Pope John Paul II beatified Damien, declared him “Blessed,” after church authorities were satisfied that Damien’s intercession cured a nun of intestinal illness in 1895.

The beatification step requires one attested miracle; canonization requires two. In 2008, Catholic authorities attributed the disappearance of Hawaii resident Audrey Toguchi’s incurable cancer to Damien’s intercession. Toguchi (pictured above, with her husband, Yukio) had traveled to Molokai 12 years before to pray at Damien’s grave.

“There were two requests I asked of our dear Lord and Father Damien,” Toguchi, 81, told us. “First of all, please heal me and please find a good doctor who could take care of all these problems I had.” In 1999, Toguchi’s cancer completely disappeared in May, the same month as Damien’s feast day. It was this second miracle that would turn Molokai’s dedicated priest into Hawaii’s first canonized Catholic saint.

Father Damien’s canonization on Oct. 11, 2009, comes 120 years after his death from leprosy—the same disease that took the lives of 8,000 people in Kalaupapa.

Damien arrived in Honolulu on March 19, 1864. On May 21 of the same year, he was ordained as a priest at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace (which still stands in downtown Honolulu). He served in several parishes before volunteering to go to Molokai: Maui, the Puna district on the Big Island, and then the vast Kohala-Hamakua parish, which was 80 miles long and 30 miles wide. Damien often had to travel by canoe to reach remote locations.

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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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