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Hawaii’s Father Damien: From priesthood to sainthood

Damien_Hawaii_Saint_Molokai_Kalaupapa_canonizationIn addition to his priestly duties at Kalaupapa, Damien bandaged the patients’ open wounds, washed their bodies and dug their graves. Utilizing his carpentry skills he built houses, churches, orphanages, coffins and even a water system.

Damien’s dogged work began to attract notice—and support for the colony. Princess Lydia Liliuokalani visited Kalaupapa, and later had her brother, King David Kalakaua, make Damien a Knight Commander of the Royal Order of Kalakaua for transforming Kalawao and improving living conditions.

In December 1884, Damien was soaking his feet in a bucket of hot water, when he realized that he couldn’t feel any heat. He immediately knew what was wrong: He had contracted Hansen’s disease. Despite his illness, Damien worked even harder.

In the final years before his death, Damien received help from four unexpected sources: a Civil War soldier, a male nurse, a priest and a nun. Joseph Dutton, James Sinnett, Father Louis-Lambert Conrardy and Mother Marianne Cope, respectively, continued Damien’s work.

Damien_Hawaii_Saint_Molokai_Kalaupapa_canonizationDamien died on April 15, 1889, in Kalawao. He was 49. It was the beginning of Holy Week, the week leading up to Easter. He was buried in a simple grave outside St. Philomena Church in Kalawao. Today, only a relic (the bones of Damien’s right hand) remains there. The rest of his body was taken to Louvain, Belgium, in 1936, at the request of the Belgian government. Another Damien relic—his right heel bone—arrives in Hawaii later this year. (Before arriving in Hawaii, the relic will travel from Rome to Michigan and California. Click here to see the complete schedule of events.)

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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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