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Hawaii’s Father Damien: From priesthood to sainthood

Damien_Hawaii_Saint_Molokai_Kalaupapa_canonizationAfter Pope Benedict XVI declares Blessed Damien a saint at the Vatican on Oct. 11, 2009, Damien’s canonized relic will travel across the United States and through the Hawaiian Islands before arriving at its permanent home in Honolulu’s Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace, where Damien was ordained. The Catholic Diocese of Honolulu and its Blessed Damien/Blessed Marianne Commission have organized celebratory events statewide.

“It’s really exciting, not only for the Catholics, but for the whole state of Hawaii,” says Deacon Wallace Mitsui. “Each island is preparing its own celebration, but the events are open to anyone who wants to see the relic.”

Once Damien becomes a saint, many people will want to visit his original gravesite in Kalawao (pictured right), but the state’s limited-access policy will prohibit most travelers.

“Kalaupapa is not a very accessible place,” says Bishop Larry Silva of the Catholic Diocese of Honolulu. “That’s part of the reason why the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace was chosen to house the relic.” The bishop hopes that Damien’s sainthood will inspire others “to pursue holiness, be close to God and serve the most needy.”

Although Catholics will honor Damien as a saint, Toguchi believes the beloved priest should be an inspiration to everyone, regardless of religious beliefs. Damien is the unofficial saint for many HIV/AIDS sufferers.

“No matter what religion you belonged to, Father Damien loved them all,” says Toguchi. “I think his canonization will inspire people who already are distressed. It will give them a sense of hope.”

(Click on the slideshow screen below for larger photos.)

Photos: Father Damien portrait and at Kalaupapa with Mother Marianne Cope (pgs. 1, 4), courtesy of the Catholic Diocese of Honolulu; Audrey and Yukio Toguchi at Father Damien's grave (pg. 2), courtesy of Audrey Toguchi; King Kamehameha V (pg. 3), courtesy of Commons/Wikipedia; Father Damien's grave in Kalawao (above), photo by Sherie Char. Slideshow photos by Sherie Char.

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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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