Father Damien on Doorstep to Sainthood

Pope’s approval clears way for canonization.

By Jennifer Smith

What residents of Kalaupapa have known for over a century, has now been confirmed by Pope Benedict XVI. The pope approved last week Thursday, Father Damien de Veuster’s second miracle, finally allowing for the priest’s canonization to sainthood.

“The response was wonderful,” Kalaupapa’s Father Felix Vandebroek said, explaining how his parishioners have responded. “They are elated that their hero, Father Damien is going to be a saint.”

Damien was beatified in 1995 after being linked to the 1895 miracle recovery of a Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary nun. Then in 1999 a Honolulu woman credited her recovery from terminal lung cancer, to prayers she made to Father Damien. The recovery could not be explained medically.

The pope’s confirmation of this second miracle allows for the recognition of Father Damien as a saint. A date for canonization, to make the declaration official, is expected in February 2009.

Kalaupapa Residents Rejoice
Father Felix presides over St. Francis church in the peninsula, and said his 20 parishioners have followed Father Damien’s process to sainthood closely. The small community discussed initial plans for a celebration during last Sunday’s mass, but they have until February when the pope sets a date for canonization to decide on specifics.

“I am thrilled,” said Gloria Marks, Kalaupapa patient. She is sad that many of the patients who prayed for years for Father Damien’s canonization have since passed, but added that she is excited for those who will get to travel to Rome or Honolulu to celebrate.

“There is a lot of joy, everyone here is looking forward to celebrating the day,” said Steve Prokop, National Parks Service Superintendent in Kalaupapa.

The Making of a Saint
Born in Belgium in 1840, Father Damien joined other missionaries of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in Honolulu in 1864. He voluntarily relocated to minister to and serve Hansen’s disease patients who were forcibly placed in the Kalaupapa peninsula.

Father Damien eventually contracted the disease, and died in Kalaupapa after over a decade of service to the patients and community.


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