Hawaii dedicates church to St. Damien

And just in time for Christmas!


For 14 years, the Catholic community on the scarcely populated island of Molokai, has tried to raise enough money to build a church in its main town of Kaunakakai to honor Saint Damien of Molokai.

After raising $2 million from bake sales, community fairs and donations, and the Catholic Diocese kicking in another $1.2 million, Saint Damien of Molokai Church opened two weeks ago. Run by Sacred Hearts priest, the parish held its first mass last Sunday and will celebrate its first Christmas mass on December 24 and 25.

The timing for the church opening, some island Catholics believe, could not be more perfect.

Fr. Damien, known as “The Leper Priest and Hero of Molokai,” was declared a saint in 2009 and Blessed Mother Marianne Cope, who worked side by side with Damien and other sisters in Molokai, was cleared for “sainthood” by the Roman Catholic Church Pope last week.

Saint Damien was sent to Honolulu in 1864 and then worked in Big Island missions. In 1873, he volunteered to work in Kalaupapa. In 1885, he was diagnosed with the disease, something he announced proudly because he wanted to experience what his patients did. And he continued to build hospitals, clinics, churches and coffins on the island. His sainthood ceremony was held in Rome on October 11, 2009, with King Albert II of the Belgians, Queen Paola and Belgian Prime Minister in attendance.

The Molokai church writes on its web site: In his ministry on Molokai, Father Damien bandaged and comforted the leprosy patients; built hospitals, houses, chapels and coffins; organized picnics; educated the children; and ministered to the patients’ spiritual needs. In his work with the patients who had been exiled to the isolated Kalaupapa peninsula, Father Damien reformed a settlement known for its lawlessness, filth and despair, into a community of individual respect, love and laughter. Father Damien built a community of love and hope through his teaching and living Jesus Christ’s gospel message of unconditional love.”

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