Father Damien, whose work with Hawaii leprosy patients in the 1800s earned him worldwide respect, is on the brink of being named a saint. Hours ago, Pope Benedict XVI validated a miracle attributed to Father Damien, clearing the way for him to be canonized. (He was previously beatified in 1995 by Pope John Paul II.)
A Honolulu woman, Audrey Toguchi, appeared to have incurable cancer. Surgery in 1998 failed to excise it, and her doctors prepared her for the worst. But she prayed to Father Damien, and — according to an October 2000 report in the Hawaii Medical Journal — she was cured.
The Vatican officially attributes her cure to Father Damien, saying it otherwise defied medical explanation.
The Rev. Christopher Keahi, head of the Sacred Hearts order of Hawaii, told the Associated Press: “It’s such an exciting time in our lives that one of our men, one of us here in Hawaii, has attained the highest rank of sanctity and will soon be declared a saint in the church.”
Father Damien came to Hawaii in 1984 and, a decade later, was ministering to leprosy patients on Molokai in the isolated Kalaupapa peninsula (now a national park). There he cared for thousands of people who suffered from the disease… and ultimately contracted it himself, dying in 1889.
- Pope clears way for Belgian priest to become saint (Associated Press)
- Miracles can happen ‘when you have a friend like Father Damien’ (Hawaii Catholic Herald)