Monday, November 24, 2008

Awaiting Damien's Canonization

Honolulu Advertiser: Nov. 24th. - "People can sing these songs easily," explained the director of music for St. John Vianney Church, his hands curving like an arc over the keyboard. As a photographer snapped away, the flash from the camera illuminated streaks of sunlight in Dietrich Varez's painting of Damien hovering just above Mondoy, as if the priest's path to heaven itself was pulsating. Similarly, Hawai'i's Roman Catholic community is lit up with excitement as canonization looms for Father Damien, the Belgian priest who is revered for dedication to serving those suffering from Hansen's disease on Moloka'i. It's been a long road, but the feast at the end is beginning to take shape.

Bishop Larry Silva has created a commission to oversee Island-based efforts for Damien and Mother Marianne Cope, both of whom are on the path to sainthood. Committees are looking into myriad details: fundraising; how to get the word out; what will occur back in the Islands for those who can't make the journey to Rome for Damien's canonization ceremony, expected in 2009. No decisions can be set in ink until the date of the ceremony is decided by Pope Benedict XVI. An announcement isn't expected until February. "This is the calm before the storm," said Silva. "People are anticipating, the excitement is building. We're kind of waiting and doing what we can in the meantime. When the date is announced, we'll go into high gear. "Once a date is set, then we'll have the details on travel." The papal master of ceremonies has informed the Hawai'i group that it is customary to meet with pilgrim groups the day after a canonization, Silva said. "Hopefully, that will happen."

While 300 to 400 are expected to make the trek from Hawai'i to Rome, you can't book a plane seat or schedule a tour without a start date. "It's a tricky question," said Seawind Tours' Randy King, who's handling tour duties. "We can't do much with it until the pope decides." King is surveying likely participants about their dream trip, finding out about accessibility for the disabled and, especially, educating the masses that when in Rome, you do as the Romans do, i.e., walk cobblestone streets and take public transportation. Luckily for King, he's arranged Damien tours before. Twice. The first trip to Belgium, back in 1994, took more than 300 people, including Kalaupapa patients, to what was supposed to be Damien's beatification. But Pope John Paul II's nasty fall and subsequent broken hip turned that "beatification" into a "pilgrimage." The next year the beatification was held in Belgium with about 200 from Hawai'i in attendance. A halau attended both events, as did some of Kalaupapa's Hansen's disease patients. "We had a lot of fun with them," said King. "We made sure they were treated very special." The number of Kalaupapa patients who can travel is shrinking, but this time King expects an even bigger crowd. About 100 people already have registered. "It's a mix of the community so far É mostly Catholics," he said. "A guy yesterday called, and asked, 'Do I have to be Catholic to go?' I told him, 'No. (Damien) was for the good of all people.' "

King's goals for the trip are lofty. "We know what works for the masses, but we want to make this a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and hit as many people's (dreams) as possible," he said. "We'll try to be as flexible as possible. Most have never been to Europe." To accomplish that, he's been surveying churchgoers as they pour out of Sunday services at St. Augustine's, where he attends, and asking those who signed up for suggestions. Nancy Berry, who is in her last year as head of Ho'ala School in Wahiawa, hopes there's some leeway in the tour. One way or the other, she's making the trip. "Sign me up!" she said. "I saw it in the paper last week, and I immediately (thought) I'm there." King expects to arrange visits to the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican Museum, the ruins of the Coloseum, and Rome's catacombs. And there will be a daily Mass. "Right now, we're looking at one hotel to house everybody, but that depends on the date," he said, then added how beautiful St. Peter's Square looks in the morning light: "We hope to be close enough to walk."

The bishop will return from Rome with a very special piece of luggage, one that warrants its own seat. "When we get back, I will have the relic with me of Father Damien," said Silva. The relic, or piece of Damien's remains, is expected to be the heel. Background: In 1936, Damien's body was taken to Belgium long after his death at Kalaupapa in 1889, but a relic was requested and granted during the beatification. The remains of his right hand made the return and were interred in his original grave beside his church, St. Philomena's, in 1995. It was carried in a special koa box, which will be used again to transport this relic. "The plan is to take it to different islands, and make it available for veneration," Silva continued. "Ultimately, we'll have it at the cathedral, which is in the process of renovation. We plan to have a shrine. It would have the relic, as well as a relic of Mother Marianne. "Of course, it will take a few years before we're done." The bishop hasn't been able to get a lot of answers yet, such as whether "liturgical movements" like hula will be allowed, if an oli can be chanted or whether Hawaiian music — like that which Mondoy is composing — can be included in the ceremony. "I am not the postulator of the cause," said Silva. "My understanding is, the postulator does most of (the liturgy). In fact, I e-mailed the pope's master of ceremonies and asked questions. He e-mailed back and said basically, I need to talk to the postulator."

The postulator general, or primary advocate in charge of the case, is the Rev. Alfred Bell of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in Rome. He was appointed in August. The Revs. Lane Akiona and Chris Keahi, Sacred Hearts fathers based in Hawai'i, are coordinating with the bishop as well. During the canonization, a tapestry bearing the likeness of Damien will be unveiled; that's being handled by the Sacred Hearts fathers, and will be completed in Belgium. Their order also requested and was granted permission for the renaming of the Catholic community on Moloka'i, one parish with four churches, for Damien. When a new church in Kaunakakai is built to replace St. Sophia's, which used to be the main church, it will be named St. Damien.

About a dozen Hansen's disease patients hope to make the trip for the canonization, said Sister Alicia Damien Lau. "The electricity is in the air," she said. "It's a good thing, and it's a scary thing. So chicken skin." Tempering their joy is the realization that their friends didn't live to see the day. Four patients have died in the past year, Lau noted. "That's hitting everybody," Lau said. "Everybody is feeling the impact of aging with complex medical problems. When I talked and asked them if they wanted to go to Rome, the question is, 'Can I go?' " Nearly all who can make the trip will bring family or companions. The ones who can't? "Their heart wants to be there," Lau said. To offset the cost of their transportation, the bishop's commission has established a bank account for donations. Lau knows other Kalaupapa regulars — medical staff, people from the National Park Service — hope to be Rome-bound, too. Lau said Silva will be very sensitive to those who aren't able to make the trip. "The bishop plans to bring the relic to Kalaupapa first," she said. They may not miss it completely, if Venny Villapando, who's on the bishop's commission, has his way. He's made contact with Eternal Word Television Network to learn more about the simulcast. In similar circumstances, Villapando taped a recent canonization and Mass aired on the Eternal Word network, noting that there's a 12-hour time shift. "There was also a repeat broadcast," said Villapando. "I'm keeping tabs." Villapando quakes at the thought that the canonization might occur at 3 p.m in Rome, which is exactly half a day ahead of Hawai'i. "If that happens, we're in trouble," Villapando said. If all goes well, the Damien simulcast will start at 10 p.m. local time. The commission is debating whether to have a viewing party that night or the next day during a repeat broadcast — at a large venue or several smaller venues.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Lifetime Friend

Father Joseph Hendriks poses in front of paintings of Father Damien at Kalaupapa that are hanging at St. Patrick Monastery in Kaimuki. He was formerly pastor of Kalaupapa and came from Belgium. Hendriks died Nov. 3 after years of battling cancer.

Father Joe Hendriks told me, "I consider Damien to be a lifetime friend."

Honolulu Star Bulletin: Nov. 15th. - It was a spark amidst rambling summertime conversations with the retired Catholic priest. The interviews were an exercise in a continuing look into the story of Father Damien DeVeuster, whose service to some of God's humblest, neediest people has been the subject of hero stories since he lived and died in Kalaupapa in 1889. Father Joe was one of hundreds of men who chose to become priests because of the example of Damien. Like the 19th-century priest, Hendriks was born in Belgium and came to Hawaii as a member of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, a missionary order that has provided pastors and teachers to Hawaii since the first French Catholic priests stepped ashore in 1827. Here this story swerves off track, becoming all about Damien, who is on the short list to be named a saint by the Catholic Church, probably by next year at this time. Or, off we go on a tangent about the Catholic pioneers and the role of faith in the lives of people in his times and ours. That's how the conversations went with Father Joe. He wasn't at ease talking about himself. He prepared a list of dates in his personal time line. If prodded, he'd philosophize in brief. He was a little bit better with anecdotes. What he did say was that he would not live to see Damien canonized. And he was right. Father Joe Hendriks died Nov. 3 at the St. Patrick Monastery in Kaimuki after years of battling cancer. If he had had his choice, he would have lived out his life as pastor in Kalaupapa, the job he held for seven years until the disease -- and his superiors -- forced him to retire to Honolulu in 2006.

Hendriks spent 57 of his 86 years in service at parishes on Oahu, Kauai, Maui, Molokai and Lanai. The pinnacle of his vocation was walking in Damien's footsteps on the remote peninsula where leprosy patients were exiled. When Hendriks said Mass, there were former leprosy patients in the congregation, along with people from the state Department of Health and National Park Service who maintain the settlement. The rectory and St. Francis Church were built after Damien died and the population shifted from the east to west side. But the church that Damien built, St. Philomena's Church in Kalawao, is still the scene of services on special occasions. "The door was open at the rectory. Father Joe welcomed people inside his house," said Meli Watanuki, who with her husband, Randy, tends the altar and church. "Sometimes we'd go talk story to him. He was really good to us, to all the patients." "He loved to entertain people," she said, and the parish hall became the scene of community celebrations for church feast days and people's birthdays. She recalled how Hendriks, almost daily, welcomed visitors from around the world to the church. He told about Damien and Mother Marianne Cope to people who came on a day trip, escorted to several spots by Damien Tours guides. Hendriks said he received about 200 Christmas cards each year from people who had visited.

Watanuki holds another memory of Hendriks from the day in 2005 when Cope's exhumed remains were taken out of Kalaupapa. The bones of the Franciscan nun, also a candidate for sainthood for serving patients in Kalaupapa, are now enshrined at Franciscan headquarters in Syracuse, N.Y. "When they put the box on a truck in front of the church, he stood by the step and he cried. He was a soft heart," Watanuki said. Patrick Downes, editor of the Catholic Herald, said Hendriks provided some of the best items ever for the parish news roundup in each edition. "They were personal, affectionate notes about parishioners, or anecdotes about people visiting from far away who were called by Damien," he said. "He typed them on his old manual typewriter, with pencil corrections, and mailed them. Every one was a tidbit of life from Kalaupapa."

When he was ordained in 1948, much of Belgium's missionary zeal was aimed toward the Congo, its colony. But he and a handful of classmates were picked for Hawaii. "God has taken care of me my whole life," he said. Many of the others were homesick serving so far from their European roots, but "God made it easy for me; I was never homesick." He became a naturalized U.S. citizen five years after he arrived. Though fluent in English, he never lost the guttural Belgian accent. While he was pastor of St. Patrick Church in 1976, Hendriks created a small Damien museum, opening up the monastery chapel to give visitors a look at the few artifacts that were kept there: Mass vestments, Communion chalice, a pipe. The museum was expanded and moved to the Waikiki parish for access by tourists. It has since been closed.

People already know what Damien did, so why bother with the bureaucratic business it takes to declare him a saint? "It's a way for people of this century to hear about him," he said. "Hopefully people will be inspired and say, 'That's the way to be. He's for sure in heaven, and I want to be there, too." A miraculous healing ascribed to Damien's intercession with God was the final criterion to achieve sainthood, but, Hendriks was asked, why didn't God heal the leprosy victims or the priests who served them? "Getting well on earth is not our purpose. To get to heaven is more important," the pastor said. "If you pray for something and nothing happens, God may have different answers. "There are many miracles in our lives. I believe God will take care of us without our expectations. "To pray is not to tell God what you want, blah blah blah, it's to be in God's presence. The number of words doesn't make it a prayer; it's to love God with your whole heart. ... That's the spirit of prayer." Bishop Larry Silva will preside at the funeral Mass for Hendriks at 11 a.m. next Saturday at St. Patrick Church.
By Mary Adamski
No responsibility or liability shall attach itself to either myself or to the blogspot ‘Mozlink’ for any or all of the articles/images placed here. The placing of an article does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise. Mozlink

Monday, November 10, 2008

Leprosy Still Prevalent in US

Nov. 9th 2008: A new study has revealed that leprosy, also known as Hansen's disease, is still prevalent in the United States."Approximately 150 cases are diagnosed each year with 3,000 people in the U.S. currently being treated for leprosy,” says Dr. James Krahenbuhl, director of the Health Resources Service Administration’s National Hansen’s Disease Program (NHDP) in Baton Rouge, LA.

"We believe there are more cases of leprosy not identified due to the lack of awareness about the disease among physicians in the U.S., which is leading to misdiagnosis and wrong treatments for patients who are left to suffer with the debilitating damage caused by this disease," he adds.

While the root cause of the transmission of leprosy has yet to be determined, it is known to be a chronic disease that slowly attacks the peripheral nervous system and motor skills, often leading to disability and disfigurement.

Since the onset of infection and symptoms can take three to 10 years, according to experts, it is very difficult to find the origin of where or how people acquire the disease.

Leprosy can be fully treated with medicine when diagnosed in early stages, but nerve damage cannot be reversed once the disease has advanced.

The NHDP says that many doctors are not familiar with the disease because most people affected by leprosy in the U.S. are immigrants in poor communities who primarily seek treatment in free clinics or emergency rooms, and thus doctors mistake the skin lesions of leprosy for a fungus or ringworm and treat it with a topical cream.

No responsibility or liability shall attach itself to either myself or to the blogspot ‘Mozlink’ for any or all of the articles/images placed here. The placing of an article does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.