Saturday, October 30, 2010

Canonization anniversary celebrated from Michigan to Molokai

Members of the St. Damien halau perform  a hula at the anniversary Mass, Oct. 11, in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace in Honolulu.                                                    HCH photo/Darlene Dela Cruz
 Hawaii Catholic Herald Oct.29th:   Parishes in Michigan and on Molokai named for St. Damien celebrated the one-year anniversary of the Belgian missionary priest’s canonization on Oct. 11.   The famed 19th century Sacred Hearts priest spent the last 16 years of his life bringing dignity and compassion to the exiled Hansen’s disease patients of Kalaupapa. Pope Benedict XVI declared him a saint in the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica on Oct. 11, 2009.
St. Damien Parish, Pontiac:
Michigan may be the only mainland state with a parish bearing the name of Hawaii’s saint. The parishioners at St. Damien of Molokai Parish in Pontiac, in the Archdiocese of Detroit, take pride in their island patron.
The parish itself is the result of archdiocesan downsizing measures which resulted in the merging in July 2009 of three churches — St. Vincent de Paul, St. Michael and Shrine of St. Joseph. Seeking a new “neutral” name and patron, the churches were first grouped under the title “Blessed Damien Parish” by Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron, a close friend of Hawaii’s Bishop Larry Silva. The name was changed to “St. Damien” at the moment of canonization.

The Pontiac parish sent 21 people to Rome for last year’s canonization. The pastor, Father Jim Kean, said the trip was helpful in bridging the three different church communities together.  “We needed something that gave us an extra cause with which to unite. It helped us recognize our own birth, that we are a new reality,” he told The Michigan Catholic newspaper in October 2009.

In an Oct. 20 e-mailed message to the Hawaii Catholic Herald, Father Kean highlighted the progress of St. Damien of Molokai Parish since the canonization:   "One of the parish’s Spanish-speaking choirs composed a song about St. Damien. Father Kean describes it as having “a calypso feel,” influenced by the church’s many Puerto Rican parishioners. He hopes to record the song soon and send a copy to Honolulu.  The parish still uses all three of its churches. One of the churches is being repainted, and an artist has been commissioned to create a mural there as a tribute to St. Damien.

Shortly after the canonization, the parish received a poster from Leonce Eraly, a great-great-great grand nephew of St. Damien. The poster sits behind the altar at one of the churches.  According to Lourdes Smith, the confirmation and youth ministry program coordinator at St. Damien of Molokai Parish, the parish hopes to organize a 2012 pilgrimage to Molokai around the second anniversary of St. Damien’s canonization.  Father Kean said his parish continues to grow slowly, and that he is optimistic about the faith of the budding community.“This gives even more reason to look to St. Damien, who, by the grace of God, took on his problems with determination and only over time was able to achieve success little by little,” Father Kean said.

Honolulu cathedral celebration:
Bishop Silva marked the anniversary with Mass at 6 p.m. on Oct. 11 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace in Honolulu. About 100 people, including a few patients from Kalaupapa, attended the Monday evening liturgy.   “We are here to thank God for what happened a year ago today,” the bishop said in his homily. “Damien was made a saint — something people around the world knew for a long time.”

“Damien could’ve had a comfortable life in Belgium, but that would not be the freedom to which God called him,” the bishop said. “Freedom was traveling halfway around the world to these islands. He made himself a slave to Jesus to share a message that would last for generations.  “We were given the gift of this saint so we can free ourselves to do what might not seem to be free at all,” the bishop added.

The St. Damien choir and halau sang and performed Damien-inspired hymns and hula written for canonization-related events a year ago.  The Mass ended with a public veneration of a St. Damien relic, bone from the saint’s foot.

Meanwhile, on Molokai:
Maria Sullivan, a parishioner and the special project manager of St. Damien Parish on Molokai, said that St. Damien was remembered with special prayers on Sunday, Oct. 10.  The parish, on topside Molokai, is comprised of three churches, two of which were originally built by Father Damien.  Sullivan said a special collection was taken up on Sunday at each of the Masses to raise money for the preservation of the tiny St. Joseph Church in Kamalo, which Father Damien built in 1876.

Molokai’s Catholic community also has been progressing in its efforts in building a new St. Damien Church, which will replace Kaunakakai’s St. Sophia Church which fire destroyed earlier this year. A contractor has already been selected for the project.  Sullivan said that Sacred Hearts Father Lane Akiona celebrated a special canonization anniversary Mass in Kalaupapa.
By Darlene J. M. Dela Cruz |
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.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Looking back one year

Hawaiian Catholic Herald: How time flies. Oct. 11 is the one year anniversary of the canonization of Father Damien of Molokai in Rome by Pope Benedict XVI. Bishop Larry Silva will celebrate with a Mass in the cathedral at 6 p.m.

Father Felix's selfless service was a testament to his faith

Father Felix Vandebroek worked at many different churches during his 50 years in Hawaii, and was assigned to Kalaupapa in 2007. Here, Vandebroek visited Father Damien's grave with Audrey Toguchi, left, and Sister Margaret Wouters, a Belgian nun.
Star Advertiser: Sept. 19th 2010: A crowd of people poured out of the yellow Yamaguchi school bus and surged into the church like the tide. They rented the bus to take them from Waialua all the way to Kaimuki on a Thursday evening to attend the funeral of their beloved priest. Some people flew in for the funeral from Kauai, because he was their beloved priest for 24 years. For the last several years, he was Kalaupapa's humble, sturdy priest, too.

Father Felix Vandebroek had a way of being at home wherever he was. He made dear friends everywhere he lived. When he was the priest at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Honokaa, he would ride a horse with the cowboys. When he was assigned to Kalaupapa, he asked friends to mail him nails -- hard to come by on the isolated peninsula -- so he could build things people needed. He worked at many different churches during his 50 years in Hawaii, and people never wanted to see him moved to another parish.

"Wherever he was assigned he would adhere himself wholeheartedly to his parish family," said Father Christopher Keahi, provincial of the Sacred Hearts Fathers in Hawaii, the order to which Vandebroek belonged. "I have never heard a disparaging remark from anyone, but rather praise and earnest pleas to allow him to be with them throughout his priestly life."

Vandebroek died Aug. 28. He was 82 and had been a priest for 56 years. At the funeral Mass for him at St. Patrick Church in Kaimuki on Sept. 9, the church was full of people who came to say goodbye still wearing their work jeans and T-shirts. There was a procession of priests and brothers from his order, the Knights of Columbus in their regalia, the Bishop, the busload from Waialua and wiggly children he had baptized as newborns.

That was the one thing that saddened him about his time in Kalaupapa. Children are not allowed in the former Hansen's disease colony. "There are no children, so no baptisms, catechism, or First Communion," Vandebroek wrote in his 2008 Christmas letter to friends. "I say morning Mass at 5 a.m. Two people. And a Sunday Mass at 9 a.m. Ten people."

Otherwise, it was a dream come true for the Belgian-born priest to serve where his countryman Father Damien de Veuster served more than 100 years ago. Vandebroek was worried that at almost 80 years old, he was going to be asked to retire. He was not the kind of man who looked forward to retirement. Instead, in 2007, he was given the Kalaupapa assignment, and it was he who led the congregation through the excitement of Damien's canonization. He didn't travel to Belgium for the ceremony, preferring to stay behind on Molokai with those who couldn't make the trip.

"It has been hectic days. Interviews with journalists, TV crews, bringing them back and forth between Kalaupapa and Kalawao," he reported to his friends. He also served in churches in Waianae, Hana and Wailuku, but his longest assignment was 24 years at St. Raphael in Koloa, Kauai from 1979 to 2003. "He baptized, married and buried countless parishioners and visitors from all over the world," said Lori Parsonson, who served as his church bookkeeper for 17 years. "Sunday morning Masses were standing room only."

Vandebroek was at St. Raphael during Hurricane Iniki and oversaw the rebuilding of the church. As part of his many fundraising efforts, Vandebroek went on a daily walk around the church yard, which was once quite isolated but is now adjacent to a golf course. He collected stray golf balls every morning, asked his parishioners to wipe them, and sold them after Mass 10 for $1 in what he called a "Lil Grass Shack" along with local papaya, oranges and bananas. The tourists thought it was the most darling thing. "When Father Felix was transferred from St. Raphael's, not only was the rebuilding debt paid off, he left the parish with $305,000 in savings," Parsonson said.

Vandebroek was someone who could be counted on to help whether the need be prayers or Pampers. He kept Big Save Supermarket gift certificates on hand for those who needed food and diapers. He would go to the Koloa Pharmacy to pay for people's medicine or to the gas station to pay for people's fuel. "When Hurricane Iniki hit Kauai, Father Felix received checks totaling $45,000 in the mail from all over the world," Parsonson said. "He turned those checks into cash and immediately gave it to those local families in need. No committees, no paperwork. He just gave. So simple."

For an old-time kind of priest, the type not given to guitar Mass or websites, he navigated contemporary issues with great compassion. He never tsk-tsked at things like unwed parents or divorce, and would tell people, "God loves you. Be happy."

A memorial Mass is being planned for Father Felix at St. Raphael's Church in Koloa on Friday, Oct. 29, at 6:30 p.m. Vandebroek composed a simple prayer that he liked to share with people, a blessing that personified the idea of God:

May the eyes of the Lord watch over you,
May the feet of the Lord walk beside you,
And may the arms of the Lord encircle you in His everlasting love. Amen.

By Lee Cataluna

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.