Sunday, January 29, 2012

Artist sculpts St. Damien statue for Pahoa church

HILO, Hawaii (AP) — A sculptor on the island of Hawaii is creating a life-size statue of St. Damien for the Sacred Heart Church in Pahoa, located in the district where the venerated Roman Catholic priest first worked after being ordained in 1864.

William McKnight is chiseling a 7-ton basalt boulder into a statue depicting a 5-foot-10, 210-pound Damien topped by his signature hat. The sculpture will show Damien extending his hand to help people.

The base will feature Hawaii Island's main volcanoes, which also are meant to represent the Trinity, along with water symbolizing Damien's crossing to Molokai, McKnight said.

Damien was just 24 when he arrived in Puna, his first parish. Church records show he baptized nearly 100 people and performed seven marriages in the few months before he moved north to minister to people in Kohala and Hamakua.

The priest is best known and honored for work he did after moving to isolated peninsula of Kalaupapa on Molokai, where he cared for exiled leprosy patients in the mid-1800s when no one else would. He contracted leprosy 12 years after he arrived, and died of the disease four years later in 1889.

The Vatican canonized Belgian-born Joseph de Veuster, or Father Damien, in 2009.

A dedication ceremony will be held in March to coincide with the arrival of Bishop Larry Silva, who heads the Diocese of Honolulu.
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