Sunday, May 6, 2012

Priest to play role of Damien of Molokai

As Father Dan Brady talks about his upcoming portrayal of St. Damien of Molokai in three evening performances at St. Michael Church in Glen Allen, he quickly points out that he has long admired Damien who chose to evangelize to the lepers and eventually contracted leprosy himself.

The three performances will be on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, May 4, 5 and 6, at 7:30 p.m. in the sanctuary of the church to commemorate the 20th anniversary of St. Michael Parish. 

“Damien is one of three saints whose lives I would like to emulate,” Father Brady told The Catholic Virginian.  The other two saints are St. Francis of Assisi and St. Thomas More.

The one-man play “Fr. Damien of Molokai” is written by Aldyth Morris, former Editor-in-Chief of the University of Hawaii Press. The play is two acts with an intermission. The whole performance lasts a little less than two hours.

“I saw it on PBS in 1978 and it won the Peabody Award for PBS,” Father Brady said, adding the Peabody Award “is considered a somewhat prestigious honor.”  “It is very cleverly written,” he added. “It’s a brilliant script.”

The character of Damien and the script mean a lot to Father Brady who was ordained priest for the Diocese of Richmond in 1984. He entered priestly formation after working as a lawyer in his native New York.

“The last 22 words of the play summarize an important part of my attitude toward the priesthood,” Father Brady said. While Damien is the only character in the one-man play, he feels the audience will be captivated.

“There is dialogue with people you don’t see,” Father Brady explained. “There are times when he had to give a public confession to his religious superior who was on the main boat.

“Damien was still healthy and his superiors had asked him to leave the island voluntarily, but he was not going to yield.  He was going to stay there with his lepers no matter what.

“These scenes are pretty much documented by people who knew him or through his letters,” Father Brady continued.  One of the more poignant scenes, the priest feels, is the dialogue when Damien’s earthly remains are moved from Molokai to Belgium.  “I miss my lepers and that’s when he reflected on his past doubts and his worries,” Father Brady said.

Admission to the play is free, but there will be a free will offering, half of which will go to the St. Michael building campaign and the other half to the Archangel Fund which provides outreach to needy parishioners.
by Steve Neill of The Catholic Virginian
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