Living in Pearl City for the past 40 years I have watched our community change as it has grown. Growing up in Pearl City, my friends and I would frequent restaurants like Bluebirds off of Kamehameha Highway after ball games to feast on the $1.25 teriyaki beef plates. Best deal in town. We were always aware that a few feet away sat Hale Mohalu Hansen’s disease Hospital. A place you never really talked about but knew it was there. Every now and then, you would see a patient moving through the community. I could see the happiness on their faces when someone would say hello instead turning the other way.
On Sunday, the canonization of Father Damien De Veuster to Sainthood will be celebrated at St. Peter’s Square in Rome amongst church and world leaders, dignitaries and special invited guests. There will also be a contingent of former Kalaupapa Hansen disease patients invited as well. These are the most important people in the life of Father Damien. They carry a direct connection to his heart and his compassion for the people of Kalaupapa stricken with Hansen’s disease.
It is reported as being a gala event planned for Sunday. In my opinion, I’m not sure Father Damien would really have enjoyed that type of reception into Sainthood.
Father Damien had the ability to smile with the residents of Kalaupapa while his physical being was rotting away with the disease. He is a testament to the strength and courage of one’s soul through kindness.
The history and connection Pearl City has to the work of Father Damien will never be forgotten. Survivors have always held him in their hearts as they struggled to lead normal lives. I will never forget their images and smiles.
We will be given the opportunity to officially pray to Saint Damien on Sunday. A prayer that those with a connection to Kalaupapa and Hansen’s disease have made a thousand times before.
Have a great weekend and hope to see you around Pearl City.
Mahalo Nui Loa,
Barry A. Villamil
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