Saint Watch: October 11th Canonizations

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October 11th Canonizations Pope Benedict XVI will canonize five this Sunday, two with special significance to American Catholics.

Hawaii is celebrating its first saint: Father Damien de Veuster served those with Hansen’s disease, better known as leprosy, who had been exiled to the rugged island of Molokai in the 1800s. Originally from Belgium, he spent 16 years there, building a community where there had been none and becoming a part of it when he contracted the disease himself. He died there in 1889.

A beloved figure in Hawaii, Father Damien was beatified in 1995. Pope Benedict approved Damien’s second miracle—a Hawaii woman was cured from cancer without treatment in 1999–in July 2008 and announced Damien’s canonization in February of this year.

A cure for Hansen’s disease was discovered in the 1940s, and Hawaii’s isolation laws were abolished in 1969. Still, many of the patients chose to stay in the Kalaupapa, now a National Park Service settlement. Read about life in Kalaupapa in an article from U.S. Catholic's archive: Another side of paradise .  

Along with a large contingent from the Archdiocese of Honolulu, a group of patients has traveled to Europe for the canonization. Keep up with the delegation at the Hawaii Catholic Herald’s blog

Though Father Damien might not be well known on the continental United States, Daniel Murphy, a young man from the mainland working as an intern at The Molokai Dispatch, writes about how the new saint can inspire all Catholics in Contagious spirit.

Another one of the newly canonized, Sister Jeanne Jugan never came to the United States, but the legacy of French founder of the Little Sisters of the Poor has extended around the world. Recognizing the needs of destitute, old women in the early 18th century, Jeanne began taking them in. Other young women joined her, and her movement grew into a network of houses for the poor elderly and a religious order. Today the Little Sisters of the Poor operate 202 homes worldwide (including 31 in North America), serving more than 13,000 seniors.

Jeanne dealt with more than her fair share of difficulties in performing her ministries. Her patience in the face of adversity, Joel Schorn writes in Humble piety, is the quality he most wants to cultivate.

Three others are being canonized on October 11. Spain gains two more saints: Rafael Arnaiz Baron (1911-1938), a Spanish Cistercian, and Francesc Coll y Guitart (1812-1875), a Spanish Dominican priest. Zygmunt Szczesny Felinski (1822- 1895), a Polish bishop, will also be canonized the same day.