DENNIS ODA / STAR-BULLETIN
Aiea's Audrey Toguchi said she was cured of cancer after praying to Father Damien at Kalaupapa, Molokai.
Aiea woman is excited for her saint in making
Faith affirmed among Damien's supporters
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An 80-year-old Aiea woman who was cured of a rare form of cancer after she prayed to Father Damien De Veuster is looking forward to attending the canonization of the Belgian priest.
"He has always been special to me," said Audrey Toguchi, who fully recovered from liposarcoma after she prayed to Father Damien. "From when I was a little kid, I used to hear stories about him. I grew up with people around me who talked about him a great deal."
Her recovery defied medical explanation. Yesterday, Pope Benedict XVI approved the miracle attributed to the intercession of the Belgian priest, who cared for leprosy patients in Kalaupapa, Molokai. A canonization date has yet to be set.
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For Audrey Toguchi the answer was simple.
"You gotta have faith," said the 80-year-old Aiea woman, who was cured of a rare form of cancer after she prayed to Father Damien De Veuster.
Canonization awaits for Damien now that Pope Benedict XVI has approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of the Belgian priest, who cared for leprosy patients in Kalaupapa. The pontiff agreed with the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints that Toguchi's recovery from her illness defied medical explanation.
Toguchi, a retired social studies teacher and granddaughter of a leprosy patient who had been banished to Molokai, said Damien is deserving of sainthood.
"He has always been special to me. From when I was a little kid, I used to hear stories about him. I grew up with people around me who talked about him a great deal," she said.
In 1997, Toguchi was diagnosed with liposarcoma, a cancer that arises in fat cells.
She underwent surgery a year later. A tumor the size of a fist was removed from the side of her left thigh and buttock. Unfortunately, the cancer spread to her lungs.
Her physician, Dr. Walter Chang, told her, "Nobody has ever survived this cancer. It's going to take you."
So she visited Damien's grave site with her two sisters and prayed to the priest, who died in 1889. "Please, please pray for me," she said.
DENNIS ODA / STAR-BULLETIN
Audrey Toguchi was cured of cancer after praying to Father Damien De Veuster at Kalaupapa, Molokai. The Catholic Church considers her recovery a miracle toward Damien's canonization. At her Aiea home yesterday, Toguchi shared photos of her trip to Kalaupapa.
A month later, Chang noticed the cancer was shrinking. In four months it was gone.
Chang, astonished, asked what she had done. She told him, adding, "You just gotta trust. You gotta have faith."
Toguchi said she plans to travel to Rome with her husband of more than 50 years, Yukio, and one of their two sons for the canonization. The date has yet to be set.
Others in the Roman Catholic community in Hawaii are also ecstatic.
"I think it's with great elation that we, who have been praying so hard and ardently for Father Damien's canonization, can breathe a sigh of relief," said the Rev. Christopher Keahi, head of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in Hawaii, of which Father Damien was a part. "Now we can look forward to the canonization in Rome."
Bernard Ho, president and chief executive officer of Damien Memorial School, said there is a lot of pride in Hawaii and in the Molokai community for all the work that Damien and Mother Marianne Cope did for leprosy patients.
Ho said they are looking into constructing a monument on the school grounds. Currently on display in the school's conference room is a wooden cross made by Damien. The Sacred Hearts order gave the cross to the school in the early 1970s.
Brother Greg O'Donnell, retired president and chief executive officer of Damien Memorial School, said the news is a "wonderful affirmation to the life of Father Damien and all that he stood for."
In a written statement provided by Patrick Downes, spokesman of the Honolulu diocese, Bishop Larry Silva said, "I really had been hoping and praying for Father Damien's canonization, not just an honor to him, but an opportunity for all of us to reflect on how the Lord calls each one of us to reach out to those in need and to express our faith in very concrete ways."
Father Felix Vandebroek of Kalaupapa said, "Everybody is excited. Things have been moving slowly but surely, but we're almost at the end of the process."