Float shows aloha for Damien


POSTED: Friday, September 25, 2009

Young Catholics will turn out a thousand strong tomorrow—singing, dancing and marching to honor Father Damien DeVeuster—in the annual Aloha Festivals Floral Parade through Waikiki.

Damien will be declared a saint in Rome on Oct. 11 for dedicating his life to victims of leprosy ostracized on Molokai in the mid-1800s.

“;Father Damien is Hawaii's first saint,”; said Dominic Olaso, chairman of the Catholic Youth and Young Adults Ministries. “;That's a big honor for the Catholic Church and for us as a state. Hawaii has its own president (Barack Obama) and its own saint—that's something! It's a chance for the Catholic youth to be able to show their love for Father Damien.”;

Their specialty unit is made up of a float featuring a church Damien built at Kalaupapa; 800 marchers wearing blue shirts that represent “;their ocean of aloha”; for the Belgian priest; singers; 100 hula dancers; a marching band; and a color guard, Olaso said.

Charleston “;Chucky”; Unciano, a coordinator for Central Oahu youth, has been galvanizing Catholics from all over the state to donate some 10,000 white orchids and white anthuriums to cover the replica of Damien's St. Philomena Catholic Church.

“;We're having a hard time getting”; nonwilting white flowers, most of which are being flown with Big Island volunteers tonight, Unciano said. They will attach them tonight, along with about 500 red torch ginger and ti leaves for the roof, he added.

        When: 9 a.m. tomorrow
        Route: Kalakaua Avenue from Ala Moana Park to Kapiolani Park
        Information: 391-8714 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
        Parking: Waikiki Trade Center, $6 all day

“;This is my way of saying thank you to Father Damien. He's my inspiration as a servant of the people,”; Unciano said. “;We take a lot of pride in (someone) from Hawaii being recognized by our Holy Father, being canonized as a saint. A lot of people are putting a lot of pride into this and doing whatever little things they can do to help.”;

Youth adviser Mason Matsuda said he supervised the construction of the 5-by-8-by-9-foot wooden frame for the church with volunteer carpenters. The replica depicts only the front view of the church, which looks like a castle with one main cross in the front and four smaller crosses on each corner, Matsuda said.

Standing next to the church will be members portraying Damien (played by Micah Arellano of Oahu) and his key helpers, Mother Marianne Cope (Avery Soto of Kauai) and Brother Joseph Dutton (Joseph O'Connel of the Big Island), Olaso said.

St. Francis and Damien schools students make up the band and color guard, he said. The Hula Hui o Hawaii dancers, under Noelani Bento, are from all islands.