Quantcast
StarBulletin.com

Pilgrim's pride


By

POSTED: Monday, October 05, 2009

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM » The tomb of Father Damien De Veuster in Louvain, Belgium, was the destination today for about 400 Hawaii pilgrims in Europe this week for the canonization of the 19th-century missionary to leprosy victims at Kalaupapa.

The islanders were a small segment of the crowds that celebrated Damien in his Belgian hometown yesterday, but they had a colorful impact on events that included a festive Mass and the Flemish version of a hoolaulea.

The morning Mass in a massive tent across from Damien's birthplace drew about 2,000 people.

More than 20,000 people streamed into the downtown area of Tremelo by late afternoon, where musicians offering jazz, rock, Cajun-country, rousing marches and classical symphonic music performed on stages scattered around the center of town.

The image of the hometown hero was everywhere as vendors sold Damien beer, cookies, candy, coffee, postcards, coin banks, T-shirts and postage stamps.

People strolled and stopped at stands selling beer, sausages, French fries and Belgian waffle stands.

Banners proclaiming “;Damiaan Inspireer”;—Damien inspires—were draped on most houses and businesses in the area.

;[Preview]  Father Damien celebrations kick off
 

With the canonization of Father Damien just one week away, celebrations have already begun in Damien's home country.

http://www.kitv.com/video/21201067/index.html”; target=”;_blank”;>Watch ]

 

Many islanders wore aloha shirts, T-shirts and muumuus depicting the famous priest, a bright touch among the Europeans wearing dark clothing under an overcast sky. It acted as an introduction as strangers from two sides of the globe struck up conversations.

Fresh green and purple orchid leis flown in with the Hawaii visitors two days earlier were draped on Cardinal Godfried Danneels, Honolulu Bishop Larry Silva and about 30 other priests by members of Keali'ika'apunihonua Ke'ena A'o Hula.

Belgian King Albert II and Queen Paola accepted maile and orchid leis from Leimomi Ho and Kauhane Aiu.

Before Mass a brief costumed enactment of the priest comforting people banished to Molokai featured Damien Eraly, whose grandmother called Damien “;Uncle Jef.”;

More than 100 people in the crowd at Mass were members of the De Veuster family. Eraly and his brother Joseph, Damien's great-grandnephews, have visited Molokai more than once.

“;We gladly suffer because we know that suffering helps us to endure,”; was a scriptural passage in the Mass, a touching moment as Kalaupapa resident Pauline Chow read the words from St. Paul's letter to the Romans. She is one of 11 former leprosy patients on the journey to Damien's sainthood celebration Sunday.

Aiea resident Audrey Toguchi was introduced to the crowd at the end of the Mass in a brief interview onstage.

“;It's an honor to be one of the chosen ones,”; she said, answering a question. “;He offers hope to everyone.”;

Toguchi's 1998 cure from terminal lung cancer is regarded as a miracle by the Catholic Church, attributable to Damien's intercession with God on her behalf.

Several people approached the grandmotherly woman during the day to ask for her prayers. She responded with a hug, a gesture that startled and warmed the friendly but reserved Europeans.

Oahu resident Val Ishii said, “;The most wonderful thing all day was the words of Cardinal Danneels.”;

The Belgian prelate addressed the Hawaii residents from the pulpit, saying, “;We gave life to Father Damien. You gave him back as a saint. We thank you.”;