Sanctification of Father Damien, Saint Damien of Molokai
Missionary is only the 9th American and the First Hawaiian to Achieve Sainthood
On Oct. 11, 2009 more than 20,000 people were in Rome as Pope Benedict XVI canonized Father Damien de Veuster. Attending were Belgium's King Albert and Queen Paola, the Prime Minister, Hawaii’s Senator Daniel Akaka, the U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican, Hawaii's Lieutenant Governor, and more than 550 others who made the 12,000 mile trip from Hawaii,showing the appeal of a man who has been called a “modern hero.”
A 2005 poll in Belgium named him the “greatest Belgian of all time.” In Hawaii, where he was sent as a missionary at age 33 and where he died 16 years later of Hansen's disease, there is a statue honoring him on the steps of the State Capitol building, and schools and chapels bearing his name. Damien Centers and Damien Ministries worldwide tend to people with HIV and AIDS. He is seen as a symbol of how society should treat those afflicted.
President Obama, who grew up in Hawaii, remarked “Fr. Damien has also earned a special place in the hearts of Hawaiians. I recall many stories from my youth about his tireless work there to care for those … who had been cast out. In our own time as millions around the world suffer from disease, especially the pandemic of HIV/AIDS, we should draw on the example of Fr. Damien’s resolve in answering the urgent call to heal and care for the sick.”
Belgium’s is honoring St. Damien with a €20 silver legal tender coin. Flanking his bust are his home in Tremelo, Belgium and the church he built in the Kalaupapa leper colony on the island of Molokai. This is the only instance of a Hawaiian name appearing on a European coin.
The Finance Ministry is giving the net profits from the sale of the coin to the Damien Actie, a non-governmental organization, established in 1964, mainly concerned with people with Hansen's disease and tuberculosis.
Face Value: €20
Diameter: 37 mm (1½”)
Weight: 22.85 gm.
Max. Mintage: 15,000