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St. Damien relic touring Big Island through Friday

The Saint Damien relic at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Honokaa, Monday (Oct 19). Photography by Baron Sekiya for Hawaii 24/7.

The Saint Damien relic at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Honokaa Monday (Oct 19). Photography by Baron Sekiya for Hawaii 24/7.

Karin Stanton/Hawaii247 Contributing Editor

St. Damien’s relic will spend two more days touring the Big Island before heading off to Maui and and its final resting place at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace in Honolulu.

The tour around the Big Island included a stop Tuesday morning at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Hawi, where residents packed the pews for a chance to lay their hands on the koa box that holds bone from St. Damien’s foot.

“It’s history. This is a very special day,” said Elizabeth Kagimoto, 66 and a life-long Sacred Hearts parishioner. “You hear the stories and read about it in books and all that, but when it’s right here it’s more of a connection, a big honor.”

Kagimoto said rain fell all Monday night, keeping her awake.

“All night it was a blessing for us,” she said.

Deacon Tom Adams was in the motorcade that carried the relic, arriving at the church as rain continued to mist the parking lot.

“Oh my gosh, I’m getting goose pimples all over,” Kagimoto whispered. “He’s finally home.”

Adams said the day marked a true homecoming as Damien served as the pastor of the Kohala mission for eight years from 1865 until 1873, after being ordained a priest in Honolulu. The first Sacred Heart Church, however, was not built until 1905.

“This is huge for us because he actually walked these lands. He started in Puna and then traded places to move up here,” Adams said. “He went all over, riding his mule – even sometimes in a boat – to deliver the sacrament for the sick.”

Adams said the church had scheduled a full day of events at the church, including an afternoon Mass, evening Mass, children’s hour and rosary and prayers.

“Today we’re living history. This is a day for faith and a day to reflect on a real life hero,” Adams said. “He was a pretty amazing guy.”

A member of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, Damien volunteered in 1873 to work at the Hawaiian government’s leprosy colony on Molokai, where he served as pastor, doctor and counselor to some 800 patients.

In 1884 he contracted leprosy but, refusing to leave the island for treatment, continued to work until the month before his death at age 49 in 1889.

He originally was buried next to St. Philomena Church in Kalawao.

In 1936, the government of Belgium requested his body be returned to his native land. After the priest was beatified in 1995, the bones of his right hand came back to Hawaii and are now buried in his original grave site.

Following a Christian practice dating back to the catacombs, a part of St. Damien, a tarsal bone from his foot, has been given to the Catholics of Hawaii for custody and veneration.

It was unintentionally separated from the rest of the remains after a 1956 opening of Damien’s casket when his bones were catalogued and sealed in separate zinc boxes. The piece of foot bone was left out when the casket was resealed and stored in the Sacred Hearts Fathers archives in Belgium.

The small foot bone was secured in a tin box housed in a 15-inch-long wooden reliquary that is traveling from island to island in a larger case made of koa.

Pope Benedict XVI presented the first-class relic to Honolulu Bishop Larry Silva during the Belgian missionary’s canonization Oct. 11 in Rome.

First-class relics are part of the saint’s body – from bones to hair. Second-class relic are articles used by the saint – a chalice or a piece of clothing. Third-class relics are items that have touched a first-class relic but wasn’t used by the saint.

Big Island residents still have a few chances to view the relic this week, before he moves on to the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace, where Blessed Damien was ordained as a priest of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

The complete Big Island schedule is below.

Monday, October 19
Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Honokaa: 8 a.m. arrival; 8:30 a.m. Mass; 9:30‐11 a.m. public viewing.
Annunciation, Waimea: 5‐9 p.m. prayer service.

Tuesday, October 20
Sacred Heart, Hawi: 10 a.m. motorcade meets relic at the top of the mountain and rides through town with a stop at the hospital; 11:30 a.m. Mass; 3‐4 p.m. youth and children hour; 5 p.m. rosary and prayers with music; 7 p.m. Mass; 9 p.m. closing

Wednesday, October 21
St. Anthony, Laupahoehoe: 8‐10 a.m.
Sacred Heart, Naalehu, and Holy Rosary, Pahala: 1‐3 p.m.
St. Theresa, Mountain View: 4‐5:30 p.m.
Holy Rosary, Keaau: 6‐8 p.m.

Relic taken to Sacred Heart, Pahoa, for overnight stay.

Thursday, Oct. 22
Sacred Heart, Pahoa: 6 a.m.‐noon
Malia Puka O Kalani, Keaukaha: 1‐4 p.m.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, Papaikou: 6 p.m. arrival, 7 p.m. Mass with anointing of the sick

Relic stays overnight at Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Friday, Oct. 23
St. Joseph, Hilo: 8 a.m.‐9 p.m.; 6 p.m. Vicariate Mass

Saturday, October 24
Relic leaves Hilo on an 8:28 a.m. flight to Maui. Arrives in Kahului at 9:05 a.m.

— Find out more:…

Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Honokaa.

Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Honokaa.

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