Father Damien celebrated in his childhood home

Damien Eraly
Damien Eraly

By Roger Mari - bio | email

TREMELO, BELGIUM (KHNL) - In a few days, the Pope will canonize Father Damien into sainthood.

While Father Damien's humanitarian work is remembered in Kalaupapa, he is being celebrated in the town where his life began.

About two thousand people made the trip out to Tremelo, the town where he spent the first 18 years of his life. Banners on nearly every house show the celebrity status Father Damien has reached and are a testament to the impact he's made in this quaint town in northeast Belgium.

The festival celebrating the evocation of Father Damien begins with a special mass which includes inspiring words from Audrey Toguchi, the Aiea woman responsible for bringing Father Damien to sainthood.

She believes prayers to Father Damien are what miraculously cured her lung cancer. Groups of Belgian children were also part of the ceremony which included a skit with children dressed up as orphans being cared for by a man who is a decadent of Father Damien.

"It's very important, that I play in the things of Father Damien, and it makes me so happy to see all the people here in Tremelo and Hawaii," said Father Damien's Great Grand Nephew, Damien Eraly.

After the service a statue of Damien is unveild on the grounds of his child-hood home.

Dozens gather around to sing and pray as a koa wood bowl is placed near the statue.

The all day event continues at another site in this small farming community, with a 30-member halau sharing the Hawaiian culture in front of a packed tent.

At dusk, festivities conclude with a tour of Father Damien's home which is now a museum, housing his pipes, walking stick and an altar of the Holy Mary he built for his church in Kalawao.