By Steve Uyehara
MOLOKAI (HAWAII NEWS NOW) - The newly-named Saint Damien returned to Kalaupapa Saturday in physical form.
His relic, a piece of his heel, made its way into the peninsula after being buried in Belgium for 73 years.
The relic made stops on all the islands so Hawaii's faithful could pay their respects. But this was different. This was home.
A group of 12 people made up of Molokai residents and two Damien Memorial School students carried the sacred remains down the Kalaupapa trail into his hometown.
"I have no words to express how it feels to hold the relic, and in honor of our school, like I said, yeah it's such an honor for our school," said a Molokai resident.
From there it was placed in a koa box, and transferred to St. Philomena's, the church Saint Damien rebuilt.
It was completely renovated and opened just in time for this event.
The relic sat front and center as Belgian Cardinal Godfried Daniels presided over mass.
"Gave the cup to his disciples and said, 'take this all of you and drink from it,'" said Cardinal Daniels.
That chalice is the very chalice Father Damien used during his time on the peninsula.
And his people, the patients of Hansen's disease, were happy to have him home.
"I feel like today Father Damien is right over here with us," said Meli Watanuki, a Hansen's disease patient. "But this time we was looking forward to this 'time and now he come back to us."
"I feel he never left here because he's tied to us and we're tied to him," asid Audrey Toguchi, Father Damien's miracle woman. "But he did go holo holo and then he came right back home again."
"This is his place, so yeah, this is home for him," said Pauline Chow, a Hansen's disease patient. "Maybe home in the islands, but this is it."
Granted, the relic just stopped by for the day, but Kalaupapa already has its own relic -- his hand was buried there in 1995.
"His presence is always here with us," said Norbert Palea, a Hansen's disease patient. "So even if they take his body it's just the body. But his spirit lives on in Kalaupapa.
On Sunday, the relic will make its way back to Oahu, where it will be laid to rest at the Cathedral of our Lady of Peace.