Dear Devotees and Generous Benefactors of the Sanctuary,

Today we celebrate the 5th Anniversary of St. Damien's Canonization. This great saint named his church in Hawaii after his favorite, Saint Philomena.

St. Damien of Molokai was a Belgium priest of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. In 1863 he was sent on a mission to the Hawaiian Islands, where he was not only the missionary of the natives, but also constructed several chapels with his own hands

There was a community of lepers (now known as Hansen’s Disease) officially isolated on Molokai and Fr. Damien volunteered to be their Chaplain. He committed himself to serve the physical and spiritual needs of this community. He won them over by his uncompromising zeal, manifested in all night vigils spent in the same room as those dying from deterioration to this disease. His care was not restricted to the Roman Catholics, all the patients received his attentions.

Fr. Damien also began to work on the decrepit chapel. This chapel was a symbol of the deteriorated flesh and spiritual fervor of those who inhabited the island. Fr. Damien contracted Hansen's Disease but he persevered and saw to the completion of the chapel he chose to dedicate to Saint Philomena.

In Saint Philomena, he found a youthful virgin who gave her flesh, not to the world, but to chains, buffets and the sword. The wounds she endured to preserve her soul for her Beloved mirrored the sores which plagued the flesh of his congregation. Saint Philomena's love for Jesus made her willing to accept death at a youthful age. Such actions would speak to the lepers who knew the pain of separated flesh and the loss of extremities; to those who feared the grave which called to them on a daily basis!

Saint Philomena! Yes, Saint Philomena's name and example would serve as balm for the wounds of their souls! Saint Philomena would shout to them that in the grave all men are decrepit and all flesh deteriorates, but the soul will live forever with the Lord in splendor as celestial beings! ...and the body will rise of the Last Day without blemish!

Saint Philomena’s church became a joyful, spirited place, despite the disease that surrounded it. Understanding the Hawaiian love of elaborate ceremony and music, Father Damien celebrated services there complete with grand processions and song. Serving as a member of the choir came to be viewed as a great honor by the patients. As more converts were made, the pews of the small wooden structure overflowed and by 1876, the "west wing" or "transept" was added to Saint Philomena to accommodate the growing congregation. Damien is also said to have painted the interior and exterior in a variety of bright colors to suit Hawaiian tastes.

This historic church, built in 1872, is the last structure on the peninsula which bears witness to Fr. Damien’s life and work in this "isolation colony" for those who suffered from Hansen’s disease. Today, about fourteen former sufferers of Hansen's Disease continue to live there. The colony is now part of Kalaupapa National Historical Park under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. It was around this building that Father Damien centered his all-inclusive ministry on Molokai. His grave site is next to his Saint Philomena Church.

Fr. Damien died of Hansen’s Disease on Molokai in April of 1889 and his body and those whom he served are now dust and ash, without a trace of that which plagued them in life; their contemporaries share the same faith. However, their souls now enjoyed the caress of God's Love and Presence for all eternity!

As we celebrate the life of this great saint, Canonized by Pope Benedict XVI October 11, 2009, Vatican City, I am sending you a blessing from the Altar of the Sacred Body of Saint Philomena,

Msgr. Giovanni Braschi
Rector of the Sanctuary of Saint Philomena
Custodian of her Sacred Body

Support the Sanctuary of Saint Philomena

The Sanctuary of Saint Philomena is not a parish Church. We do not have parishioners who support this place of worship on a weekly basis. We are completely dependent on the love and generosity of you, the world-wide devotees, to keep the doors of the earthly home of Saint Philomena open.

We pray at the Sanctuary for the devotees of Saint Philomena to recognize and provide the means to pay our monthly utilities of gas and electricity. We also pray for the means to install a lift at the Sanctuary to enable physically challenged pilgrims to experience the entire home of their beloved Saint.

In order to ensure the Sanctuary is able to keep our doors open to you and to continue to offer God continual praise and to be the focal point through which our prayers are received by Saint Philomena and interceded for before God at the Sanctuary, you may donate in the following ways:

  1. Direct to the Sanctuary:
    1. By personal check payable to the "Sanctuary of Saint Philomena." For security reasons, please send your donation through registered or express mail to the Sanctuary's address at the bottom of this newsletter.
    2. Online - Go to our Support Page, Click Here
    3. By bank transfer to the Sanctuary's Bank account: BANCA UNICREDIT MUGNANO DEL CARDINALE(30525) BANK ACCOUNT:N° 000400102946 SWIFT CODE:UNCRITM1E94 IBAN:IT18D0200875790000400102946
  2. U.S.A. Tax-Deductible Donations may be sent to the new non-profit set up in the United States:
    1. Online - Go to our Support Page, Click Here
    2. Postal mail donations can be made to: Saint Philomena Sanctuary Support Fund, Inc. P.O. Box 4114 Bergheim, Texas 78004, U.S.A.

Sanctuary of Saint Philomena
Piazza Umberto I
83027 Mugnano del Cardinale
Avellino, Italy
Tel: 0039 081 825 7204 Fax: 0039 081 511 2733
Rector, Msgr. Giovanni Braschi

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