Not who some may think. Though he’s involved in this story, too.

“One week ago, on Rosary Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI canonized Father
Damien, known as “the Apostle of the Lepers” and the “leper priest.”

“Father Damien de Veuster is Hawaii’s first Saint.

“Born in Belgium, Saint Damien ministered to those with leprosy quarantined on Hawaii’s island of Molokai.”

So he’s long been known as Fr. Damien of Molokai. Known to a young
Barack Obama as well, who grew up in Hawaii. Which may in large part
explain his decision to send a delegation to Belgium to attend a Mass
of Thanksgiving for this recognition of St. Damien as a servant to the
most needy.

“President Obama issued a statement expressing his “deep admiration
for the life of Blessed Damien de Veuster…I also want to convey my best
wishes to the Kingdom of Belgium and its people, who are proud to count
Fr. Damien among their great citizens. 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 suffering from
leprosy who had been cast out.’

Continued the president, “Following in the steps of Jesus’ ministry
to the lepers, Fr. Damien challenged the stigmatizing effects of
disease, giving voice to the voiceless and ultimately sacrificing his
own life to bring dignity to so many. 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. I offer my
prayers as people of all faiths join the Holy Father and millions of
Catholics around the world in celebrating Fr. Damien’s extraordinary
life and witness.”

This is a good move and a sincere gesture by the president, to honor
a saint who ‘gave voice to the voiceless’ and ‘brought dignity to those
who had been cast out.’ Deeply appreciated.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....