When Congressional leaders, ambassadors and others gathered in a U.S. Senate hearing room to honor St. Damien de Veuster Nov. 19, Honolulu Bishop Larry Silva compared the work of the Belgian-born saint to that of public servants.
Bishop Silva noted that St. Damien — known for his work in Hawaii with victims of Hansen’s disease, or leprosy — was a healer, community organizer and advocate, builder, engineer, band leader and funeral director.
“He worked tirelessly for 16 years in a place most people would not even think of visiting for fear of being touched by the dread disease of leprosy,” Bishop Silva said. “Even when he himself contracted the disease, he went on working, never feeling sorry for himself or thinking of his own needs, because the needs of those he served were paramount in his mind and heart.”
The bishop said it was fitting that, for decades, a statue of the newly ordained saint had stood in the U.S. Capitol.
“His image reminds all who come here as public servants of the tireless dedication that is required of those who offer themselves to lead the people as legislators,” he said. “The tasks and issues here are at least as complex and overwhelming as those that faced Father Damien. His statue reminds our public servants to keep going and to never lose hope, even when they seem to be overwhelmed and discouraged. His heroism inspires a similar heroic service in all of us.”