A small Catholic parish in Southwest Australia will name itself after St. Damien of Molokai on Sunday.
The parish church of Dawesville in the Diocese of Bunbury will dedicate itself to the patronage of St. Damien on Jan. 22 at 10 a.m., exactly six years after it was founded.
The church cites St. Damien as an intercessor for patients with leprosy and, more recently, HIV and AIDS. The Vatican’s liturgical program for the 2009 canonization described St. Damien as a voice for “rejected people of all kinds: the incurably ill (victims of AIDS or other diseases), abandoned children, disoriented youths, exploited women, neglected elderly people and oppressed minorities.”
St. Damien was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in October 2009. During the ceremony Pope Benedict said St. Damien, “felt at home” as “a leper with the lepers” during the final years of his life.
“He invites us to open our eyes toward the ‘leprosies’ that disfigure the humanity of our brothers and sisters and that today still call, more than for our generosity, for the charity of our serving presence,” the pope said at the time.
Father Leon Russell has been the priest in Dawesville since it was founded in 2005.
The church has its own school, the Dawesville Catholic Primary School, which started with only 68 students and today enrolls 506 students from kindergarten through seventh grade. The school has one rule – respect. The school says that this rule, “permeates into all aspects of our school culture.”
There are plans currently underway to build a new church in Dawesville.