A Saint Damien sculpture created by a Maui man will receive a blessing from Pope Benedict XVI tomorrow in Rome.
The Maui News reported that artist Dale Zarrella, along with Honolulu Bishop Larry Silva and other high-ranking Hawaii clergy, are now traveling to the Vatican.
Zarrella’s three-foot tall, 90 pound replica of a young Saint Damien will receive the pontiff’s blessing Wednesday morning. The statue will become part of the Vatican collection. Zarrella says a second statue will be installed and blessed at a Vatican City seminary school.
Zarrella will be presenting the bronze sculptures as gifts from the Diocese of Honolulu and the people of Hawaii.
As described on Zarrella’s website, dalezarella.com, “Saint Damien with Leper Child” depicts Father Damien as he first arrives on the Kalaupapa peninsula.
“He is standing with an orphaned leper child, observing the loneliness and suffering of the many hundreds of outcasts who were abandoned there,” Zarrella writes. “Like Michelangelo’s David looking toward the giant he was facing, Damien stands on the cliff looking toward the leper colony of Kalawao, knowing in his heart that everything in his life to this moment has prepared him for the task of bringing comfort, hope and dignity to these unfortunate souls.”
The website goes on to explain that the sculpture, “captures both the humanness and saintliness of this extraordinary man in a beautiful celebration of his compassion, his commitment and his love.”
It was Oct. 11, 2009 that Father Damien de Veuster became Saint Damien. The Sacred Hearts priest spent 16 years ministering to the leprosy patients in Kalaupapa before succumbing to the disease himself in 1889.
While on Molokai, Saint Damien also built four churches topside, two of which are still standing. He built Our Lady of Seven Sorrows Church in Kaluaaha in 1874 and St. Joseph Church in Kamalo in 1876 along with the two churches built on the Kalaupapa peninsula.