(House of Representatives - October 14, 2009)

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[Pages H11319-H11321]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


  Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and agree 
to the resolution (H. Res. 786) commemorating the canonization of 
Father Damien de Veuster, SS.CC. to sainthood, as amended.
  The Clerk read the title of the resolution.
  The text of the resolution is as follows:

                              H. Res. 786

       Whereas Father Damien de Veuster, SS.CC. was born Joseph de 
     Veuster in Tremelo, Belgium, on January 3, 1840, and in 1859, 
     at age 19, he entered the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts 
     of Jesus and Mary in Louvain and selected Damien as his 
     religious name;
       Whereas in 1863, Father Damien received permission to 
     replace his ill brother, and sailed to the Hawaiian Islands 
     to perform missionary work;
       Whereas Father Damien arrived in Honolulu, Hawaii on March 
     19, 1864, was ordained to the priesthood at the Cathedral of 
     Our Lady of Peace on May 21, 1864, and began his pastoral 
     ministry on the island of Hawaii;
       Whereas the Hawaiian Government deported individuals 
     infected with leprosy, now also known as Hansen's disease, to 
     a peninsula on the island of Molokai, to prevent further 
     spread of the disease, and Bishop Louis Maigret, SS.CC. 
     sought the help of Father Damien and other priests to provide 
     spiritual assistance for the sufferers of Hansen's disease;
       Whereas several priests volunteered to work on Molokai for 
     a few months, but Father Damien requested to remain 
     permanently with the individuals suffering from Hansen's 
     disease, and was among the first to leave for the island of 
     Molokai on May 10, 1873;
       Whereas for 16 years, Father Damien served as a voice of 
     hope and a source of consolation and encouragement for the 
     individuals afflicted with Hansen's disease;
       Whereas working together, Father Damien and the people 
     isolated on the Kalaupapa peninsula accomplished remarkable 
     achievements, including building houses and hospitals, taking 
     care of the patients' spiritual and physical needs, building 
     6 chapels, constructing a home for boys and a home for girls, 
     and burying the hundreds who died during his years on the 
     island of Molokai;
       Whereas Father Damien died on April 15, 1889, after 
     contracting Hansen's disease, and his remains were 
     transferred to Belgium in 1936, where he was interred in the 
     crypt of the church of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts 
     at Louvain;
       Whereas in 1938, the process for beatification for Father 
     Damien was introduced at Malines, Belgium;
       Whereas in April 1965, the Legislature of the State of 
     Hawaii selected Father Damien as the first of its two 
     selections for the National Statuary Hall Collection in the 
     U.S. Capitol;
       Whereas, on April 15, 1969, a statue of Father Damien and a 
     statue of King Kamehameha I, gifts from the State of Hawaii, 
     were unveiled at the Capitol Rotunda;
       Whereas, on July 7, 1977, Pope Paul VI declared Father 
     Damien ``venerable'', the first of 3 steps that lead to 
       Whereas, on June 4, 1995, Pope John Paul II declared Father 
     Damien ``Blessed Damien'', and his feast is on May 10, the 
     day Father Damien first entered the island of Molokai; and

[[Page H11320]]

       Whereas Father Damien will be canonized a saint on October 
     11, 2009, by Pope Benedict XVI: Now, therefore, be it
       Resolved, That the House of Representatives honors and 
     praises Father Damien for his legacy, work, service, and his 
     insistence on recognizing the human rights and dignity of 
     every individual, particularly those who lived alongside him 
     at the Hansen's disease settlement on the island of Molokai.

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from 
American Samoa (Mr. Faleomavaega) and the gentlewoman from Florida (Ms. 
Ros-Lehtinen) each will control 20 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from American Samoa.

                             General Leave

  Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all 
Members may have 5 legislative days to revise and extend their remarks 
and include extraneous material on the resolution under consideration.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentleman from American Samoa?
  There was no objection.
  Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of this 
resolution and yield myself such time as I may consume.
  Mr. Speaker, this resolution commemorates the canonization of Father 
Damien de Veuster for his selfless works ministering to those suffering 
from Hansen's disease, also known as leprosy, on the Hawaiian island of 
Molokai. I would also like to thank my good friend Ms. Hirono from the 
State of Hawaii for sponsoring and authoring this resolution and for 
working to ensure that Father Damien's legacy is never forgotten.
  Many of us here and our colleagues who walk the Halls of the Congress 
have oftentimes passed by the distinctive statue of Father Damien in 
the Capitol, yet few of us understood that this was a man who 
essentially gave his life in order to help others.
  In 1863, at the age of 23, Father Damien left his home in Belgium, 
sailing to Hawaii to perform missionary work. At that time, the 
Hawaiian Government deported those who had contracted Hansen's disease 
to a place called Kalaupapa on the island of Molokai to prevent the 
spread of the disease. Though he was aware of the risks of contracting 
leprosy, Father Damien decided to move to Molokai permanently in order 
to be with those who suffered there.
  Isolated from society on the Kalaupapa peninsula on the island of 
Molokai, Father Damien and those to whom he ministered had many 
remarkable achievements: building schools and hospitals, constructing 
churches and homes, and attending to the spiritual and physical needs 
of those suffering from Hansen's disease, or leprosy.
  For 16 years, Father Damien served as a voice of hope and a source of 
consolation and encouragement for individuals afflicted with Hansen's 
disease, until he died on April 15, 1889, after contracting the disease 
  In 1977, recognizing his life of good works and the sacrifice he made 
in helping others, Pope Paul VI began the process that would ultimately 
lead to sainthood for Father Damien.
  Mr. Speaker, just last Sunday, Father Damien was finally canonized as 
a saint by Pope Benedict XVI.
  I urge all my colleagues to honor the life and accomplishments of 
Father Damien and his legacy of self-sacrifice by supporting this 
  Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may 
  Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this resolution commemorating the 
canonization of Father Damien on Sunday, October 11, by Pope Benedict 
XVI. I thank Ms. Hirono and the Hawaiian delegation for introducing 
this resolution honoring a true American hero.
  When Father Damien first arrived in Hawaii as a missionary in 1864, 
he was only 24 years old. After the Hawaiian Government ordered the 
quarantine of those affected with leprosy to a settlement on the island 
of Molokai, Father Damien volunteered to go minister to their care.
  The Catholic bishop introduced Father Damien to his new 816 
parishioners in the year 1873 as ``one who will be a father to you, and 
one who loves you so much that he does not hesitate to become one of 
you, to live and die with you.''
  While Father Damien's first action was to build a church, he did not 
limit his role to that of a priest. He dressed ulcers, built homes and 
beds, built coffins and dug graves. Father Damien's arrival was a 
turning point for the disease-afflicted community, which, given new 
hope, built homes instead of shacks, constructed new schools and 
organized working farms.
  Father Damien contracted the disease as a result of this ministry and 
died at the age of 49 on April 15, 1889, a date still commemorated in 
  No less an authority than Mahatma Gandhi wrote the following 
concerning Father Damien: ``The political and journalistic world can 
boast of very few heroes who compare with Father Damien of Molokai. It 
is worthwhile to look for those sources of such heroism.''
  Given his work with those who suffered from a disease which carried a 
social stigma, Father Damien has also become the unofficial patron of 
those afflicted with HIV/AIDS. The world's only Roman Catholic memorial 
chapel dedicated to those who have died of HIV/AIDS, located in 
Montreal, Canada, is consecrated to him.
  We in the Congress have long been aware of the deep affection felt by 
the people of the Aloha State for their adopted son. A statue of Father 
Damien was one of the two sent from the then-new State of Hawaii to be 
placed in the Nation's Capitol in 1965.
  We all fervently wish that this past Sunday's canonization of yet 
another American saint will bring blessings to our country at a time of 
economic uncertainty at home and perils abroad.
  I urge my colleagues to strongly support this resolution.
  Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 2 minutes.
  Mr. Speaker, years ago it was my privilege to have been invited by 
the famous native Hawaiian navigator Nainoa Thompson to be a member of 
the crew of the famous Hawaiian voyaging canoe Hokule`a. We sailed from 
Tahiti, and it took us about 27 days until finally we sighted the 
famous mountains of Mauna Kea.
  Part of our traveling along the Hawaiian chain of islands was that we 
also visited the famous peninsula called Kalaupapa on the island of 
Molokai where we visited and stayed there, resting before we went on to 
the island of Oahu. It was there, Mr. Speaker, that I saw the legacy of 
Father Damien's work in dealing with the native Hawaiian people, or 
anybody who contracted leprosy who was sent to that island to remain 
there for the rest of their lives.
  The unfortunate stories that I have heard in the treatment of these 
people is that they were just dropped off, not even on the wharf. They 
were just simply taken there, and they had to swim to the islands in 
order to get there. What a terrible way of treating those people that 
were screened or realized that they had Hansen's disease.
  But I just wanted to describe the memory of seeing the school and the 
grave sites and the little community that was built, for which Father 
Damien was very responsible in helping those who were in need and the 
people who contracted Hansen's disease on the island of Molokai on this 
particular peninsula, the beautiful, beautiful peninsula of Kalaupapa, 
very, very historical; and I know this is true also to our native 
Hawaiian community.
  Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to my good friend, the distinguished 
author of this legislation, the gentlewoman from Hawaii (Ms. Hirono).
  Ms. HIRONO. Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my friends, the 
gentleman from American Samoa and the gentlelady from Florida, for 
their kind remarks in support of this resolution.
  I rise today in support of my resolution commemorating the 
canonization of Father Damien, a member of the congregation of the 
Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, to sainthood this past Sunday, October 
11, 2009.
  We can all celebrate the life of St. Damien, a man who put his faith 
and principles into action in the service of a group of people who 
suffered not only the physical effects of leprosy, now known as 
Hansen's disease, but also from the terrible stigma associated with the 

[[Page H11321]]

                              {time}  1215

  Father Damien is recognized for his 16 years of selfless service to 
the people who were forcibly isolated on the peninsula of Kalaupapa, on 
the island of Molokai, Hawaii, because they were diagnosed with 
Hansen's disease. Living among the people of Kalaupapa from 1873 to 
1889, he eventually contracted the disease, ultimately died from its 
effects, and was buried on Molokai.
  The policy of exiling persons with the disease that was then known as 
leprosy began under the Kingdom of Hawaii and continued under the 
governments of the Republic of Hawaii, the Territory of Hawaii and the 
State of Hawaii. Children, mothers and fathers were forcibly separated 
and sent to Kalaupapa, which for most of its history could only be 
accessed by water or via a steep mule trail. Children born to parents 
at Kalaupapa were taken away from their mothers and sent to orphanages 
or to other family members outside Kalaupapa. Hawaii's isolation laws 
for people with Hansen's disease were not repealed until 1969, even 
though medications to control the disease have been available since the 
late 1940s.
  I believe that all people, regardless of their religious beliefs, can 
recognize truly extraordinary persons who give of themselves without 
reserve for the betterment of their fellow human beings. Father Damien 
was surely such a person. No sickness was as feared as leprosy in the 
late 1800s, but he volunteered to serve at Kalaupapa and requested to 
stay there in order to serve those who were most shunned. He recognized 
the human rights and inherent dignity of all people, especially those 
he lived alongside at Kalaupapa.
  Father Damien worked with the people of Kalaupapa to improve their 
living conditions. A skilled carpenter, he led in the building of 
houses and hospitals, six chapels, a home for boys and a home for 
girls. At the same time, he ministered to the spiritual and physical 
needs of his parishioners and helped to bury the hundreds who died 
during his years there.
  It is noteworthy that shortly after Hawaii became a State, Father 
Damien was the first selection of the State legislature to be 
memorialized in a statue as part of the National Statuary Hall in 
Washington, DC. Despite the fact that he was not born in Hawaii and 
lived so long ago, Hawaii's people recognize that his life embodied the 
true spirit of aloha, which means, love, compassion, mercy, grace, and 
malama, which means to care for.
  Last week in Louvain, Belgium, prior to the canonization, some 400 
Hawaii residents, including 11 former Hansen's disease patients from 
Kalaupapa, attended a mass with the King and Queen of Belgium near St. 
Damien's birthplace. Addressing those who came all the way from Hawaii, 
Cardinal Danneels, a native of Belgium said, ``We gave life to Father 
Damien. You gave him back as a saint. We thank you.''
  I have visited Father Damien's grave at Kalawao on the Kalaupapa 
peninsula, and as you can see by this photo that was taken when I 
visited Kalaupapa, it seems almost unreal. It is a beautiful place 
where tremendous suffering took place, but also a place imbued with 
great spiritual feeling. Father Damien's grave site is marked on this 
photo in the far left.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentlewoman has expired.
  Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. I yield the gentlewoman an additional 1 minute.
  Ms. HIRONO. I hope that you will have the opportunity to visit 
Kalaupapa at some point in your lives. I know that you will be deeply 
moved, as I was, by the example of this man, this saint, as well as by 
the courage and perseverance of the people he dedicated his life to 
  Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, we have no further requests for time, 
and I yield back the balance of our time.
  Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. I would like to ask just a couple more minutes to 
say I want to share with my colleagues another beautiful story, a 
legacy of Father Damien. This is a story about a native Hawaiian leader 
by the name of Jonathan Napela. And when this Hawaiian leader found out 
that his wife had contracted Hansen's disease, he went with her to 
Kalaupapa, lived with her throughout the rest of his life, and he also 
contracted Hansen's disease because of the love that he had for his 
wife, and they lived there, working with Father Damien and other 
leaders there in this little community of Kalaupapa.
  And I just wanted to note that for the Record. This famous native 
Hawaiian leader by the name of Jonathan Napela also was a beautiful 
story of how much he was able to help the community there in Kalaupapa 
and the island of Molokai.
  Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to support H. Res. 786 in 
commemorating the canonization of Father Damien de Veuster to 
  The canonization of Father Damien completes his ascension to 
sainthood and gives universal veneration to a life of extraordinary 
commitment, charity, and faith. It has been more than 120 years since 
his death on the Kalaupapa Peninsula on the island of Molokai, but 
Father Damien's life continues to illuminate for all humankind the 
pathway of service to the needy.
  Father Damien's mission in life and the journey he took to fulfill it 
were inspired by a simple yet profound compassion, to recognize the 
human rights and dignity of every individual, particularly those who 
were cast aside to Kalaupapa. He challenged the orthodoxies of his own 
church and the government to provide the needed resources to care for 
Hansen's disease patients who had been banished to Kalaupapa--
attracting worldwide attention to his demonstration of humanity.
  He lived, worked, and died in geographic isolation with the people he 
cared for, but his timeless teachings and inspiration have reached a 
vast congregation that reaches around the world without regard to time 
and place. Father Damien's hope and devotion continue to strengthen all 
of us today, and his sainthood affirms this for eternity.
  I urge my colleagues to support this resolution and Father Damien's 
work and legacy, a timeless example of compassion and dedication.
  Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the motion offered by the 
gentleman from American Samoa (Mr. Faleomavaega) that the House suspend 
the rules and agree to the resolution, H. Res. 786, as amended.
  The question was taken.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. In the opinion of the Chair, two-thirds 
being in the affirmative, the ayes have it.
  Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Mr. Speaker, on that I demand the yeas and nays.
  The yeas and nays were ordered.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to clause 8 of rule XX and the 
Chair's prior announcement, further proceedings on this motion will be