St. Damien Mass at Cathedral Offered for Covid Victims  

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A Mass that invoked the intercession of St. Damien De Veuster of Molokai on his feast day was celebrated at St. Patrick’s Cathedral for the healing of all those affected by Covid-19.

Msgr. Robert Ritchie, cathedral rector, served as principal celebrant and homilist at the May 10 Mass. “May people be cured, and people return to their jobs and their life as it was before this terrible pandemic,” he said at the beginning of the liturgy. 

The Mass was sponsored by the archdiocesan Adult Faith Formation Office, which is directed by Elizabeth Guevara de Gonzalez.

In his homily, Msgr. Ritchie described “Father Damien” as “an example of a hero in action” who offered his priesthood to people that most of the world had abandoned, namely lepers in Hawaii.

“So on this day we remember St. Damien and ask God to always help us be aware, especially those who are marginalized,” said Msgr. Ritchie, who are most in need “not only of medicine but also of God’s love and God’s friendship and God’s blessing.”

St. Jozef Damien, SS.CC., born in Belgium in 1840, began his novitiate with the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in 1859 and took the name Damien. He prayed every day before a picture of St. Francis Xavier, patron of missionaries, to be sent on a mission. In 1863, his brother, who was to leave for a mission in the Hawaiian Islands, fell ill. Damien then obtained permission from the superior general to take his brother’s place. He landed in Honolulu in March 1864 and was ordained to the priesthood the following May. In spite of the risk of contracting leprosy, then thought to be an incurable disease, Father Damien stayed in Molokai for 16 years, ministering to those afflicted with the disease. Having contracted leprosy himself, he died in April 1889. He was canonized in 2009.

Nicolas C. Polet, director of public and academic affairs of the Delegation of Flanders to the United States, was among the attendees at the cathedral Mass. He spoke with CNY afterward.

“Our government,” Polet said of the Government of Flanders, specifically the northern Dutch-speaking sector of Belgium, “really wants to commemorate, to remember and to promote” St. Damien’s legacy “here in the United States. Our partnership with the Archdiocese and with St. Patrick’s Cathedral today is part of our ongoing efforts.”

The intercession of St. Marianne Cope, who served in Syracuse and, like St. Damien, later aided lepers in Hawaii, was also invoked at the cathedral Mass. (The Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities, the religious community of St. Marianne, has members who serve in the archdiocese.)

Sister Norise Kaiser, O.S.F., who is stationed in Syracuse, attended the cathedral Mass. She ministered in Hawaii, 1993-2013, and underscored the significance of the intercession of the two saints amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“The fact that they had no fear of the unknown and a disease that was as devastating, especially to the Hawaiian people,” speaks to their “trust in God and their going out and meeting the physical and spiritual and emotional needs of people…

“Our own St. Marianne Cope,” said Sister Norise, “was the one who insisted on people washing their hands and some of the measures that we are using now are things that she promoted back in the 1880s and ’60s.”’

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