Fr. Damien goes home


At Honolulu dignitaries representing Church and State boarded airplanes and a U. S. tug for the short trip to Kalaupapa. There, with a Japanese cameraman filming the proceedings and Honolulu Undertaker Jacob K. Ordenstein directing operations, nuns, clergy and officials stood by the grave, watched its concrete top cracked away, the plain coffin exhumed. Because there was no longer any danger of spreading Bacillus leprae, no need existed to sterilize Father Damien’s mouldering bones and dust, according to President Frederick E. Trotter of the Honolulu Board of Health. In an undersized, zinc-lined coffin of koa wood, the remains were flown back to Honolulu, where they lay in state. Aboard the U. S. Army transport Republic, the coffin was to be carried to Cristobal, C. Z., transferred to the Belgian schoolship Mercator, taken on to Antwerp. In Belgium the Fathers of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus & Mary, Father Damien’s order, have already set in motion the long, deliberate machinery by which the Roman Catholic Church canonizes saints. So insistent were pious Belgians, so sure that the presence of Father Damien’s dust in a proper shrine might work wonders, that King Leopold III personally wrote President Roosevelt last autumn, secured the U. S. Government’s help in taking Father Damien back to his native land.

-from the February 3, 1936 issue