Saint Damien statue blessed at St. John’s

Archbishop José Gomez and sculptor Dale Zarrella flank a statue of St. Damien of Molokai at St. John’s Seminary.

"Saint Damien with Leper Child," by sculptor Dale Zarrella, is the newest artistic addition to St. John’s Seminary, celebrating the life of the priest who ministered to lepers in Molokai, Hawaii.

Blessed recently by Archbishop José Gomez, the bronze statue — standing on a pedestal in the "cloister" near the seminary chapel — 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.

“Like Michelangelo's David looking toward the giant he is facing,” explained Zarrella, “Damien stands on the cliff looking toward the leper colony of Klawao, 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.”

In his sculpture, Zarrella said he sought to capture “both the humanness and saintliness of this extraordinary man in a beautiful celebration of his compassion, commitment and his love.”

Unlike most images of the saint, it depicts him as a young man, not yet disfigured by the disease which would take his life. He has his left hand on the figure of a shrouded child, symbolizing the hundreds of children and adult sufferers of Hanson's Disease to whom he ministered and clasped in his right hand, a Bible which would be his consolation.

“This image of the young Damien is a great inspiration to the young men being formed as priests, that they might follow his courageous example of sharing the Gospel with the poorest of the poor,” said Msgr. Marc Trudeau, St. John’s vice rector.

The statue and plinth on which the statue rests were donated by Scott and Lannette Turicchi, Chris and Laura Meissner, and Bill and Debra Shaw (Lanette, Chris and Bill are Seminary board members).


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Rev. Michael Kennedy, S.J.

I remember visiting the University of Central America (UCA) in El Salvador with Jesuit Fathers Paul Locatelli and Steve Privett in 1988 and speaking with Father Ignacio Ellacuria, the president of the university. Father Ellacuria used the word coyuntura countless times during our lengthy conversation.

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