Here’s something you don’t see every day — a New York Times editorial about a Catholic saint:

Damien de Veuster was a young missionary from the 19th-century Belgian countryside when he went to work at the leprosy settlement in Kalaupapa, a remote peninsula on the Hawaiian island of Molokai. Yet his approach was strikingly modern. He did not see the sick as “unclean” or afflicted for their sins. He dealt with them as fellow humans whose ailment was physical, not moral. They ate, sang and worked together for 15 years, until he died of the disease in 1889.

Father Damien is to be canonized as a Roman Catholic saint on Sunday. That is good news for his admirers worldwide. But beyond the celebrations, those with leprosy are longing for more. They are hoping that the attention for the world’s most famous leprosy advocate and patient hastens the progress they have made in escaping the fear, loathing and myths that have clung to this disease since biblical times.

There’s more about the efforts to raise awareness about this disease at the link.

And President Obama (who knows a thing or two about Hawaii, of course) released a statement of his own yesterday, honoring Fr. Damien and his work.

More from Beliefnet and our partners