Dr C. S. Seow (left) and Father Suyono Gerardus, assistant priest of Blessed Sacrament Church, at the talk on leprosy. Photo by Ian Carnegie

SINGAPORE – Blessed Sacrament Church is organising a series of talks and activities to celebrate the canonisation of Blessed Damien of Molokai.

The first talk, “Leprosy and how it affects us in today’s society” was delivered by Dr C. S. Seow on Sep 11. Some 60 persons attended and learned that leprosy is curable. There are drugs that can cure leprosy within months, and some even in weeks. Hence, deformity as a result of leprosy is rare in Singapore.

It is caused by Mycobacterium leprae and the disease can be progressive, causing permanent damage to the skin, nerve, limbs and eyes when left untreated, but does not cause death. The victims do not feel pain.

Here, leprosy is treated at the National Skin Centre. From 1951 to 2009, there were a total of 8,300 people registered with leprosy in Singapore. Presently there are an estimated 300 leprosy patients, of whom 50 require care.

Dr Seow is the president of the Singapore Leprosy Relief Association, which runs a home that provides aid to persons suffering from leprosy and other chronic diseases. The association runs an outreach programme and pubic education on leprosy, and trains workers who care for lepers.

The conditions lepers lived in were much more difficult during the time of Blessed Damien. Lepers then were physically disabled, had ugly deformities and were shunned by society because leprosy was infectious. To prevent the spread of leprosy, the victims were forced to stay in isolated colonies, not allowed to marry, and were known as the “living dead”.

Father Damien De Veuster, a Belgian-born member of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, went to Hawaii in 1864 and served there for eight years. When a priest was needed for the leprosy settlement on the island of Molokai in 1873, he volunteered.

At Molokai, he served as pastor, doctor, adviser and guardian to the approximately 800 residents suffering from leprosy. He later won permission to minister permanently at the settlement and eventually founded two orphanages there.

Blessed Damien died there five years after contracting leprosy. He continued to work until a month before his death.

He died in 1889 and was beatified in 1995.

Upcoming events at Blessed Sacrament Church

? On Sep 18, Father David Garcia, OP, will be giving a talk titled “Social Justice and the Poor”, followed by the talk titled “The Mission of Christ to the Poor” by Jesuit Father Colin Tan on Sep 25.

? On Oct 3, there will be a “Light of the World” evening organised in conjunction with the Mid-Autumn Festival. A Lantern Walk and Children’s Day Mass will be held at 6.00pm. On Sunday, Oct 4, the Filipino, Indonesian, and Peranakan communities of the parish will hold a Cultural Night at 7.30pm.

? On Oct 5, the movie “Molokai – The Story of Father Damien” will be screened at GV Vivocity at 3.30pm for students. In the evening, a Social Night will be held by Alpha at 7.30pm. Screening of the movie for the general audience will be on Oct 10 at 10.00am.

? On Oct 6, Mandarin Mass will be celebrated by Father Frans de Ridder at 7.30pm. This will be followed by a Father Damien play (in Mandarin).

? From Oct 7-9, a Triduum will be held from 8.00pm in the church hall. The celebrant will be Father Frans de Ridder.

? On Oct 10, a musical play on Father Damien will be held at 8.30pm, followed by intercessory prayer session at 9.30pm, and silent adoration of the Blessed Sacrament from 10.30pm to midnight in the church hall.

? On Oct 11, a Celebration Mass will be held at 5.30pm in church, and the Father Damien statue will be unveiled. The celebration dinner will follow at 7.30pm.

For more details, please refer to the parish website at www.bsc.org.sg.

By Patricia Ang

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