Tree planted by saint continues his good works
By Patrick Downes

.- With its wood, the tree honors the foot that pushed the shovel that planted it. Like many stories in Hawaii, the story of the box holding St. Damien’s relic, fragments of the saint’s foot bone, unfolds in many wonderful directions.

Telling it last week, with enthusiasm by phone from Makawao, Maui, was Edwin Ferreira.

It starts with a troupe of trees, seven or eight monkeypods that Father Damien planted to provide shade near the church he built in the late 1800s in Kaluaaha, Molokai.

That’s how Ferreira pictured it. “Our Lady of Seven Sorrows Church is in a hot and dry area,” he said.

A hundred years later, sometime in the 1980s, lightning struck one of the trees, killing it. It had to be cut down so it would not fall and damage the church.

Ferreira, whose job as construction supervisor for the phone company sent him to Molokai from time to time, knew the man who cut down the tree. He asked him if he could have some of the wood.

Ferreira took a 100-pound slab back to his home in Makawao. The lightning had damaged some of the wood, making it dry and porous, but toward the center of the thick trunk, it was dense and beautiful.

When Ferreira told his pastor, Sacred Hearts Father Joseph Hendriks, what he had, the priest asked the part-time craftsman, whom he had nicknamed Michelangelo, if he would make a display for a relic he had of Father Damien, a small lock of his hair. Ferreira did.

Several years later, after Father Damien was beatified, Ferreira discovered by chance that the envelope that had held the priest’s hair still contained a single strand hidden in one of the envelope’s creases.

He called Father Hendriks, who was then pastor of St. Francis Parish in Kalaupapa, to ask what he should do with it.

“Bring honor to Blessed Damien,” Father Hendriks told Ferreira.

So the Maui man took some of the wood and made a representation of the Kalaupapa peninsula and the Molokai cliffs. He then placed in the display a foot-high cross in which he imbedded a gold reliquary holding Damien’s hair. It was a personal sacred art piece which he would share with his parish.

Three years ago, Ferreira’s wife Olivia was discovered to have what appeared to be stage three or stage four cancer in her intestine. After a grim prognosis from an Oahu specialist, she had surgery. Amazingly, after the tumor was removed, tests declared her completely free of cancer cells.

The doctor said the happy outcome was highly unusual. But Ferreira called it a “miracle” attributable to his personal link to Blessed Damien, Damien’s tree, and his daily treks from Queen’s Medical Center to pray in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace.

In gratitude, Ferreira gave his Kalaupapa cross reliquary to Molokai-born Sacred Hearts Father Lane Akiona, the pastor of Ferreira’s boyhood parish of St. Augustine in Waikiki, who had anointed Olivia and prayed over her when she first came to Oahu for treatment.

“This is yours,” he told Father Akiona. “You can do more with this that I can in Makawao.”

Meanwhile, Ferreira had received requests for pieces of the wood — which could be classified as secondary relics — to be used as aids in prayer for people who were sick.

Ferreira brought some pieces to the bedside of a critically ill friend at Maui Memorial Medical Center where friends and family were praying for healing. A large Hawaiian man from Molokai in the next bed over asked if they would pray over him too.

The next day, the Hawaiian’s scheduled leg amputation was canceled. He had taken an unexpected turn for the better.

And a couple weeks ago, Ferreira saw his formerly hospitalized friend healthy and in church, a place he hadn’t been in years.

The scenario seemed to repeat itself in the home of another Maui man suffering from inoperable cancer.

“We all got together and went over to his house,” Ferreira said. “He was very gray, and could barely walk.”

“We prayed the rosary, laid hands on him, and prayed for his immediate healing,” he said. As they watched, his color came back.

In the latest update, Ferreira said, “He’s feeding his horses and he’s looking very good.”

They are continuing to pray for him.

When Bishop Larry Silva asked Ferreira if he would make the reliquary for the new traveling relic, Ferreira turned to his friend Allan Marciel who, he said, had the better workshop.

Ferreira designed the box and Marciel did most of the handiwork. Another friend cut the display glass.

The box now holds pieces of bone from a larger relic of St. Damien. (See accompanying story.)

Ferreira also used some of the wood to make a pectoral cross for Bishop Silva.

Ferreira has been running leftover wood through his band saw, creating thin flat pieces about an inch or two long that he places in individual plastic zip-lock bags and gives away as St. Damien relics. Some of the pieces are blackened, burned by the lighting strike that killed the tree.

He had them blessed and has offered them to fellow parishioners at St. Joseph Church in Makawao, and to the bishop and friends and acquaintances.

Ferreira said that he feels compelled to tell the stories of St. Damien’s wood because of all the good things he has seen.

“If it sounds like I’m bragging, I am bragging in Jesus’ name,” he said.

Printed with permission from the Hawaii Catholic Herald, newspaper for the Diocese of Honolulu.

Ads by AdsLiveMedia(What's this?)

* The number of messages that can be online is limited. CNA reserves the right to edit messages for content and tone. Comments and opinions expressed by users do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of CNA. CNA will not publish comments with abusive language, insults or links to other pages


Ads by Google (What's this?)
Ads by Google (What's this?)

Featured Videos

Pope Francis celebrates the closing Mass and announces site of next World Youth Day
Pope Francis celebrates the closing Mass and announces site of next World Youth Day
Pope Francis visits poor neighborhood and meets with young people from Argentina
Pope Francis celebrates Mass at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida
Denver rally draws hundreds in support of religious freedom
Pope Francis prays over a sick man in St Peter's Square
Denver women's clinic will offer natural, Catholic care
Interview Clips: Barbara Nicolosi speaks to CNA
US Cardinals press conference at North American College
Pope Benedict to retire to monastery inside Vatican City
Pope cites waning strength as reason for resignation
Hundreds convene in Denver to urge respect for life
New Orange bishop encourages Catholic unity in diversity
Chinese pro-life activist calls for reform, international attention
At Lincoln installation, Bishop Conley says holiness is success
Mother Cabrini shrine reopens in Chicago after a decade
Ordination of 33 deacons fills St. Peter's with joy
Cardinal says "Charity is the mother of all the virtues"
Augustine Institute expands evangelization effort with new campus
Bishops recall 'Way of St. James' as chance to trust in God
Los Angeles cathedral's newest chapel houses Guadalupe relic

Liturgical Calendar

April 20, 2014


All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Lk 24:13-35


Daily Readings

First Reading:: Acts 10:34a, 37-43
Second Reading:: Col 3:1-4
Gospel:: Jn 20:1-9

Homily of the Day

Lk 24:13-35


Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com
Text only

Follow us: