The Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints has ruled that a Hawaiian woman’s cure from cancer was a miracle linked to her prayers to Blessed Father Damien De Veuster. The missionary priest, who was renowned for working with leprosy patients, is now one step closer to being declared a saint.
Audrey Toguchi, a 79-year-old retired schoolteacher who lives in Aiea, became ill in 1997 with a lump on her left thigh that was discovered to be cancerous. She asked her sisters to accompany her to Kalaupapa to pray at Father Damien’s grave.
“I prayed that he would ask God to heal me,” Toguchi told the Honolulu Star Bulletin.
After surgery in January 1998, Dr. Walter Chang told her that her rare form of cancer, liposarcoma, had spread to both lungs.
"He said, 'I cannot do anything for you. No surgery is possible.'," she said.
"I went back to Kalaupapa,” Toguchi continued. “I went to Mass and received Communion and then I went to Damien's grave. I said, 'Please, ask God to cure this cancer.'
"Doctor Chang took pictures of my lungs and every month, it was less and less until after four months, the cancer was gone. He was flabbergasted."
According to the Star Bulletin, Toguchi told no one besides her family about her cure. Instead, she wrote to Pope John Paul II about the cancer’s disappearance, thus beginning the investigation into the miracle. Father Damien was credited with his first miracle after the spontaneous recovery of a terminally ill French nun in 1895 was attributed to his intercession. He was beatified in 1995, but one more confirmed miracle was required for his canonization to be considered.
The cure was documented in the Hawaii Medical Journal in October 2000. Toguchi’s life, faith, and medical history were also examined by church authorities. She was interviewed by a local panel and by Monsignor Robert Sarno from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Monsignor Sarno notified Toguchi of the congregation’s decision by e-mail.
Toguchi’s identity had been shielded by her doctor and church officials, but Bishop of Honolulu Larry Silva revealed her name in a statement on Tuesday.
In the statement, Bishop Silva said “I give thanks and praise to God for the news I received this morning!” He said Father Damien’s cause for canonization would now go before the cardinals and bishops who lead the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. If the miracle is approved, Father Damien’s canonization would then need to be approved by Pope Benedict XVI.
Bishop Silva urged Catholics to keep the process in their prayers, so that “it will result in the canonization of our beloved Father Damien.”