POPE Benedict XVI proclaimed five new saints in a solemn mass last October 11 at the St. Peter’s Basilica, for answering God’s call “without calculation or personal interest.”

“Their perfection, in the logic of faith, of no longer putting themselves at the center, but in choosing to go against the tide, living in line with the Gospel, is the very reason for their veneration,” the Pope said.

Elevated to sainthood were Jozef Damien de Veuster, Francisco Coll y Guitart, Jeanne Jugan, Zygmunt Szczesny Feli?ski, and Rafael Arnáiz Barón.

Among the new saints is Fr. Damien de Veuster, Hawaii’s first saint.

The Pope cited De Veuster’s decision to care for the lepers in Molokai as the island’s resident priest.

The Belgian priest (later known as Damien when he entered the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary) served for 16 years in the leper colony, providing patients with spiritual and medical care, as well as helping construct cottages and coffins.

After 12 years of selfless service, he contracted the disease, but continued his charitable ministries of building clinics, hospitals and churches.

His years of service became an inspiration to the establishment of Tala Leprosarium in Caloocan during the 1940’s. It is the country’s first leper colony, and the oldest leprosarium in Asia.

Fr. Damien was declared “Venerable” by Pope Paul VI in 1977 and later beatified by Pope John Paul II, giving him the official spiritual title of Blessed in June 4, 1995.

Traveling preacher

Alongside Damien, Spanish Dominican Francisco Coll y Guitart (called “apostle of the modern times”) was also canonized.

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Known as the founder of the Congregation of Dominican Sisters of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Guitart was famous for his itinerant preaching in the villages and towns in Catalonia, Spain. He also served as an inspirational figure to his order as he did not receive any stipend or donations for his missions.

According to UST assistant Archivist Fr. Fidel Villaroel, O.P., such popular missions were done in a “moving manner,” as preachers go to villages and towns to stay with people for days to offer them spiritual exercises, teach them basic Christian prayers and catechism, and administer sacraments like confession.

“This man had a peculiar gift to do popular mission and call people to conversion,” Villaroel said. “The people would usually change a lot and have a change of heart as they know the meaning of Christian life in the process of preaching.”

The Pope said: “Francisco Coll moved the hearts of others because he conveyed to them what he himself lived passionately within, what set his own heart on fire: love for Christ and surrender to Him.”

As a man devoted to the Blessed Virgin, Coll also called on people to pray the “perpetual rosary.”

‘Poor among the poor’

“Mary of the Cross” Jeanne Jugan was also proclaimed as a new saint in honor of her mission for the poor and abandoned elderly.

“By her admirable work at the service of the most deprived elderly, St. Mary of the Cross is also like a beacon to guide our societies, which must always rediscover the place and the unique contribution of this period of life,” the Pope said.

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Jugan’s selfless vow of charity, poverty, obedience and hospitality became the solid foundation in establishing the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic religious order for women. Now with 2,700 members, the congregation has two foundations in the Philippines — one in Manila and another in Bolinao. The order’s members dedicate their lives in service of the 13,000 elderly in 202 homes around the world.

Canonized together with the three saints were Brother Rafael Arnaiz of the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, known for his prayerful devotion and spiritual writings, and Archbishop Zygmunt Szczesny Feli?ski, former archbishop of Warsaw and founder of the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of the Family of Mary.

“In them we contemplate the Apostle Peter’s words fulfilled: ‘Lo, we have left everything and followed you’, and Jesus’ comforting reassurance of eternal life to people who were persecuted for His sake,” said Benedict of the new “heroes of holiness.”

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