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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Our own St. Damien

BR. BOB BUTSCH, (originally from Schenectady, NY) shared stories about his ministry to Hansens disease patients at today's Food for Thought.

Although curable when diagnosed and treated in a timely manner, in many parts of the world Hansens disease patients are still treated like, well, lepers.

Although formally retired, Bob continues serving in China's Szechuan province, helping the Korean Foreign Mission Society.

Bob paid tribute to the late Father Joe Sweeney who started in China's Guangdong, China. He worked in leprosaria in China and later in South Korea.

In recent years, Bob has dedicated himself to learning and teaching others how to make special orthodic shoes which allow HD patients to walk.

Bob shared slides of many of the patients, as well as of the Korean missioners.

The disformity is caused by the loss of feeling when the disease attacks the nerves. Patients do not realize they are cut, bruised or injured and either infection sets in or muscles atrophy. Although not contagious the stigma remains and often prevents people from seeking treatment which would cure them.

"Our group must have made hundreds if not thousands of pairs of shoes," Bob said, "but the best thing we did was when we took time to sit and listen to the patients, and drink tea with them."

Last month, Pope Benedict canonized St. Damien of Molokai who gave his life working with HD patients in Hawaii.

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