2008-06-04 / Features

Calendar Sales Will Benefit Hansen's Disease Patients

Paul Franzetti holds a copy of his Galápagos 2009 calendar, sales of which will be used to aid Damien House, a Hansen's disease hospital in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Paul Franzetti holds a copy of his Galápagos 2009 calendar, sales of which will be used to aid Damien House, a Hansen's disease hospital in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Paul Franzetti, an English teacher at Christ the King Regional H.S. in Middle Village and his son, Joe, expected their two-day stopover in Guayaquil, Ecuador before their flight to the Galápagos Islands, some 500 miles west of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean, in August 2006 to be a relatively uneventful affair. But a visit to Damien House, a hospital in Guayaquil for people afflicted with Hansen's disease (leprosy) proved a life-changing experience for both.

Hansen's disease is a progressive bacterial infection that attacks the skin, flesh and nerves. Left untreated, leprosy can cause permanent damage to the skin, nerves, limbs, and eyes. Leprosy bacilli developed resistance to treatments first developed in the 1930s, but multidrug therapy (MDT) in the early 1980s brought about successful diagnosis and treatment.

For millennia, those suffering from the disease were shunned by most of their neighbors. One exception was Father Damien De Veuster, a Belgian Catholic

The front cover of the Galápagos 2009 calendar shows the tortoises for which the islands are famous. The front cover of the Galápagos 2009 calendar shows the tortoises for which the islands are famous. priest, who made tending lepers on the Hawaiian Island of Molokai his mission and drew widespread attention from novelist Robert Louis Stevenson, among other notable figures, to their plight.

Damien House, founded and run by Sister Anne Credidio, is named for the priest, who died of the disease in 1889 at age 49. Lepers might be outcasts elsewhere, but at Damien House, "We found serenity, generosity and kindness, the fruits of Sr. Anne Credido's 20 years among the lepers," Franzetti said.

Franzetti contrasted the altruism he saw among the Damien House workers with the indifference to the suffering of others of their species he saw among the animals found on the Galápagos Islands. The seeming indifference is hard-wired in the animals' DNA."Animals are not free to go beyond their nature," he noted. "[But]…an old man, imprisoned by disease, was living in dignity because his fellow humans saw in him the face of Christ."

The Franzettis, father and son, first promised to donate their Galapagos wildlife art- paintings by Franzetti and drawings by his son- to the hospitals, reasoning that if the patients could not visit the islands, some of the islands' beauty could be brought to them. Then they decided to make a calendar that might provide needed funds for Damien House.

The Galápagos 2009 calendar is printed in English and Spanish and will be sold both through Christ the King H.S. in the United States and in Ecuador. If the venture is successful, Franzetti and his son will publish a 2010 edition to raise more money for the Damien House.

To purchase a calendar, call 718-939- 8455. The cost is $14.99. Checks should be made out to the Damien House and are tax deductible.

For more information about Damien House, visit www.thedamienhouse.org. For more information about Christ the King Regional H.S. and Franzetti, visit www.ctkrhs.org

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