History of Saint Damian School

In 1961, Albert Cardinal Meyer, the Archbishop of Chicago, announced that a new parish would be formed in Oak Forest and appointed Rev. Stanley J. Shaw as Pastor. Twenty acres of land were purchased from the Kulpa farm located on 155th Street between Laramie and Long Avenues. Many early parishioners still remember the 100 year old farm house on the hill that became known as the Saint Damian Annex. The parish has since grown to include over four thousand families.

Oak Forest was primarily known as the location of Oak Forest Hospital. Because of Oak Forest’s connection with the hospital, the name of Saint Damian was chosen for the new parish. Saint Damian and his twin brother, Saint Cosmas, were third century physicians and are the patron saints of physicians, pharmacists, and hospital workers. The feast of Saint Damian is celebrated on September 26th.

Saint Damian School was built and dedicated in 1963. The school was initially staffed by the Felician Sisters until 1981.

Saints Cosmas and Damian

Saints Cosmas and Damian (died c. 303) were twins and early Christian martyrs, born in Cilicia, or in Arabia, who practiced the art of healing in the seaport of Ægea (modern Ayash) in the Gulf of Iskanderun, then in the Roman province of Syria. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, they accepted no payment for their services, which led them to be nicknamed anargyroi or The Silverless. It is said that by this, they led many to the Christian faith.

During the Diocletian persecution, Cosmas and Damian were arrested by order of the Prefect of Cilicia, one Lysias who is otherwise unknown, who ordered them under torture to recant. However, they stayed true to their faith through a series of gruesome tortures that did not harm them, and finally suffered execution by beheading. Antimo, Leonzio and Euprepio, their younger brothers, who were inseparable from them throughout life, shared in their martyrdom.

Their most famous miraculous exploit was the grafting of a leg from a Moor to replace a patient’s ulcered leg, was the subject of many paintings and illuminations.

As early as the 4th century, churches dedicated to the twin saints were established at Jerusalem, in Egypt and in Mesopotamia. Theodoret records the division of their relics. Their relics, deemed miraculous, were buried in the city of Cyrus in Syria (CE). Churches were built in their honor by Patriarch Proclus and by Emperor Justinian I (527-565), who sumptuously restored the city of Cyrus and dedicated it to the twins, but brought their relics to Constantinople, where following his cured ascribed to the intercession of Cosmas and Damian, Justinian, in gratitude also built and adorned their church at Constantinople, and it became a celebrated place of pilgrimage. At Rome Pope Felix IV (526-530) rededicated a basilica in the Forum of Vespasian in their honor, formerly the Library of Peace (Bibliotheca Pacis). Much rebuilt but still famed for its 6th-century mosaics illustrating the saints.

Their skulls are venerated in the convent of the Clares in Madrid, where they have been since 1581, the gift of Maria, daughter of Emperor Charles V. They had previously been removed from Rome to Bremen in the 10th century, and thence to Bamberg (Matthews)

Their feast day in the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints was 27 September but has been moved to 26 September as an optional commemoration. The Oriental and Eastern Orthodox Churches celebrate the feast of Saints Kosmas and Damian on 1 July, 17 October, and 1 November, and venerates three pairs of saints of the same name and profession. Cosmas and Damian are regarded as the patrons of physicians and surgeons and are sometimes represented with medical emblems. Little is known of the non-Roman Kosmas and Damian except that they lived similar lives to those in Rome or Cilicia.

In Brazil, the twin saints are regarded as protectors of children, and 27 September is commemorated by giving children bags of candy with the saints’ effigy printed on them.