Loyola University Chicago

Ignatian Heritage Month

2018 Recipient

Damien House receives 2018 Martyrs Award

2018 Martyrs Award Presentation and Memorial Mass

Thursday, November 15

Award presentation: 4 p.m., Mundelein Center

Memorial Mass: 5:15 p.m., Madonna della Strada Chapel

Loyola University Chicago has selected Damien House, a residential hospital for 30 Hansen’s patients and 700 outpatients in Guayaquil, Ecuador, as the 2018 recipient of the Martyrs Award.

Each year the Martyrs Award commemorates a faith-based individual or organization that champions social justice issues and serves marginalized communities. It was created in 2015 to continue the legacy of the eight Salvadoran martyrs who were killed in 1989 for speaking out against the government and advocating for the poor. The award includes a $25,000 grant and is presented annually in November in conjunction with Ignatian Heritage Month.

Damien House began as the Hansen’s wing of the infectious disease hospital, but grew into its own separate facility for Hansen's patients under the leadership and vision of Sister Ann Credidio, BVM. Hansen's Disease, formerly known as leprosy, is caused by a bacterial infection that attacks the nerves. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that each year, 150 people in the United States and about 250,000 people worldwide are diagnosed with the disease. It was once thought to be highly contagious but today the disease is treatable if recognized early and is difficult to spread. 

At Damien House, quality medical care is provided seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Breakthrough surgeries have been performed by a team of U.S.-based doctors, spearheaded by Dr. Lee Dillon of Johns Hopkins. Nerve decompression has been performed on more than 200 patients. Also, ophthalmologists perform eye surgeries, since Hansen’s patients have an increased risk of eye diseases. With the help of donations to the U.S.-based 501c Damien House organization, the staff is able to provided patients with dental care, physical and occupational therapy, medication, and three nutritious hot meals a day. The $25,000 award from Loyola will help to keep the doors open and cover the cost of continuing to provide these services.

But the work of Damien House extends beyond the walls of the facility. Damien House has a community outreach program that helps those who have been treated to secure a home, find work, and participate in a return to fuller lives. The staff also makes regular visits in the city of Guayaquil and remote villages, providing public education about the causes and treatments of Hansen's. A great deal of misinformation still exists about the disease, and people with Hansen's are often isolated and discrminated against. Many patients who have been treated are ostracized by their friends and family and are unable to return home or to work. One of the missions of Damien House is to change these perceptions about Hansen's through community outreach and education. 

In a letter notifying Damien House that they had been selected as this year's recipient, Dr. Jo Ann Rooney, president of Loyola University Chicago, wrote: "Damien House has been selected for the 2018 award in recognition of the immense positive impact you have made upon the lives of people marginalized by Hansen's disease; for the holistic approach to the care of the person provided by your wrap-around services; because your services are distributed to those at the very fringes of society; in solidarity with Loyola Chicago's current focus on our global responsibilities; and with empathy for the geographical connection between the UCA Martyrs and the people of Ecuador."