Messmer’s Promise: ‘You Will Meet Damien’
Gunshot wound inspires Messmer to pray to Father Damien for healing. Now he presents the life of the saint in one-man play.
By Penny Wiegert, Editor
October 17, 2019
Wayne Messmer became “obsessed”  with Father Damien De Veuster a short time after he heard of a play about him that was written in 1977.  Father Damien was a priest who ministered from 1873-1889 to those with Hansen’s Disease, more commonly known as leprosy.
An opportunity came up years later for Messmer to play Father Damien at the Raue Center in Elgin, and he has been obsessed with the entire person of the saint ever since.
See ‘Father Damien’ 
The one-man play featuring Wayne Messmer will be Oct. 24 in Rockford.
It will be the highlight of “A Moveable Feast,” Rockford Diocesan Catholic Charities’ new fundraiser.
For information, call 815-979-7214. 
Messmer will bring his obsession to the stage on Oct. 24 during Catholic Charities fundraiser, A Moveable Feast, at Rockford’s Nordlof Center.
Messmer was in Rockford Oct. 7 to prepare for his presentation and talked about his connection to the saint. His preparation included a visit to the Diocesan Administration Center to talk about the event with director of Catholic Charities Patrick Winn and tour the venue where the Moveable Feast dinner and show will take place.
Messmer said he began reading about Father Damien and, after a tragic accident in 1994 when he was shot in the throat, prayed for the intercession of the saint. 
“It is a miracle that I can do what I do,” Messmer said as he reflected on his life and the prospect of  facing the reality he might never talk again. “I credit Damien’s help for being here,” he said. Father Damien was declared a saint by Pope Benedict XVI  Oct. 11, 2009.
It is that respect for the saint that takes Messmer into private and personal reflective time to prepare for his portrayal. Messmer and his wife, Kathleen, even visited Molokai and the sites where St. Damien ministered. 
“As I prepare, I think about the pivotal moments that changed Damien’s life. I have those conversations (in my mind),” he said pointing to his head.  “As I think about them, I try to utilize them in my inflection and mood as I bring Damien to life.”
Messmer  even shares an uncanny resemblance to St. Damien who the Catholic Encyclopedia calls the “Apostle of the Lepers.”  
Messmer and his wife refined the original play to bring the saint to life in the 90-minute performance by adding subtle music, photographs from Molokai, a few simple props and most of all, his passion for the life and work of St. Damien.
“To portray Damien for 90 minutes is unbelievably humbling. Damien has helped me in a number of ways,” Messmer said as if the saint were sitting next to him. “ He has helped me recognize how important a significant connection with the audience can be.”
Messmer says even though a one-man show is a lot to think about, “the story never gets old.”  He explained that his bond with the person of St. Damien compels him to “entertain, educate and inspire the audience” about the saint. And because of all that, Messmer says of his performance, “I promise you will meet Damien.”