The Vatican has given its approval to begin the process to sainthood for Filipino teenager Darwin Ramos, a wheelchair-bound young man who passed away at the age of 17 in 2012.

Ramos suffered from Duchenne muscular dystrophy (MD), a genetic disease and the most common of the known types of MD. The symptoms are severe and appear earlier in life than the other types. There is no cure for the disease.

Bishop Honesto Ongtioco of Cubao, a suburb of Quezon City in Metro Manila, said Ramos was declared a “Servant of God” and, “The Vatican has given us the go signal to go deeper in his life how he lived his faith and how he gave witness to Jesus to whom he was very close.” The Bishop is a member of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines.

The amazing story of Darwin Ramos began on Dec. 17, 1994, when he was born into an impoverished family in Pasay City, near Manila. As a child he and his sister would scavenge through garbage for anything of value, usually plastic waste, that could be sold to earn a few pesos (one Philippines peso is about $.02 or 2 cents in 2019).

Ironically, as the symptoms of his MD began to appear, he was able to collect more money by begging to sympathetic strangers. The shame he felt was almost unbearable, but he continued silently in order to make sure his siblings had food to eat.

In 2006, he was taken in by a foundation that ran centers to help street children. He found solace in the Catholic faith and five days after his 13th birthday he received the First Communion and the Sacrament of Confirmation.

Darwin Ramos
Darwin Ramos discovered Catholic faith when he was 11 years old. Creative Commons image.

According to a May 31 article written by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cubao, The ANAK-Tnk Foundation was where Darwin began what he called his “mission” comparing his disease to the suffering that Jesus endured, and that Jesus was asking him to persevere. Despite his rapid deterioration, he inspired the staff and other children at the foundation with his demeanor, always smiling and never complaining.

Even his passing was like a Holy Week when he entered the hospital in September of 2012 when his condition worsened. He continued his friendly, non-complaining demeanor, thanking everyone for the services he had received from them. He passed away peacefully and some observed that he had a big smile when he wrote his final words “I am very happy."

The steps to sainthood include an examination by church officials to decide if the candidate indeed lived a “devout Catholic life." The person is then “beatified” if a miracle can be attributed to him or her. After a second miracle is verified, the final step is the canonization as a saint.