Friday, April 15, 2016

For All the Saints: Father Damien

The famous Father Damien (Saint Damien of Molokai, SS.CC.) is honored today, the anniversary of his 1889 death. His birth name was Jozef De Veuster, born in 1840. He was a Catholic priest from Belgium, a member of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, and he took Damien as his religious name. He wanted to do mission work, and he sailed to Hawaii in 1864. There, persons who had leprosy (Hansen's disease) were quarantined to an isolated area of Mokoka'i.  Damien volunteered to be priest for the group, and he moved to the colony in 1873, where he provided spiritual needs as well as helping the colonists with practical matters including grave digging.

By 1884, Damien realized that he, too, had the disease, but he continued with building of facilities and in helping in numerous ways. He died at the age of 49, was first interred in the colonist cemetery, but was reinterred later to his hometown of Leuven, though his right hand was later buried in his first, Moloka'i grave. He was beatified in 1995 and canonized in 2009. The site has words of praise for his selfless work, and the National Park Service site has more information. 

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