The Catholic Defender:Saint Damien de Veuster of Moloka
When Joseph de Veuster was born in Tremelo, Belgium, in 1840, few people in Europe had any firsthand knowledge of leprosy, Hansen’s disease.
By the time he died at the age of 49, people all over the world knew about this disease because of him.
They knew that human compassion could soften the ravages of this disease.
Forced to quit school at age 13 to work on the family farm, Joseph entered the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary six years later, taking the name of a fourth-century physician and martyr.
When his brother Pamphile, a priest in the same congregation, fell ill and was unable to go to the Hawaiian Islands as assigned, Damien quickly volunteered in his place.
In May 1864, two months after arriving in his new mission, Damien was ordained a priest in Honolulu and assigned to the island of Hawaii.
In 1873, he went to the Hawaiian government’s leper colony on the island of Moloka’i, set up seven years earlier. Part of a team of four chaplains taking that assignment for three months each year, Damien soon volunteered to remain permanently, caring for the people’s physical, medical, and spiritual needs. In time, he became their most effective advocate to obtain promised government support.
Soon the settlement had new houses and a new church, school and orphanage. Morale improved considerably. A few years later, he succeeded in getting the Franciscan Sisters of Syracuse, led by Mother Marianne Cope, to help staff this colony in Kalaupapa.
Father Damien died on April 15, 1889, having served sixteen years among the patients with leprosy. His mortal remains were transferred to Belgium in 1936, where he was interred in the crypt of Saint Anthony's Chapel, the Church of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary at Louvain.
Damien contracted Hansen’s disease and died of its complications. As requested, he was buried in Kalaupapa, but in 1936 the Belgian government succeeded in having his body moved to Belgium. Part of Damien’s body was returned to his beloved Hawaiian brothers and sisters after his beatification in 1995.
When Hawaii became a state in 1959, it selected Damien as one of its two representatives in the Statuary Hall at the US Capitol. Damien was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on October 11, 2009.
Saint Damien is the patron saint of people suffering from leprosy. During this time, he taught the Catholic faith to the people of Hawaii. Father Damien also cared for the patients himself and established leadership within the community to build houses, schools, roads, hospitals, and churches.
He improved water and food supplies and housing and founded two orphanages, receiving help from other priests for only 6 of his 16 years on Molokai. In 1884 he contracted leprosy and refused to leave for treatment. He succumbed to the painful, deforming disease five years later.
Father Damien is famous throughout the world for his dedication and devotion to caring for the spiritual and physical needs of victims of leprosy (now referred to as Hansen's disease) in Hawai`i that were separated from their families from 1866 to 1969 on the remote Kalaupapa peninsula on the island of Moloka`i.
Dear St Damien, you suffered terrible loneliness and turned to the Blessed Sacrament for comfort. We pray for all who are lonely.Help us to give time to anyone we know who is lonely, and to give time to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.We pray especially for (mention your request
In 1995, Pope John Paul II beatified Damien, declared him “Blessed,” after church authorities were satisfied that Damien's intercession cured a nun of intestinal illness in 1895. The beatification step requires one attested miracle; canonization requires two.